Thursday, September 27, 2007

Private Lives in the Public Age

Remember "The Truman Show"? That was the Jim Carey movie in which the main character, Truman's entire life was played out on TV. At the time people thought it was a little extreme.

But today a lot of us are playing that out in one way or another by putting more of our lives online. You can read my resume over on LinkedIn, or read this blog to find out about my media work, then scoot over to the Tanoblog to find out out my family and maybe check out a few of my pictures.

But all this openness has its limits. My blogging on my family blog has curtailed as my kids get older, and I don't put many photographs of my own face out there.

While catching up on some podcasts recently I heard Shel Holtz answer critics who said he didn't give enough of his reasons for leaving crayon. His response was simple: his personal reasons for leaving the company are, well, personal, and they're no one else's business. His readers, of course, felt a sense of entitlement to hear more about his life since he puts so much out there.

That's the catch. How do you share what you want with whom you want without sharing too much with too many? Vox and Tabblo offer some options for this by providing privacy controls and letting authors choose who sees what content, but it goes beyond blogging and photo sharing.

I was discussing this issue with a relatively young reporter at a top business publication when the discussion turned to Facebook and how she can't differentiate who sees what. She started working with Facebook in college, but as the site moves away from being just about personal connections and develops more as a business networking platform, she wants some way to keep her worlds separate but still use the service and all it offers. In other words, she wants to keep her college pictures and stories private, but make elements such as her professional connections and achievements public.

Facebook is quickly becoming an interesting social networking platform and one that could, very well, become a standard for companies looking to add a social networking component to their services. But, I still have stories and pictures that I only want to share with close friends, and other things that I'm happy to share with the world. I need a way to control that.

To survive, Facebook is going to have to find a way to address this issue, or someone else will come along who can.

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