2011: The Year of the “Real Me” in Social Media

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Dec 17, 2010

Guest post by Ali Robbins Hyatt. Ali is on the New Growth Platforms team at Avery Dennison, and is a member of the MITX 2010 Future Leaders Group, a group of six individuals who were chosen based on their leadership, spirit, entrepreneurialism, and early impact on the Massachusetts innovation economy. Follow Ali on Twitter, or send her an e-mail! This is one of several guest posts in the MITX 2011 Perspectives Blog Series. Stay tuned for many more posts by Boston's most influential thought leaders.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last year about the dawn of a new age in which people no longer need privacy.  People are actively checking in with their friends on Foursquare, sharing photos of their dinner entrée on Facebook, using TripIt to share their upcoming business trip to Tulsa, or sharing the price they paid for a new pair of jeans on Blippy.  Mark Zuckerberg was recently named Time Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year for creating a new system of connection and sharing.  Social media is here to stay, and like everyone else, I have embraced it.

But there’s something related to social media that I’ve been pondering a lot, and that I think will become even bigger in 2011.  It is the intersection of who people are on social media versus who they are in real life.  As social media listening increases in scope, and it’s not just your friends but also scores of companies listening to what you’re posting, this intersection is sure to become an even bigger conundrum.  There have been commentaries on this subject in the past, but I believe that 2011 is really the year of social media etiquette.  Let me explain…

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We all have that friend who can’t help but share the pure enthusiasm around his love for life, his job, etc.  The posts that go way beyond being excited about a particular life event and verge into full-on bragging and boasting.  Why is it OK for your online persona to brag all day long when your real-life persona is much more demure?  Inevitably, you start questioning your friendship with this person because of his complete lack of social media etiquette.

Or there’s the friend who likes to cook and jumps full throttle into the amateur chef blogosphere, emailing you millions of blog posts, forcing you to "like" her blog on Facebook, and tweeting you photos of the curry chicken skewers you must try.

Or the Debbie Downer who goes beyond witty cynicism to downright depression in social media posts.  “My cat has a cold again.  It seems like all I do is take him to the vet.  And I totally bombed that interview today.  Hope tomorrow’s not as bad.”  I don’t check the newsfeed on my iPhone just to see a minute-by-minute update of someone’s case of “the Mondays.”
So, I’ll say it.  This is the year we start holding people accountable for their online personas.  If it’s just you expressing yourself and it’s an animated version of who you are or want to be in your daily life, that’s great!  Go do it.  Tweet your heart out.  Feel free to blast those blog posts that crack me up all day long.  I’ll take a link to a funny, peculiar or relevant article any day.

Otherwise, here are some simple and memorable rules to consider:

  1. If you would be embarrassed to say it out loud at a party, don’t post it on Facebook.
  2. If you don’t think it would provide any entertainment or interest value to any of the people following you on Twitter, think twice about it.
  3. If your social media life doesn’t jive with who you are in real life, maybe it’s time to return to the roots of your true persona.

To my friends who wax on with wit and hilarity, or send me articles that I want to retweet all day long, you just keep doing what you’re doing.  I will make a pledge to follow my own advice and stay true to myself online, and I encourage you all to do the same.  That’s the glory of social media – it allows you to be yourself on a new medium.


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