I’ve wrestled with online communication and professional identity before, both publicly and in private. I’ve tried maintaining separate “professional” and “personal” Twitter streams and even separate Facebook accounts. (And then I realized that the overlap between “friends” and “colleagues” was too much for such an approach to be sustainable.) I’ve made Facebook rules, such as “no friending professional contacts,” and then I’ve broken them, and now I have completely reversed them: I go out of my way to friend professional contacts.
So it was with interest that I read Daniel Cornwall‘s and Starr Hoffman‘s posts on “Professional Online Presences.” Daniel said it would be great if a whole bunch of librarians posted on the topic, and, as is often the case, I think he’s right.
First, my philosophy:
I should say, I’m very “take me or leave me” about social media (and life in general), these days. I want a community, not a network. And I think community requires transparency, openness, honesty, and trust. As a rule, I don’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say at a normal volume in the coffee shop adjacent to my library; this is more out of good manners and professional etiquette than out of fear, though. (Others make different rules, drawing the line closer to yelling at a cocktail party, or getting on the loudspeaker at their place of work. I think that’s overcautious, but I also understand and respect that we all have different comfort levels.)
Here’s the thing: despite occasional bouts of impostor syndrome, I know I’m a good librarian; if a potential future employer ignores all of the useful knowledge sharing I do and really truly can’t get over the fact that I follow a bird on Twitter and sometimes admit to doing stupid things like drinking too much red wine and watching bad YA movies (outside of work time, obviously—and I should admit, making this screenshot public was right on my comfort line, if you wondered where that was), then what are the odds that I’ll be happy working with them? I want to work with others who share similar values (I’m talking about the honesty and transparency, not the wine and YA), and I don’t want to work any place that can’t understand the value of its workers being individuals, with distinct personalities. Honestly, I’ve already been through a fight to create an organizational social media presence with some personality to it—and that’s the organization, not even the individuals. (Also, arguably, the fight’s still happening.) While I could do it again elsewhere, I’d rather not have to; I am hoping my next job will be somewhere that actively values online personality.
So what do I consider part of my Professional Online Presence?
Listing what constitutes my online presence, there’s this blog that you’re reading right now, attached to this website (which I linked because some people use RSS). I use the blog to post a lot about library/technical/professional stuff; a little about some of my side projects, like arts-and-crafting and biking for charity; and a little about things I find entertaining. The website links to my CV and most of my other online identities, including Twitter and Facebook, which I use a great deal, for both personal and professional reasons. I enjoy discussions in the ALA Think Tank, on Facebook. (There’s a Twitter hashtag, but it isn’t used as much.) On Twitter, I try to participate in #libchat (Wednesday afternoons/evenings). I have another blog about life in Alaska, which my husband and I share—but I write to it more than he does. I’ve also found myself fairly active on GoodReads, lately.
Moving into online spaces where I’m a bit less active, I maintain a LinkedIn profile, which is actually a more complete record of my employment and achievements than the CV on my website. I’m pretty good about endorsing people for things I know they can do, I can also be convinced to write short recommendations on there, for people I know, so I wouldn’t say I’m inactive; I just don’t go there daily. I post slides to Slideshare, when I make them. I used to do Pinterest but find myself less and less into it as time goes on. I barely ever use LibraryThing anymore, so I won’t bother linking that. My Google Plus usage varies, but is never particularly high. I have an account on Branch, but it’s still too new to know if I (or anyone) will use it much—I have to say, I’m kind of hopeful. And I have a Flickr, but I don’t post photos to it; they usually go to Twitter, Facebook, or a blog, honestly.
Non-professional online presence:
I feel like, to display that honesty I was talking about earlier, I should cop to some other online behavior. I’m on Fitocracy, but I don’t really want to connect with a bunch of colleagues there. (I won’t flip out if you find me and ask to be friends, but I’m not going to go looking for other librarians.) Especially while I’m injured and not gaining points. :P I also have a FitBit but actively do not want to connect with anyone that way; I know some people like using it in a social way, but I don’t. I have an account on an old blogging platform, which I keep active so I can read my friends’ updates, but I haven’t posted in a year. I used to use Yelp, but haven’t written a review there in over a year, either (though I really want to go on there and say nice things about the cafe that kept me alive in Seattle); I don’t mind connecting with librarians, but don’t see it as even remotely professional. FourSquare used to be part of my life; it no longer is. I maintain a Geocaching account with my husband, but we haven’t gone in over a year. I am really hoping we’ll start going again when I feel better. (By the way, Flickr went in the “professional,” and Geocaching didn’t, because I’m friends with my state library association on Flickr. It’s a fine line.)
And I think that’s it.
I hope others will post about their professional online presences. I think it’s interesting to see what people include and where they draw lines.