Perhaps I Am The Social Luddite

Sammy G's picture

Over the past 5 years I've witnessed the rise of social and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace. I've also had many friends create and run their own blogs under their names. I've get email invitations asking to join these types of social sites and blogs almost daily.

Consistent with the rise of these types of sites has been my rampage to eliminate all traces of my traceable, personal identity from their pages. At first it was because I didn't trust the public nature of the internet. Everyone thought I was weird. The internet has changed the way in which we present and communicate ourselves, I was told. Everyone is putting themselves online.

Perhaps I am the social-net luddite. I used to think it was because I was turning 'intensely private'. Now I realize it's because I'm against being 'intensely public'. My in-laws have three kids, one with serious special needs, and they have a rotating roster of in-house nanny help. These nannies are all under twenty-five. One of them last year decided on her Facebook page to post pictures of her getting ripped at a college party. My in-laws, who were invited friends to her page, caught these pictures and then summarily dismissed her. Who wants that kind of behavior around the kids? We all know stuff like this happens. Why broadcast it to the world?

I think this is what the younger generation doesn't realize about publicly presenting yourself onto the internet. At some point a professional or career life awaits and the internet doesn't have an erase button. I've hired people only after checking out their online history, and determining if they're the type of person I want to bring into the workplace mix. A trail as wide as the DNS registry can be harmful.

Even for the older, hip generation, there can be consequences. Without knowing much of any details, I can only imagine the personal travails of our blog-friend Pete Dunn. Intensely public can have drawbacks.

Anyway, just wondering what you all think. Is everyone but me joining the online social surge?

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matthew's picture

My experience...

My experience has come, as you know, mostly through running this web site. Only once in my career has it been a concern for my employer, and I learned a few things:

1. Avoid writing during work hours. A comment or two here or there is no big deal, but a lengthy blog post probably ought to be time-stamped outside of core work hours.
2. Avoid using real names for any entity or person who did not consent to their name being used. For instance, I refer to my current employer as UltraMegaCorp. One day, they will appear on my online resume, but at present they do not for that reason :)
3. Consent for contact is always one-way. Do not share the personal information of friends with other friends without their explicit consent.
4. You're creating your online profile. It's going to be the first thing verified in any background-check. Be sure you're comfortable with prospective or current employers reading anything and everything you've ever had to say.
5. Be aware that the most likely source of pain for you is family, friends, and acquaintances. If they think you are something you're not, coming to this realization via your web site/facebook profile/blog/whatever is not a pleasant way to learn.

Fact is, I started blogging out of a strong desire to write. When I don't feel like writing, I don't. Other people have other motivations, but the key issue is that whatever forum you use, it's not private and it can be traced back to you. Don't be a jerk just because you can (see John Gabriel's Greater Internet ****wad Theory, language warning).

I rationalize my participation with "If they won't hire me because of my personal opinions, it probably isn't a place I want to work anyway." I have little to hide, so a public face via my blog is a useful thing. I also have repeatedly considered running for public office, and need to be aware that every tiny thing I say here may one day be quote-mined and used against me.

If you're not comfortable with that kind of public rectal examination, I say, stay out of social media unless you only use it pseudonymously... and then realize that your pseudonym is a very thin pen name to protect your reputation.

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Matthew P. Barnson

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Matthew P. Barnson