Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Brian A Jackson via Shutterstock
Column Do you 'compartmentalise' your life on social media?
Is Facebook for friends and Twitter for the truth? Molly Garboden writes about how showing different sides to yourself to different people is a trick as old as time.

WE’VE ALL DONE it – we’ve all turned down someone’s birthday drinks with a “blergh, work” excuse, only to be tagged by another mate, on the same night, in a Facebook check-in at Copper Face Jacks: “out with DA CREW – wa-HEY!!!”

But abundant potential for socially awkward situations aside, social media can be a minefield when it comes to compartmentalising our lives where it counts. A recent survey shows, however, that we may be getting smarter about this: according to the stats, 61 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 have multiple social media accounts. Increasingly, it seems, we are using these various platforms in a savvier way.

Why? Out of fear: whether it’s a notification in your work inbox that a message has been quarantined due to inappropriate content (“Think… think… Oh god why did I give Jamie this address?”) or the ongoing NSA uproar, we’re more and more aware that someone – be it Big Brother or your auntie’s friend who really doesn’t get Facebook and “likes” bloody everything and writes incredibly humour-dampening comments on all your status updates – is watching us.

Multiple accounts, strategically presenting different sides of our lives, can be a preventative measure against embarrassing overlap.

‘Work you’ vs ‘real you’

The work versus life conundrum is probably the trickiest aspect to navigate for most. There’s this many-a-time-shared mishap, as well as the famous Red Cross Twitter account incident. But matters get murkier when employers encourage you to use social media for professional purposes.

I work for an organisation where staff are asked to tweet about what we do – we even get a “suggested tweet” in our inboxes every morning (to access it, we simply scan the barcodes tattooed onto our foreheads). No, but it’s not a terrible idea for a fundraising organisation, really. We are, however, not only told to have work-specific accounts, but also cautioned that compromising content on our personal accounts could have potential impact on the organisation’s reputation.

Not that I’m one for posting particularly incriminating selfies, but such statements do strike fear into even the most prudish of hearts. As a solution, I operate under two names: my married (for work) and unmarried (for beard-y selfies and everything else) surnames. It’s no watertight guarantee, but gives me at least a sensation of security, while also kind of making me feel like a superhero.

For some, multiple online lives extend beyond work purposes. A friend of mine is gay, but doesn’t want this to be known in certain areas of her life. Thus, there is a Gay Claire Facebook profile, and a Straight Claire profile. One is for friends, the other for family. It sounds complicated and rife with potential for the premise of a romantic comedy, but it works for her.

A recent acquaintance, more disturbingly, told me he has the motto: “Facebook for friends, Twitter for TRUTH.” This guy has a normal Facebook account, but an anonymised Twitter profile. Following and being followed by random people only, he says Twitter is where he “gets his rage out”, without fear of alienating anyone who matters to him. Whatever gets you through the night, bro.]

Comments count

And then there are comments – sneaky, sneaky comments. They seem so inconsequential, so unimportant, and yet… Commenting on accessible social network pages, forums or news sites (*waves*) opens a whole new can of worms – worms that watch what you do and then tell your boss you read Stoner Magazine. And now, with the ever-tempting, increasingly prevalent option of logging in via Facebook (registration is so 2002), your full name pops up, making those snarky asides dangerously searchable. Commenting under an assumed name can be both comforting and cathartic (go on – let ‘em ‘ave it!), though the ethics of this are debated, with some publications requiring proper registration.

I suppose the logical extension of all this protective (or paranoid, depending on your view) smoke and mirrors activity is to ask whether it has any kind of impact on society, on ourselves. Are we becoming worse people with more to hide, or are bosses and aunties’ friends becoming more intrusive, with higher standards in all areas of our lives?

Personally, I think this is all just an extension of society as it always was – you’d never twerk at your gran’s, so why would you show yourself twerking on an online platform accessible to said gran? We’ve always compartmentalised our lives (remember the first time you heard your dad swear?), we’re just learning that this is yet another area in which we must do that. But what do you think?

Boston-born and Brixton-based, Molly Garboden is a freelance journalist, solely for the purpose of having a press card that gets her free admission to museums in Paris.

Read: These graphs show you what social media sites Irish people are using

Read: Facebook testing system where users pay to contact celebrities: report

Your Voice
Readers Comments