Bear with me. This post is a long one. I’m making some changes in the next few days and I wanted to take a few minutes to explain why.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I have a day job — I work in Advertising, in case you didn’t know. I’m very fortunate, in that I enjoy what I do and really love the people I work for.
One of my roles in the company where I work is to stay on top of our digital security. It’s a lot of fun and, from time to time, I get to relieve my boyhood fantasies of wanting to be Jeff Bridges’ character from Tron.
Well . . . mostly, it’s lots of fun. It’s less fun when an Middle Eastern domain pirate targets your company on a Thursday evening. Yes, that really happened a few years back. And, yes, that was a bad couple of weeks for me. I didn’t even have a glowing frisbee to defend myself.
Recently, my company just went through a big security audit. Going through that process got me thinking about some nagging loose ends in my own online life, particularly as it relates to social media.
I’ve been on social media for a relatively long time now. This website has been out there for even longer. Originally, this site and my various social media profiles were meant as an outlet to share my work and make connections with new readers. But, of course, that has evolved significantly. Now I also get to meet very nice people who share my interests and insanity, many of whom are now friends.
A few years back there were a series of events on Facebook which caused me to reassess my approach to all of this. There was no single episode, but a number of small occurrences made me somewhat uncomfortable with the intermingling of my personal and public online life.
In response, I closed my personal profile to new friend requests and set up my fan page for followers, fans, and readers.
Overall, that’s worked pretty well — at least, until recently.
Recently, I’ve found that the boundary that I set between personal and professional life has gotten a bit blurry once again. That’s to be expected, of course. It’s a natural by-product of connecting with people online. I don’t consider it a bad thing at all. But it’s drifting out of my comfort zone once again.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m quite aware that I am not, by any stretch, a celebrity. I know I don’t have a gazillion followers and fans out there desperate for a glimpse into my soul.
Honestly, I get it.
But I am delighted and grateful that there are a few very nice people out there who like my work and want to connect with me online. Because I genuinely want to connect with them.
On Twitter, anyone can connect with me. My account is open and I really enjoy the connections and friendships that I have made there. And I’m always happy to make new ones.
For my own sanity’s sake, though, I typically try to keep my own feed to around 100 people or so. Any more than that and I have trouble with the signal to noise ratio. So if I don’t follow you back, it’s because I don’t really know you well enough. If we interact often, if you’re nice and funny and interested in the same things I am, then I might end up following you back. No promises. But that’s an open conversation and I’m happy to have it.
Facebook is more . . . problematic. I have a personal profile that I keep pretty well locked down these days. It’s only for family and very, very close friends. Over time, however, I haven’t always been diligent about maintaining that separation. So there’s a lot of other people in there now — some I haven’t seen in years, some who snuck over from Twitter, some who I let in after I’d closed the door.
But not all of these people should have access to, for instance, pictures of my children . . . or listen in on my conversations with my wife.
In fact, almost none of them should.
I like these people. They’re readers, they’re fans, and a few are in that odd category of online-friends-that-I-don’t-really-know-anything-about. They send me very nice notes about how much they like my books, for which I’m very grateful. I appreciate all the support and I’d love to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re all very nice people . . . but the truth is that they’re also strangers.
Nice people, perhaps but still strangers.
None of this is anyone’s fault but my own. I’m not reacting to a single person or a single episode. If anyone did anything wrong, it’s me.
Typically, my Facebook “policy” has been to point people to my public fan page when they send me a Friend Request. More often than not, they don’t follow through. I won’t pretend to assume I know the reason why — or that everyone has the same reason — but it does lead me to want to try and clarify what’s going on here.
I’ve been putting off all of this for a while now, but it’s time. So over the next few days, I’m going to clean things up a bit — repaint the boundaries and make sure that the lines are clear again.
As a result, some people are going to get removed from my personal Facebook.
Some of them might not even notice. Or care. But a few might be hurt by this.
I completely understand and I am sorry.
I wish I could say “this isn’t personal” but that’d be a lie. It’s very personal. Which is why I have to (re)draw those lines.
But, if you’re one of those very nice online-friends-who-also-happen-to-be-strangers, I sincerely hope you’ll understand.
And I hope that you’ll reach out on Twitter or my Fan Page to stay connected.
(ADDING: Again, I know I’m not as special as this might sound. I’m not trying to make myself out to be something precious. I’m not. But my personal life is.)