Renewing The Line Between Public And Private

When Is Public Info TOO Public?I’ve been thinking about the ever-increasing blurry line between public and private lives now that social media is mainstream.  I’ve personally been opening myself up to the world for about a decade; I started blogging by developing my own (very basic) blogging platform before the term “blog” was popular…and I haven’t looked back since then.

There have been a couple of times that I was alarmed by what people are capable of thinking or doing.  A few years ago I started getting anonymous comments on various videos of my children, asking me to pose them in certain ways or have them do certain things.  Naturally I deleted all traces of the videos online (yes it is possible) and became very aware of what I was posting after that.  Although I was always careful to never name them or reveal the location of my children even before this incident, I became very protective after that and have been quite conscious of what I would and would not publish.  Over the years I have become more widely known because of my marketing and social media work, and although I’m certainly a small fish in a big pond, I do have a lot of connections with people that I’ve never met face to face.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my social media life.  I’ve turned so many of my digital-first relationships into real-life relationships, and I love social media and the way it connects the world. But, and there is always a but…

I’m closing up my personal Facebook profile, restricting it to only people I know in real life.

I was going to post this earlier in the week, but as I was proofing the draft, I skipped over to my blog reader and was quite surprised to see that one of the greats in social media, Darren Rowse the ProBlogger, announced pretty much the same thing.  It’s an excellent article, you can read it here, but it left me thinking that this was the right move for me.  Darren has a much larger audience than I do (and he deserves it!), so pointing people over to his Facebook Fan Page yielded some pretty good results.  The very next day on Twitter I saw that my friend Jessica Gottlieb was doing the same thing…purging Facebook.

Honestly, the announcement of my personal Facebook page going private isn’t big news.  I’m writing this because I am looking at this as perhaps more of a renewing of the line between public and private lives globally.  The pendulum tends to swing in trends…we went from very private (no internet access) to very public (ChatRoulette) and I think we’re going to start seeing a swing back to the private.  It’s not going to go back to total segregation however…I see a hybrid emerging, especially for social media professionals.

I’m closing up my Facebook profile and unfriending people that I don’t personally know…but honestly encouraging them to join me on my fan page.  And yes, I hate the term fan page…who am I that somebody would become a fan? I wish it were worded differently.  But it’s not, so that is what I will develop over time.  I had a conversation with somebody about this today, and they initially said something along the lines of “nice knowing you”, meaning that our digital connection was being cut.  On the contrary, I replied…I really think I’ll be engaging people a lot more with this move. My current Facebook status is automatically updated from my Twitter feed, so it’s actually not all that personal to begin with.  Twitter is still probably the best way to connect with me, but I’m not going to send it over to Facebook anymore; not to my personal or my public page.  We’ll see how it goes.

Hopefully now the separation of worlds will make more sense.  When my Aunt writes on my wall and asks how my mom is, half of my friends won’t wonder what she’s talking about.  When an online friend starts talking to me about HTML5 vs. Flash, half of my friends won’t wonder what he’s talking about.  And out of all of it, I think I can start putting up pictures of my children, and my friends from high school can comment on what good looking kids they are….because they really are good looking kids!

Thanks for understanding! I would love it if you would join me on my public Facebook page (I’m going to be careful to not call it a fan page), and if you have been thinking about this separation of public and private lives, I would love to hear about it in the comments or on Twitter. Or even on my new f** page.  ;)


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Bathroom photo used under Creative Commons from Brymo
By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to