As humans we are complex beings. We have been taught from a young age that it is acceptable to act differently in different settings.

As children in a restaurant or in a formalized worship setting, we were to be quiet, stay in our seat, and be respectful. However, on the playground, we were allowed to run and scream and laugh and push our friends down the sliding board. It was simple then, either we were allowed to be children in a situation or we were expected to be little adults in a situation. Our parents or adults told us how to act.

As teen-agers, we learned about authority and expectations from the adults in our lives—parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. We learned to decide for ourselves how we were going to act in each setting. We decided if we were going to do our homework, abide curfews set by our parents, share personal information with certain adults even if they did not ask to know, join gangs, volunteer to help clean-up a river, etc.  We began to understand that we can create unique personalities which we can put on at off at will. Expectations of us from parents were different than those of us from brothers or sisters, or teachers, or peers. We learned that one person could be happy while another could be disappointed for the same action we took. As we grew, our choices grew.

In the adult physical world, we learned new roles as employers or employees, spouses, parents, mentors, leaders, etc. We learned to vary our conduct from the manner in which we conduct ourselves at work to the manner in which we conduct ourselves at home or in other social areas of our lives. In the physical world, conduct may be is easier to observe and to commend or criticize by multiple segments.  We do not normally pert chart our home life and we do not normally answer the phone at the office, raise our voice, and call for XYZ to pick up the phone as some of us might do at home. 

Enter the social media world and its ever-increasing melding/blending of personal and private information. Some of us entered the social media world from the personal vantage point; we may have opened YouTube to share videos, for example.  Some of us may have entered the social media world from a professional vantage point; we may have joined LinkedIn™ to be able to reach other professionals.  Do you remember your first foray into the social media space?

What we include in our profiles, post on groups or blogs, and what we join or with whom we connect in social media all defines us in the electronic world.  We may have had this impression that we could maintain separate roles on social media sites and it may have been true for the early years of social media. For example, we could have joined MySpace or Facebook for personal use and Ecademy or Xing for professional use. Our posting and participation could be limited in each. Now, the evolution of software programs enables us to marry content in many respects.  Even if we do not choose to do so, others may publish some of our content on other platforms.

We may have multiple business hats as well. Some of us appear to be finding it difficult to reflect our authentic self and be in concert with what we are supposed to represent from a business point of view. We may choose to be silent if we disagree with a post in order not to have a public disagreement which might reflect poorly on our business, or worse, be in conflict with someone else with whom we have a business relationship. Perhaps, we have several online businesses and we have chosen to be concerned about which business we represent with each public posting.

Confusion is the result of a lack of authenticity. A lack of authenticity stems from our choice to feign to be something that we are not.  Everything we enter in the social media space is perceived as us – everything we say or write should represent who we are as an individual. If that is not in concert with the business side of things, then do not say or write it…same difference as not running around in a restaurant as children.  In this case, we have to control ourselves.  If we have trouble juggling our multiple hats, we need to put one of the hats aside.

Our business and personal lives are being inextricably linked in social media. We need to consider who we are and let all of our social media data reflect those parts of us which we are willing to share with the world. Those parts that we want to maintain as private should not be put out there in cyberspace. Be authentic. It is much easier to be real than to try to be something you are not. You drive your online persona – not your employer, not your friends, not your colleague – you. You are in charge of your electronic presence.

 What is your buzz about?