“It’s not that I should post less; it’s that everyone else should post more … The time when your personal identity was a secret to your colleagues is over and done. And that is a good thing,” said social network mogul Randi Zuckerberg.
In her recent column for Time Magazine, Zuckerberg discusses the backlash she received from coworkers regarding the photos she posted of her young son. While she saw the photos as cute, colleagues saw them as damaging to her professional reputation.
Before discussing Zuckerberg’s statement, it is first necessary to point out the irony: Of all people, it is not surprising that a multi-millionaire whose fortune is derived from a social network would support sharing more of one’s life online. As her name suggests, Zuckerberg is social network royalty. Not only is she the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former Facebook director of market development, she is also the CEO of Zuckerberg Media, a company she founded.
Yet, beyond Zuckerberg’s obvious conflict of interest, her column shines light on an issue that has slowly progressed without significant attention. As social network users become more comfortable sharing pictures and status updates with friends and acquaintances, how have the rules changed for mixing business with pleasure?
After consideration, Zuckerberg decided to disregard their comments in favor of her own theory. She explains that as more and more people grow up with the presence of social networking in their daily lives, sharing is not only more acceptable but expected; sharing more with colleagues creates a more trustworthy person.
Her point is valid; being overly secretive can be interpreted as rudeness and may isolate a person from his coworkers. And as she explains, sharing photos that may have been considered “private” 10 years ago can make a person seem friendlier, more human, more “three-dimensional.” But at the same time, isn’t the work-personal divide still worth something?
As a high school student, I view this divide differently. While Zuckerberg works with people of varying ages and attitudes toward social media, I am surrounded by my peers, most of whom have long embraced social networking as an indispensable part of life. Thinking about moving forward in my life and eventually getting a full-time job, I feel divided over this issue about the blurred lines between personal and private lives.
I agree with Zuckerberg that being a real person in the eyes of one’s colleagues is beneficial. Relationships and team dynamic can be strengthened when members have an understanding of who each person is beyond their resumes and job description. But on the flip side, I also worry how realistic it is to think that all of my future coworkers will be open to my social networking updates, even if they are rare and appropriate. As I leave school and enter a more competitive working atmosphere, I worry that small mistakes online could have devastating effects on my professional reputation or career.
In a poll connected to Zuckerberg’s column, readers were asked to identify the most annoying type of post from a colleague. The results surprised me; the plurality of respondents (42 percent) chose “political messages” over baby photos, self-promotion, fundraising appeals, and even pictures of partying. This reiterates the idea that it is impossible to know how a posting will be interpreted by those who peruse your page. The idea of posts intended for friends and family negatively impacting the respect you get from those at work should make you think twice before freely posting is daunting and requires some foresight.
Fortunately, maintaining the divide between one’s personal life and professional life is a choice. There is no correct way to approach maintaining separation, but it can’t hurt to have a few of your own rules in place and stick to them.
Annika Ulrich is a senior at Aragon High School in San Mateo. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.