Sorry, no such photos exist…yet. However, lest the title of this post seem frivolous, I assure you I am using it as a segue into a broader discussion. That discussion is over whether keeping separate social media accounts for personal and professional purposes is a necessary or preferable thing. I got to wondering about this question because on my one and only Twitter account, I found that there was a disconnect in my timeline between those people I followed for academic/professional reasons and those purely for entertainment. I have never met the majority of people who follow me (and vice versa) and engage with on Twitter, so why would they be interested in the minutiae of my life outside the reason they follow me, presumably because we share interests. In my early Twitter days I followed a few people based solely on the fact that they followed me and I felt obliged to follow back and they repaid me by spamming my timeline so that I was missing important things that people I respect were saying. You know the real kicker? One particularly bad account was just taking hackneyed quasi-clever witticisms from all over the internet and passing them off as their own and then retweeting every time a follower of theirs retweeted or thanked them for being so clever. Being relatively new to Twitter, I figured this is just how it was done. After all, this account had over 15k followers and maybe I could learn a thing or two. It turns out that I care about what appears in my timeline and I could do without multiple thousands of high school kids following me and affirming that I am the best plagiarizer on the entire interwebs.
It’s almost needless for me to say it, but I soon unfollowed that particular account and it prompted me to do an informal poll on Twitter to see what other academics were doing as far as professional vs. personal social media accounts.The consensus is pretty clear that keeping separate accounts for personal and professional purposes is a common practice. A lot of people told me that they keep their personal feed locked down with a pseudonym, which I suppose is one way of doing it if all you want out of it is to follow and not have any interaction. This would also be a way of damping down any confusion as to which of your accounts is the “real” you. As I’ve said before, I keep a very open profile for professional purposes but I only have one Twitter account and, for now, this suits me. I have reserved Facebook for purely personal and familial interactions and that appears to be working, though I spend a great deal more time engaging my brain on Twitter. I also keep an Academia.edu profile which is marginally helpful at best.
I have found that jettisoning the extraneous Twitter accounts that I was only using to boost my numbers and focusing on those that I actually read and sometimes even interact with is the best policy. I still follow a few celebrities and musicians though I have cut back since most of the latter are not run by the artists themselves. If you came to this post looking for thoughtful tips and tricks for academics using Twitter, I’m afraid I have let you down. However, the Chronicle of Higher Education has not. Their Ten Commandments of Twitter for Academics is a great place to start if you want to avoid some of the dumbass things that trap people like me who think they can just go ahead and be a social media expert on the first day (kind of like my experience playing guitar, but that’s a different story).
So, to answer my own question, I would say that, yes, you should keep personal and professional social media accounts. I know for a fact that I say and do things on my personal accounts that I do not wish to share with the professional side of my online persona. It’s not because I am a terrible person or that I’m ashamed of anything I post elsewhere on the web, but I just don’t think many people would be all that interested in status updates about my dog if the reason they follow me online is because we share an interest in Victorian underground book history. I think this changes, however, once you have had drinks with your professional acquaintances and have forged something that resembles a friendship rather than a strictly professional relationship. And that, I think, is okay.