A few years ago when looking at the growing number of social networks and tools I had the idea that I would compartmentalise my sharing. I would put business stuff in LinkedIn, personal stuff in Facebook, and maybe use Plaxo for crossover stuff as it enables you to categorise business colleagues, friends and family.
Since then I have realised that whilst this approach is not entirely wrong it was based on a false assumption that what is put somewhere stays there. The reality is, that once shared on the web, a nugget of information will eventually travel across all of your networks, finding its way like a fugitive seeking refuge with the furthest scattered potential recipient to whom the information will be of the slightest interest. Assume so anyway and you won’t be disappointed. The web has huge capacity to connect people, and we welcome the opportunities it provides for the few hundred people scattered around the world with an esoteric interest to find each other and share. We have to accept that another consequence is that all of the networks centred on you are seldom connected just by you, and the act of sharing some information can rarely be constrained to one network.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez famously said that every man has a public, a private and a secret life. Well the web means that the public life is gaining at the expense of the private.
It still makes sense to me to share in certain directions, but this has more to do with one of the modern day business courtesies, filtering what you send so that you do not overload your colleagues. I have been involved in more or less successful attempts to address email overload in organisations; and have found that much email overload is caused by copying in or cc’ing. There are many reasons for cc’ing some positive like wishing to be inclusive, some quite venal – like covering your ass; perhaps the biggest is lack of thinking and just because you can. So you might think that tools such as Twitter, or the Wall on Facebook where you can share with the whole world, and with your “friends” respectively would add considerably to this sense of overload. In the main they don’t. In part because no answer is expected, no sense of obligation is passed in the same way that occurs with receiving an email. Tweets and Wall status updates are floated out there for who-ever wants to pick up, they are not forced, like email, into your presence like a baton at a relay race.
I still haven’t quite worked out the details of how best to float things in certain directions. I am more confident of status updates in LinkedIn or Facebook. But with Twitter, where my tweets cover beekeeping, social networking, personal observations, bits of news etc and I am sure that the Spanish beekeeper who has an active interest in my attempts to enter the mysteries of beekeeping is less interested in knowing I am at Reboot Britain. I not only tolerate but enjoy wide ranging tweets from people I know, or think I know, even when their twittering becomes close to wittering, but I am less forgiving when people I have classified as an xyz guru wanders into the problems of travelling to towns I have never visited.
Do you see this increasing public-ness of life, particularly if you engage on the web as an issue? Do you try to use different channels for different interests? If this increased public life educed private life is true for individuals, what does it portend for organisations?