Monday, August 18, 2008

What are my online communities?

Please permit me to reflect on the concept of online communities from a purely personal perspective.

The Facilitating Online Communities course has caused me to reflect on the communities in which I engage and changing my habits to move towards greater contribution and effectiveness of use. The most significant change that has occurred is hunting down the profiles I had set up within various virtual places and deleting them if I did not use them. A dead space about me would probably tell people things I did not intend.

First and foremost, I deliberately separate my online professional life from my online social life. This does not mean that I won't interact socially with people within (what I consider) professional online communities, but I deliberately will not provide personal information relating to my family and family life in these environments. The reverse situation is also true, I leave (as much as I can) of my professional life outside of my social online communities.

DISCLAIMER: I know some of you reading will debate my use of the word "social" here, arguing that any interaction can be considered social. My use of the word in this context is to draw a differentiation between engagement with family and friends from engagement for work or education purposes.

Why am I so interested in separating the professional from the social. Two main reasons exist. Firstly I am protective of my children, and concerned about how much information and pictures of them I post online. I would hope in future as they grow more independent that this will teach them to protect themselves. Unfortunately, as much as there are many online communities that pose no threat, this allows me to feel some control over who has knowledge of my family. I am not naive, I do realise any published information online is susceptible to "intruders", but I can limit this.

This is why you will find no information on my family here in my blog, or on my Diigo profile, or on my Google profile etc etc. All my family information is stored elsewhere.

The second reason is to assist me in my friendships. As a teacher, you gather many teacher friends and conversation can ultimately be dominated by teaching. Separating my professional life from my personal social life encourages me to interact with my friends and family about happenings outside the workplace. I think the one negative is that this has reduced the amount of online interaction with them, which is a sad reflection of the domination of work and learning in my life's schedule. People who originated in my life as friends before they became colleagues know little of my professional life. My family knows a bit more, but not all. They are not aware of this blog or know little of the online groups I'm involved in. Should they be? This is currently a thought I am battling through - how do I include them if I think they will be interested without crossing my own boundaries.

So for me, management of my online communities is paramount. I don't believe it limits my engagement with communities, so feel no need to change.

How do you manage your online interactions?


Leigh Blackall said...

Deleting dead accounts.. great idea, especially for identity management as you point out. Boy oh boy I have my work cut out finding and deleting all those old accounts! Must do though.

Interesting that you succeed in separating out your personal and professional. For me, I can't do it. I am so tangled up that life can at times be work, and work at times is life. Also, showing my personal side I think has helped me strengthen my professional connections.

But I understand and admire your skills and discipline in being able to do it!

Emma said...

Shane, I wrestled for so long with the professional / personal online identity stuff.

When the first 'work' person added me as a friend on Facebook I freaked out. All of a sudden I found my personal and professional lives colliding and it made me uncomfortable. I now censor what I say/do/write/post etc. on Facebook, which is kind of pointless.

I started blogging in 2001 (not the blog linked to this account, just a generic blog about life) and I would feel so exposed if people from my professional world read it. hrm I also tossed up whether or not to log in to my blogger a/c when posting this and my previous comment because of what it's linked to, but I thought 'stuff it'.

For many years I have treated myself as having two distinct identities; my 'work' has never been what defined me as a person and I kept it apart from everything else. I'm finding it more and more difficult to do that now and am just choosing what I do and don't share across both paths. said...


It can be a struggle. I have many work colleagues on my Facebook account, and most have become friends more than colleagues. My effort to keep the 2 separate is largely due to my need (personal) to protect my family. Despite the fact all the connections I make through Diigo, delicious, twitter etc have always assisted me and are an important part of my PLN, I do not trust them explicitly and am unsure who of their friends can see my profile through the (intentionally) loose connections possible.

I've often thought do I link the sides? At the moment I'm not inclined to.

Thanks for the visit.

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