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Listener Question: How to Separate Your Social Media Identities

Published 6/17/2015

This is a question that I think needs to come up more often. That is, how do we integrate our professional lives with our personal lives?

in today's episode, I give a very difficult answer to Matthew's very difficult question: "How do you separate your social media identities?"

If you have questions for me like Matthew did, you can contact me via email: developertea@gmail.com or on twitter: @DeveloperTea.

This episode is sponsored by OneMonth.com. Head over to OneMonth.com/developertea to get started learning Ruby on Rails in just one month, and receive a limited-time 25% discount!

Thanks for listening, and enjoy your Tea.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I am answering a question from a listener named Matthew about how to separate his social media identities or if he even should separate his social media identities between his professional life and his personal life. This is a question that I think needs to come up a bit more often and that is how do we integrate our personal lives with our professional lives. It's difficult because our social media is a representation of what we think and feel regardless of what time of the day it is or regardless of what we are doing whether I am actually coding on a project or if I'm just hanging out with my friends I still have the same social media account. And that's kind of strange, it's a little bit odd and the reason it's odd is because there used to be a much clearer separation between our working time and our non-working time. And now that has been kind of thrown away a lot of our non-working time it feeds into the personality that we use in our working time. Now I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with this. In fact I think this is a good shift for our culture and there's a larger question at hand here about whether or not we should be performing on social media whether or not we should be changing the way that we looked different people based on who is looking at us. We do this naturally. We dress up differently when we go to different places for example we dress differently to go to the park then we do to go to work but we also do this with people we act differently around our family then we might act around people that we don't know. So here's Matthew's actual question. He says how do you separate your social media identities? I love my geeky hobbies like comic books and video games but I also want to show my professional side. How should I separate the two or should I even separate them at all? Matthew I'm going to give you a very difficult answer to a very difficult question. The answer is it depends. It depends on a hundred different things. First of all it depends on who your potential employer or client is what they care about. It also depends on what you typically post. For example you said you are posting about your comic books and video games. So there's a lot of complexity here about how a video game might negatively affect your professional life. This is a new problem that we have to solve. About 10 or 15 years ago your interest in video games may never be known by your employer but now that we are sharing our lives online more than ever through things like Twitter or LinkedIn even this is a new problem to solve. So before I get into more specific answers I can say that one solution to this would be to not participate in social media at all. Of course that could also be detrimental to your job search. It could be a very positive thing for you to participate in social media depending on who your client or your employer is. In fact last week we talked about the importance of being active on your social media if you have it. So you shouldn't have a social media account unless you are actually going to do something with it. It'd be better for you to delete it than if you were to not do anything with it at all to let it remain dormant. I also discussed the idea that it could be a negative signal if you are making your social media account private because you must have a reason for making a private otherwise you wouldn't do so. Now of course your reasoning may be that you just don't like sharing all the information about your life with people that you don't know. But just because something is rational to you or just because you think it makes sense does not necessarily mean that somebody else will agree with you or that they'll receive the signal as you intended to send it. So this discussion isn't about whether or not it is right for you to share who you are on social media or whether or not it is okay for you to have a private life. That is a totally different discussion. What we're talking about here is what makes you higherable and what makes people decide that you are a good fit to work with. So what we're going to try to do is manage the assumptions of other people. And that perhaps is one of the hardest parts of the communication process. Managing what other people will assume based on what you have said or based on what you have done. So for example, if you lock your social media account then somebody may assume that you are locking it because you have things behind that that are illegal, for example. And once again, regardless of the rationality of that argument, that may still be an assumption that affects you in the future. So we're trying to manage assumptions and that's what this episode is all about. I'm going to take a short break and then I'm going to give you two very simple things to remember in order to make the decision about how and when you should separate your social media accounts between your private and your professional life. What if you could learn to build anything in one month? Well with one month.com you can. Just ask any one of the 20,000 students who have learned to code on one month.com by building real websites and applications complete with payment systems, security solutions and full stack deployment. You can start without any prior experience in just 15 minutes a day for 30 days all online. That's because one month hyper focuses on applied techniques that you use immediately in the apps you are building as part of the courses. One month's courses are the easiest way to learn new tech skills including Ruby on Rails, Python, content marketing, growth hacking and more. And the best part is if you get stuck there's always someone there to help you out while you learn. Yes that's a real person not an automated computer. So enroll now at one month.com, front slash Developer Tea and get 25% off your first month. Normally access to all courses cost $99 and access to one course usually costs $49 but with the special URL you get full access for just $74 or one course for $37. That's less than $3 a day or if you do a single course it's just over $1 a day. And enroll now for 25% off your first month at one month.com, front slash Developer Tea. So we've been talking about when you should separate or if you should separate your social media accounts between your private and your professional life. Now of course this question has a lot of complexity behind it and a lot of answers and not any of them is specifically right or wrong. All we can do is try to manage the assumptions of other people when we are communicating. And my assumption now is that you, Matthew and other people who are listening to this who are considering separating their social media accounts. You're trying to be hired, you're trying to become a hire a bull and you're trying to manage your social media in such a way that it supports your professional life but also allows you to express your personal life. So I'm going to give you two things to remember and to think about as you are making this decision. Number one, never confuse professionalism with boring or robotic. Appearing professional doesn't necessarily mean only discussing programming or development on your social media accounts. People know that you are a human separating yourself from your brand isn't always necessary. Many employers will appreciate the human qualities of your personality. Most employers aren't hiring you simply for your skill set. They're also hiring you for who you are as a human being and how that relates to the work they are doing. So if you never show your human side, how does an employer differentiate you from someone else with the same exact skill set showing your human side helps them decide whether or not you are a fit from a value perspective as well as from a world view perspective. Now this part is just my opinion, but I would imagine that you will be much happier working with people who appreciate and agree with your human side rather than only working with people who are totally agnostic or don't understand who you are as a human or those who don't care who you are as a human. If somebody does in fact view you as a robotic just getting the job done just coding, if that is how they view you, then my guess is you probably don't want to work for them. There are plenty of people in the world who would appreciate the fact that you like video games or comic books. There are plenty of people in the world who do understand that you have a human side. Now why is that? Well because they themselves are also human, they very likely have their own interests and you might even run into someone who has the same interests as you and in that way your interests in video games or comic books give you a deeper connection with the people you are working with even if it has absolutely nothing to do with what you are working on. So once again never confuse professionalism with boring robotic. You are a human, you have interests that go beyond just development expressing those interests is a part of your humanity and you should never divorce yourself from your humanity. That goes on Twitter as well as in person. The second thing to remember is that employers and clients are always balancing risks and benefits. This is the reason that we have something called a pros versus cons list. Your social media profile is one of the avenues that a employer or client will use to determine the risks and benefits associated with working with you. Those risks and benefits go far beyond whether or not you are proficient as a developer. Those risks and benefits go into the relational aspects of who you are and who you know for example. So using your social media profile I can determine the types of people that you associate with. Your personal so called geeky hobbies might pose both risks and benefits to a potential employer or client. For example, the client might also be interested in comic books or video games as I said previously. But what would a risk look like? Well, if you're obsessed with video games then I might be afraid that you are more worried about your gaming than the project you are working on for me. This is especially true if I myself am not interested in gaming because all I know about gaming is the cultural perception and picture of the average gamer. Now Matthew, your interest in games and comic books may not be offensive but somebody else listening to this might have an interest that is potentially offensive to their future employer or client. And if that interest is offensive enough then your value sets or your world views may be different and you may not be effectively able to work on their behalf. If you disagree with them or if you have views that are so different from them that it causes personal conflict. Now this is a risk. This is a risk that your potential employer or client is going to try to evaluate based on the information that they can gather about you. And if they find that information on a social media profile, if they see that you could be a risk to them or if they have a misunderstanding of something that you have an appreciation for that causes them to think that there is a risk then yes, your social media profile could cause a potential issue with your professional life. So I'm going to give you some basic advice on how to deal with this and how to avoid your social media profile causing an issue with your professional life. First of all, when in doubt, balance your social media account to accurately represent your interests. So you shouldn't avoid your own interests and you also shouldn't avoid expressing your interests on your social media account with some caveats of course. You should be avoiding controversy online as controversy is often divisive and may pose a risk to your potential clients. Now, of course, this is still my opinion. If you have something that you feel very strongly about that you think you need to express your opinion about on social media, then that is your decision. I'm explaining to you though how to control the assumptions of other people and typically that means being conservative, not politically conservative, but rather being conservative with what you say online and not saying things that are potentially divisive. You should avoid offensive language in my opinion, avoid resharing offensive content from others, even if it's taken wrong, being offended can leave a lasting impression on a client that is very difficult to erase. And in fact, this kind of thing spreads. If you offend one person, that is the kind of story that they will tell to other people who could be your clients in the future as well. So the simple rule to follow if you had to take one thing away from this episode is if it is questionable about whether or not this is going to offend someone online, don't share it. Just simply don't participate on your public social media profile. Consider rethinking why you feel the need to share on a public social media profile, your opinions. Especially consider the risks and benefits for you. Before you send a tweet, evaluate, does this tweet help me or could it possibly hurt me? Does this tweet help someone else or could it possibly hurt someone else? Consider before you tweet or before you share something on Facebook. Am I sharing this because I'm angry? What is the motivation behind whatever it is that I'm saying? I'll leave you finally with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci about silence. Da Vinci says, nothing strengthens authority so much as silence. So choose your words wisely. Be smart about what you're saying. Be careful about what you're saying. When you are speaking in a public realm, remember that other people are constantly considering what you are saying and the things behind what you're saying. The unspoken assumptions that they make have a powerful impact on your life. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. I hope you will subscribe to the show so you won't miss future episodes. Of course you can subscribe in pretty much any podcasting app. There's also an RSS feed at developertea.com. That is also where the show notes are for this episode and every other episode of Developer Tea. Developer Tea was recently nominated for the 16th annual Net Awards. I'd really appreciate your vote and you can do that by going to bitly. That's bit.ly slash vote T. V-O-T-E-T-E-A. Of course the link for that will also be in the show notes. If you have any questions for me like Matthew did, you can contact me at Developer Tea at gmail.com or you can reach me on Twitter at app developert. Thanks so much for listening to the show and until next time, enjoy your tea.