Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Netiquette for work, play n' family

Today I got an email asking me to stop updating on LinkedIn and just use Facebook for my work colleagues instead. I was struck with horror at the very idea.

So in the days before Web 2.0, or even in the days of early social networks it was easy to keep work life and 'home' life nice and separate.

I remember not so much censoring my life, but I think we are all a bit selective about which parts of our lives we share with who. I had people I knew as work contacts and clients, some as party friends, some as work colleagues, some as confidants. You wouldn't tell a potential employer about the mad Friday you had, nor hint to your little nephew about that sexual extravaganza you quite fancy mentioning to your mates.

Even a year or 2 ago, if you used social networking at all you'd be 'Funky Babe' on a dating site, 'Dutch' on a motorbiking forum, or 'SW18Boy' on MSN. Anonymity was taken for granted and there was a total freedom to express oneself.

There is a trend in Social Networking though where honesty and transparency is considered best - and that's refreshing. On Facebook, LinkedIn and others, you are there generally under you own, real name. It discourages flaming and the other anti-social negatives that come with hiding behind an impersonal persona. This is about the net and your real life acting in perfect harmony, a virtuous circle that helps you keep in touch.

The downside is that it is increasingly getting harder to keep the different strands of your life separate. Friends, potential lovers, employers, journo's, the police can just look up your name, or any email address they have.

I've had head-hunters requesting to be my Facebook friend, but I want a space where I can be open about my foibles, moods and hangovers to my social peer group. I want head-hunters and clients to see the thrusting, confident me, not the one that's missing his partner. I definitely don't want them, or other work colleagues making value or moral judgements about me based on a snapshot of my life.

Now I love the social and work benefits of these networks, but the more our lives are 'available' in centralised hubs the better these need to be to allow us to filter the broadcast of this information and keep control of our lives.
Real life social networks and nuanced and that's the next challenge for these websites if they wish to continue to dominate.

What I'm scared of is people ending up self-censoring their online life into a U certificate, which just stops in being fun.

More seriously I'm worried that just as some corporate employers demand you stop smoking and submit to random drugs tests, that the balance between employers buying your skills and time and employers expecting you to be 'their person 24/7' will change for the worse.

Post script:
Discussing the sentiments behind this post with cowbite she wonders whether society will have changed in 20 years as the current younger generation who are happy to share their 'hook ups', and pissy moods, who'll be linked friends with someone half a lifetime after a one night stand, come to positions of power as bosses, heads of HR and even as journalists.

1 comment:

Derek Mehraban said...

Vladski - very good insight into social networking. I agree that the lines have blurred, and I struggle with the same issues of separating work and play.

It's nice to see it written about so eloquently.