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Maintaining Privacy in a Public World

August 31, 2009

Public or private. Expose or protect. These are all questions young professionals need to consider in this wide, wide world of social media. The reality is the line between our public and private lives is being blurred, erased and replotted.

This is a great article on protecting privacy and its costs from CNN.com – The coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers.

I try fairly hard to maintain two online personas. One is the Dawn A Crawford of the world which is my professional profiles and my phrasing for SEO. I have a Dawn A Crawford Facebook profile and only friend professional contacts on it. My current boss is on this account. I count her as a dear friend and I want to keep my private life private.

But on the other hand, there is the Dawn Crawford online persona. My private account has all my current personal friends. As a coworker turned friend moves from the professional sphere to the friend sphere, so does my friending. My previous boss is on this account. When I move on from my current position, I’ll bring my current boss into this circle. I hope she’ll accept my friend request, but will totally respect if she doesn’t.

Granted, I blur my own definition by having my Twitter account be under Dawn A Crawford where I tweet mostly personal interests. I’m not perfect, that’s for sure.

This all seems laborious, but I think it’s essential. As a communications professional, I think A LOT about what I say and write everyday. It’s measured, strategic and sure. I live in this professional voice on my professional Facebook account.

The main reason I have a private Facebook account is to protect the privacy of my family and friends. I work in a controversial field and I don’t want my nearest and dearest to be harassed by some random hater.

I also want a space that I can be a everyday Joe, sharing my political beliefs, rants and love of Star Wars. My private account contacts are the people who know me best and never judge, because they love me. This allows for a virtual space to be me.

It’s when you are not transparent about this separation is when people get suspicious. Before I framed my reason for having a private Facebook account as a matter of protecting my family, I would get weird looks. Looks of “why do you not want me to see that?” or “what are you hiding?” I’d guiltily shrug that no one wants to see my Star Wars obsession…right? Now that I’ve framed it as protecting my privacy, EVERYONE gets it.

I do think that the Millennial generation needs to protect its privacy and we need to be allowed to have fun in this space that we created and nurtured. There are ways to keep a private life, if done with purpose.

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