Leading Double Lives: Balancing the Professional and Personal on Social Media

By now, I think we all know to avoid posting pictures of alcohol, drugs, parties, or sex on social media. Your employer might see it, interviewers are screening you, and so on, and so on. But you should also curate a presence on social media so that your professional contacts have something to look at.

I just want to look at Vines of puppies tipping their bowls over and retweet a bunch of politically incorrect comedians. Sigh.

Obviously, we have to make some decisions about online boundaries. Ariane Ollier-Malaterre at the Harvard Review suggests users who want to manage their professional and personal image focus on a few strategies: Open, Audience, or Content.

Using an Open strategy, you just post whatever. That might sound like a non-strategy, sure, but for professionals in the public spotlight, candid sharing can make you feel more authentic and human. Professionals who already have a high-profile career, especially in the creative arts like acting or music, can get away with this and look all the better for it.

Alright Kanye. You do you, I guess.

The Audience strategy focuses on controlling who has access to your accounts, whether that’s refusing friend requests on Facebook and redirecting people to LinkedIn, or keeping your Instagram account completely private. This strategy will stop your employer from seeing your “Zayn Malik left One Direction” meltdown on Twitter, but you may also have less content to offer anyone screening your accounts to see if you’re a well-rounded person.

Tissues are a good start, but she’s gonna need a prayer circle.

Finally, users can try the Content strategy, which means gritting your teeth and only posting nice, inoffensive, professional comments and pictures. If you’re not really into social media anyway, this strategy may be good enough. For the rest of us, it will probably feel like a chore, and suck the fun right out of our favorite platforms like some kind of briefcase-carrying, timecard-checking vampire.

None of these strategies are perfect, but it helps to consider your online persona. The old cliché “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” can apply here. If you want to be more of a celebrity personality, go for the Open strategy and let your opinions leak everywhere. If you’re anticipating a higher profile corporate job, however, stick to the content strategy and keep your end-goal in mind.

And if you just want to vent about bad traffic or a stupid coworker, try making a second account followed only by your closest friends, or consider calling your mom and keeping it off the internet entirely. It’s fine to use a mix of strategies and find the best fit. Just ask yourself – who could be seeing this, and am I comfortable with that?

In the comments, let us know how you manage your social media accounts. Who sees what?

I’m especially curious to hear from anyone about their political content. Would you openly share or post about your political views online, or endorse an activist with a retweet? Even if we’re careful to avoid inflammatory content, politics are inherently polarizing. Or better yet – if you were thinking about hiring someone but dislike their political views on Facebook or Tumblr, would that affect your decision? Let us know in the comments.


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