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Online Social Presence … Multi-Dimensional

Source: tranxploration.com

To conclude my series of posts on the topic of having an Online Social Presence, I wanted to cover the topic of being multi-dimensional.   One of the drawbacks associated with online technologies, instant access, as well as mobile technologies comes in the recognition that the lines between professional and private are blurring.  This isn’t a new phenomenon, especially when we admit that very few of us don’t think about family when we are at work nor do we not think about work when we are with our families.  The “job” or our thoughts about our responsibilities don’t magically shut down before 8am or after 5pm.

Taking a step farther, even when we are at work and talking with colleagues, our conversations don’t always revolve around work topics.  I’d challenge you to take some time while you are in the break room or around the water cooler, maybe even while traversing the sea of cubicles, and listen to topics being discussed.  I am confident that you’ll hear topics such as sporting teams, children and their myriad of activities, home improvement projects, the latest restaurant that has opened, politics, and potentially even the previous weekend’s recreational activities.

The reality that most of us live, details that we are seldom one dimensional.  We have lives outside the work environment that hopefully enrich who we are as individuals.  Friends, family, church, civic organization, sporting activities, and recreational pursuits … all add interesting ingredients to who we are as individuals.  These experiences accumulate and provide us with perspectives and insights.  While balancing all these influences can be challenging at times, the dividends are paid out in rounding us out and hopefully allowing us to live rich fulfilling lives.

Bring the point back to the concept of having an Online Social Presence, the challenge many of us face is not being one dimensional online.  I would contend that it’s natural to leverage a single identify in an online media. I myself have attempted to temper my twitter posts around the topics of technology adoption.  While this may be a broad area, I exert much effort not to tweet about my kids, my fandom for the Kansas City Chiefs, or my experiences at local eateries through this medium.  The root of this intention, I suspect comes from a desire to guard private material from the watchful eyes of those online.  However, as Dawn Foster points out in her post for Gigaom entitled Can You Be Personal and Professional in Social Media?, “many people confused personal and private.”  Being personable, at times means revealing more dimensions of who we are and what influences us.

Ethan Zuckerman is a researcher at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  In 2010, Mr. Zuckerman gave a presentation at TEDGLOBAL2010 on the subject of “Global Voices“, which is “an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world” he co-founded.  In this talk, Mr. Zuckerman makes reference to a term he calls “segregated conversations.”  The reference describes that while the online communities, like tweeter, do have many people from across the globe, the conversations held in these online communities are in fact segregated, because we are choosing who we interact with.  Mr. Zuckerman identifies a problem with social media, more specifically with social searching, stating … “flocking with a lot of people who are similar to you [makes] it’s hard to get information from the other flocks.”  Navigating between the flocks requires what Mr. Zuckerman describes as a “bridge figure”, or someone who can facilitate communication between flocks.

Chris Brogan echos this sentiment by referencing the concept of Dunbar’s Number.  This “theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships” was developed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.  The common value attributed to Dunbar’s Number is 150, and the point that Chirs Borgan makes, is that rather than sustaining 150 stable social relationships with individuals similar to ourselves, we should sustain 150 stable social relationships with differing individuals that give us a glimpse or conduit into “a bunch of different threads”.

Both Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Brogan are challenging us to be multi-dimensional.  Not only in our online communications, but also in those we interact with online.  We can be “bridge figures” as well as we can connect to other “bridge figures”.  Being multi-dimensional adds value to our online presence.  It provides a fuller picture of who we are, who we interact with, and what is it that motivates us.  Leveraging our passions, explaining our perspectives, referencing our heritage can come together to provide others with a deeper understanding what cultivates, nourishes, and drives us as individuals.  It’s a challenge that I’m slowly coming to accept and be convicted about.  I hope you too will share the journey.

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