Is There Still A Personal/Professional Line?

“I feel a client should respect the fact that a personal Twitter or Facebook account is different from when your meeting with them or representing their brand.” – Marcus Andrews in a comment

An interesting division became apparent last week when I asked “Who are you online?” Of the different people who commeted, roughly half said that they acted differently online to offline. Some of the comments from that side:

  • “I am careful with networks that are open and searchable (Twitter, e.g.) to not say anything that might hinder me in the future.”
  • “I pride myself on staying true to my beliefs, but I will change what I say and how I say it depending on the group I’m in.”
  • “I try to keep it industry related as I’m trying to learn as much as I can from all of the PR professionals that I’m fortunate to have access to.”
  • “Regardless of the medium, I always assume my professional contacts may come across what I say and how I behave online.”
  • “I definitely act more professional online than I do in my everyday life.”
  • “Personally I am very different online than offline. It’s not that I’m a bad person or anything offline, I’m just less colorful when I’m online.”

It’s hard to stay professional at all times. Working late last Friday night, I got mad at my computer when it started playing up just as I was about to leave the office, and I vented about it on Twitter. I then got mad at myself (offline) for venting online. Does that reflect poorly on me? Or is it perfectly acceptable to show that you’re human occasionally? Meanwhile, I know I frequently self-censor after re-considering things I’m about to post.

This raises some interesting questions when it comes to companies using Internet research during their recruitment:

  • If online content is written with employers in mind, does it really reflect the person?
  • Should we disregard online content when recruiting, or is this another way to find the people with the smarts to be professional online?
  • Perhaps most intriguingly: Should employers and clients respect the line between professional and personal? Does that line even exist any more?

What do you think?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.