Online Identity

I have been spending a lot of time recently thinking about our online identities and how much cooler the world would be if we open sourced our lives.  What do I mean by this?

define open source - Google Search

FREELY AVAILABLE is what stands out to me.  A life where nothing is hidden, everything is on the table for everyone to read, share, comment, and discuss.  I’ve talked and presented about this topic in the past (here) and I feel that it’s about time to bring it up once again.

As I said above, I believe in a life where everything is freely available.  That means putting it all out there: Embracing the icky stuff, celebrating the joyous moments, admitting confusion…..Everything.  Social media has great power at connecting people and giving everyone a voice.  For me, I never felt like I was using social media properly until I realized this.  Over the past few years, developing my voice and connecting with people has taught me two things:

  1. Professionally, it has connected me with some amazing people and given me the opportunity to do some amazing things and travel to some amazing places and talk about the things I am passionate about.  Without social media, I may not have had this opportunity.  
  2. Personally, it has allowed me to open source my life to my friends and family.  We’ve all had great moments in our lives and at the same time we’ve all been miserable.  It’s been great sharing these moments with my friends and family.  That way, they know where I’m at, where I’m heading, and how I got there.  The best part about it is the discussion it stems from these posts…people open up and share their lives with you.  You quickly find out that you’re not alone in the world.

There are different ways to approach this lifestyle and it takes some time to find exactly what works best for you.  I’m happy to show you what’s been working for me:

Here’s my approach:


Before you go laughing off Google+, let me state my case for it. I love Google+ for sharing things professionally.  There’s just something about the Google+ interface that encourages sharing and discussion.  The way you determine how you want to share something (through Circles) gives you amazing options as to how you decide you want to share something.

The conversations I’ve had over the past year on Google+ have been very stimulating and the things I’ve discovered via other folks that I’m following have really helped me think differently about how I approach my job.

Google+ isn’t a Facebook killer, replacement, or anything else like that.  Google+ is Google+, a great tool that you can use to really develop your professional image.  Give it a shot.  I gave up on it shortly after it was released and came back to it a few months later…and I’ve never left it since.


Simply stated, I don’t think I would be where I am professionally without Twitter.  It has given me the opportunity to share and discuss everything with the world and for that I am very grateful.

One of the great things about Twitter is that it’s so quick and in the moment that it really can be something to everyone.  Having a really focused moment talking about libraries?  Go for it.  Then it’s OK to switch that up and talk about music or something else.  I do it all the time.  It’s also great for finding new things to read.  The people I follow are always sharing great stuff to absorb.

What really makes the Twitter experience most useful for me is watching who I follow.  Over the years, I’ve been endlessly dabbling in this specific area.  I’ve found that when I follow too many people my Twitter feed becomes unmanageable and really turns me away from the service.  It’s almost as if there’s an information overload.  You can always turn to something like Twitter lists to manage this, but I’ve found those very ineffective.  Tweetdeck is also another tool you can use to manage your streams.

Twitter is great for developing your professional identity and at the same time mixing a bit of personal into everything.


And finally, we come to Facebook.  With over 1 billion users, there’s a chance that everyone you’ve ever known is using this service.  That can seem like a very overwhelming and scary thing.  It was for me for the longest time.  There was this thought in the back of my head that SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME and I did not like that at all.  However, I’ve found that if you take the time to really look at your privacy settings and use at least one or two lists that Facebook can be an amazing tool for achieving an open source life.

Recently, I opened up about something going on in my life on Facebook.  I was embracing the icky stuff.  I shared it privately with Friends only and used a list that I created before to limit the post even more.  My privacy setting looked like this:

FB privacy

What was the end result?  My initial post got a lot of comments.  People opened up, shared, discussed, and more.  It was a beautiful thing.  I also received 5 personal messages from people that read my initial post who wanted to talk a bit more in depth.  The end result was that I didn’t feel bad for having these feelings.  I felt like a lot of people understood me, offered worthwhile suggestions, and I was able to grow and learn from it.

My conclusion?  Have a look at your online identity and see what you’re sharing and where you’re sharing it.  Think about what you want to get out of each and every post.  Do you want an open conversation?  Do you want to live an open source life?  If so, how do you develop your social networks to best meet your needs?  With some time and effort, you’ll find what you’re looking for.



  1. Excellent points, all. I know for myself personally, I haven’t taken the time to utilize fb lists, but I really should. As for G+, I really like it, but was overwhelmed by a couple of power users’ followers following me back when I was more active there and it completely overwhelmed me. One of these days, I’ll get back to cleaning up my circles.
    I’m so glad you’re discovering and developing professional and personal relationships through these platforms – it can be so fulfilling when done with a bit of time and a little research.

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