Thursday, April 9, 2009

Social Networking & U

I read this article yesterday which discussed the pros and cons of social networking online. It seems Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of the social networking opportunities are sending people into overload. People are finding out a little too much about each other, a little too often. Some even experience a paradoxical effect whereas they fear being away from their social networks, yet crave the break. I counter with the idea that social networking is a wonderful tool when used wisely.

The number one tip I have for social network is: Use social networks in a way that works for you. In the rest of this article I'll outline some ways to do that.

Don't try to be everywhere at once. Sure you could have a My Space page, a Facebook page, a Live Journal, a Twitter feed, be on half a dozen different IM services, and don't forget email and cell phones. In reality, who could keep up with all that?!? Choose the services that make the most sense for you, and go with those. If you find yourself not using something regularly, consider withdrawing from that network.

Don't be afraid to tell people how you would like to be networked. Fans of a particular social network will tell you that you need to be a part of their network. I feel a little differently. A network that works the best for me, may not be the one that works best for someone else. That doesn't make the network good or bad, it means that it doesn't fit my needs well.

When you need a break, take a break. The world is not going to end if I don't check my email for 48 hours, or my Facebook page every day. When I'm going to be incommunicado, I let people know that nothing's wrong, I'm just having a networking-free weekend, vacation, or whatever. All the messages will be there for me when I get back.

Separate work and personal networks where appropriate, and set boundaries for each group. I actually maintain three groups of personal networking venues, with different guidelines for each one.

The first are things I use specifically for work purposes. That's mainly my work email. I keep work and personal networks separate for two reasons. One is that anything I send from my work email address is part of my professional identity. I may be a goofball, but I don't want everyone to know that all the time! :) The second is that when I am on break from work, I often put up an automated email response and ignore my work email. I love my job, but I do need distance from it at times as well.

The second group is my personal networks. This includes a personal email address, my cell phone number, and Google Talk. My friends know how to reach me on these networks. I'm fairly careful of who gets into my personal networks. Lots of friends have my email and cell phone numbers, but they're all my friends - people I want to talk to, and people I trust to understand if I can't talk when they call or respond instantly to their emails.

My third group is what I call my public identity. These include people I know from work, my friends, plus lots of you who I only know through comments on Long Live Geeks. The important differential about my public identities is that I only post things that anyone is welcome to know. If you want to friend me on Facebook, go for it. Here's the link. I post random status updates, the funnier the better. Facebook is spreading through work, and I have no problem with that either. Work is part of the public. I check Facebook once or twice a day, but if I were going on vacation or otherwise needed a break I'd simply put a status update which says I'm away and ignore it. The second part of my public identity is this blog, and the associated Twitter feed. I mostly post links to geeky articles on Twitter, and anyone is welcome at LLG and to follow me on Twitter.

Long live geeks with social networks :)