I swear that one day I will stop talking about Google+.
One of the things that struck me the other day as I was writing the post about LiveJournal was the realization that LJ had recognized early on in the social media scene that people want choices when they’re sharing certain information. LiveJournal developed communities of people around a certain interest, and those entries could be public or private depending on the community. Many of the snark communities are private until you become a member, and all the entries on it are blocked until you are approved by a moderator. Within your personal journals you are able to make any entry totally public, available to your friends, available to a customized group of friends, or even available to no one but yourself.
To my knowledge there is no other blogging software that exists that has this level of customizable sharing. And actually, to my knowledge there is no other social media platform until Google+ came along that allowed that kind of granular level of sharing.
Now, some people have asked me if I’ve made use of the customizable sharing of Google+. The answer is not really very much, because I live a fairly public life. That said, I like having the option of keeping things a little closer to home than not. There are plenty of things that I would prefer to keep private, and yet feel comfortable talking about those things with a select group of friends. This could be health issues, religious question, questions that I feel are only appropriate if asked of people within my field of work just to name a few.
There are some people in my life with whom I would divulge anything. My mother for instance. I cannot keep a secret from her, nor would I ever want to. Also I have a select group of friends with whom I feel comfortable confiding things that I don’t want to announce to the world.
When I was more active on LiveJournal I made very heavy use of this. One of the common things that I would keep private were conversations about my job. There come times in every job that try your soul, and when I was in that dark place about 6 years ago I needed to share those troubles with people I trusted. To do that I went to my LiveJournal community and confided in a select group of trusted friends. The resulting conversations led me to try to start my own business, to see if I could make a go of it on my own. Ultimately the home business did not pan out (hello tanking economy!), but the support that I got from my friends at LiveJournal was all the incentive I needed to get encouragement in my troubled time.
Its moments like this that are why we need to have granular sharing that is functional and intuitive in social media. Even if it is only an option.
While these functions sort of exist in Facebook, they are really pushing you to share absolutely everything with everyone. As part of my control freaky nature I have often disabled people from tagging me in pictures and I don’t allow anyone to write on my wall. My one exception is to turn on wall writing for my birthday, only because everyone and their mother will write happy birthday on your wall. It’s kind of cool, but I don’t want my wall turning into what happened on MySpace where people post ridiculous glittering unicorn .gifs and sexy shirtless dudes. That’s just not something I really want to see on my Facebook Page, because I feel it’s supposed to represent who I am. Also, because things that get posted to your wall get reshared across all your friends, and I have coworkers on there, I try and control my message on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever realizes that they’re saying what they do in a public forum. I mean, it’s incredible how much people will share without a thought in the world as to who may read it.
I’m even more controlling when it comes to blogs. I chose WordPress for this content because a lot of other library bloggers are on here, and that creates a great ping-back community when we cross link to each other. Plus the dashboard is pretty awesome. But the downside is that everything is public. There are no secrets here, nor is there any way to make something secret here. This is the place to publish, and by publish they really mean it. They want your stuff to go out to the entire world, and make it available via whatever means necessary. Blogger and TypePad are the same in that respect, once it’s live, it’s live for the world to see. No secrets. For professional writing this makes sense.
But LiveJournal, at least as it’s been used in America, has always been a place for the personal. It’s been where people go to bear their soul, and do silly quizzes at each other. I also feel like it’s grown up a lot since I began using it. Maybe it’s just me, and the way I use LiveJournal who has grown up. To me it actually has the feel of a journal, the kind that one would keep as a paper diary, only in an electronic format. The privacy settings allow it to retain that feeling, by being able to limit a post to only yourself, or to a limited group. You’re not announcing something to the world as a whole, but rather to a small group of known friends.
Someone asked me if I was going to migrate my content off of LJ to protect it in case the company crashes. I think that any content migration would have to be something that would respect the variant levels of privacy that I set in there. So, no, there is no real way to maintain the integrity of the LJ blog in a content migration. There’s no way I would be able to recreate the individual user access that I have in there among the friends that used that service, and still do today.
The reality of all of this is that the people I have in each of my social networks are totally different. There are some people who are on all of them with me, and some who are only on one or another. There are some people I am more comfortable sharing with on LJ, some on Facebook, Some on Google+ and some here on WordPress. Each venue has its own unique vibe, and the content that I post in each of those places varies, and that depends upon who’s in there. So here’s a snapshot of who’s in where.
- WordPress: Totally Public - WordPress is my professional voice. It’s my soapbox for library and tech things. I tend to write here about three times a week.
- LiveJournal: Semi-Public - LiveJournal is my personal voice. It’s where I share the more intimate details of my life, to varying degrees of openness. I also have a second LJ for some occasional creative writing projects. Writing comes in fits and starts on both accounts, sometimes I’m on a tear and go every day, and sometimes it’s nothing for a month. Depends on my mood really.
- Facebook: Friends and Colleagues - Facebook is kind of a free for all. Its made up of people that I personally know, or plan to meet someday. It’s kind of a blend of personal and professional. I post some of the pictures from the crazy street performances I do with the faeries and talk about some professional and political things as well. None of it, however, is anything that I would be embarrassed to show my mother. Facebook is an every day affair.
- Google+: Random Happy Mutants - Google+ is kind of a sandbox. I have a lot of strangers in there, but all of them fit into neat little compartments of librarians, authors, comic book people, bears and Pagans. If someone by chance adds me who I have no idea who they are I will look at who they are and who we share in common and put them in the appropriate group. For those who don’t fit I put them in “the whole wide world” unless they are posting things I really can’t look at while I’m at work, like hot shirtless dudes. I check G+ multiple times a day.
- Twitter: Colleagues Only – Twitter I am on, but hardly use for anything. I follow very few people, and all I post are relays from the WordPress. Mostly because library people Twitter, and I push stuff out for them. I never look at twitter any more.
So that’s where I’m at with social media. It does consume an inordinate amount of time, but its time that I appreciate. I feel like I’m truly connecting with people, that I’m learning things, and that I’m sharing things that are meaningful, fun, and occasionally funny. I like having the option to share privately, and occasionally I do. It’s not always, but sometimes it’s important to have that around.