“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or coworkers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” he says. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
Well this might be OK for Mark, for whom it would appear that work is life because he seems to eat, breathe, sleep Facebook and has done ever since his college days. So you could possibly predict that his friends are his colleagues are his family…
But I would suggest that he is the exception rather than the rule. I don’t know many people (with any common sense) who would want their clients, patients, pupils etc. to see what they get up to on a drunken stag weekend, but who do want to have an active professional profile on a networking site such as LinkedIn.
Like many people I know, I’m careful who my friends are on Facebook and I use the privacy settings to ensure that only the people I really, truly want to share the minutiae of my daily life with can see it. My kids are cute (honest) but that doesn’t mean someone I met at a conference last week wants to hear about their achievements and frankly the antics of one of my hounds would put anyone off dog ownership for life.
Mark’s mistake is that he has fallen into the ‘one-size-fits-all’ trap. Retailers realised some time ago that if you have a 28cm waist then you don’t automatically have a 28cm inside leg measurement and began providing options accordingly. Social networks are just the same.
While we all want to ‘belong’, hence our desire to join networks as an extension of what we do ‘live’, we aren’t looking for a single ‘tribe’ that fulfils most of our needs. Modern technology has given us the opportunity to select our own very special group of ‘tribes’ where we can indulge our interests and feel part of something bigger than ourselves. Membership of each of these groups is not mutually exclusive, nor do we need to share (or confess) our interests to others who might be judgemental or critical.
By insisting that individuals need to be ‘open’, Mark is also being incredibly naive. For people who work in the criminal justice system, health service, armed forces, teaching, social services or even the volutary sector an entirely open network would mean that they could not participate for fear of compromising their professionalism, opening themselves and their families to abuse and intimidation and in some very extreme cases, physical danger. But why shouldn’t these individuals be able to link with their families and friends online?
Creating a balance between work and life is one of the most important cultural shifts in the developed world. The ability to separate a work persona from a personal one is a fundamental part of this and is something that the founder of Facebook needs to understand.