Sunday, November 23, 2008

public vs. private

One of the sessions from my time at the community organizing workshop that really got me thinking was on public & private relationships. The idea that they were trying to communicate is being able to recognize the difference between the two and act appropriately in the public arena especially as it relates to your community organizing activities. Here's how they laid things out:

How do we act? cordial, relaxed, open
What do we expect? give & take, honesty, laughter
What holds the relationship together? common interests, trust, love
How long does relationship last? extended period of time

How do we act? formal, guarded, agenda-driven
What do we expect? results, respect
What holds the relationship together? agreement, mutual interest
How long does relationship last? as long as needed

That does seem pretty straightforward until I think about it relative to online activities where these lines seem to get blurred. It's one of the things I struggle with - to be part of a public online community yet maintain some privacy. Part of it is my personality. I've always been a modest person - not in a humble way, but more in a prudish way. I think I've certainly relaxed as I've aged, but I'm still not comfortable sharing intimate details, especially about my family. If you've read my blog, you probably know I'm married and you might have picked up that I have a son. I have so much I could share about these amazing people in my life, but I've decided to draw a line - that sharing their details online is for them to decide.

I recently joined Facebook and I admit that I'm a little bit addicted, but there too I struggle with personal vs. public relationships. I've got a backlog of friend requests from strangers - what am I supposed to do with them? On the one hand, I'd love to add them and increase my friend count. On the other hand, if I add them, will I have to more careful about what I share? I've also accepted friend requests from people that I would consider more as acquaintances. In some cases my online intereraction has actually strengthened those relationships and in other cases I wonder what was I thinking (or what they are thinking about me).

As social networking sites like Facebook redefine the term friend while they add yet another path to friendship, I also struggle with how to communicate cautious enthusiasm for these new relationship building tools with my students. How will they determine the difference between personal vs. public relationships online? How do you?


Dan said...

Your comments regarding Facebook are well placed. Fortunately, Facebook has provided a fairly decent security system that allows you to control much of who sees what on your page.

You start by creating friend "lists". For example, you could create a list called "Family" then put only family members in this list. Next, when you post a video or photo album you can restrict access by allowing only members of the "Family" list to see it. To do this pull down "Custom" under permissions, choose "some friends" then enter your list name "Family" in the box provided. You can use the same technique on other Facebook objects as well.

As you pointed out in your blog, over time some friends will become "like family". When that happens, simply add their name to your existing "Family" list to give them access to your collection of personal items.

Enjoying your blog...


Jimjams said...

Blog hopped over here via, via, via and am so glad I did. I have long hated Facebook for its dilution of the word "Friend" - I have friends, I have acquaintances, I have colleagues, I have neighbours, I have relatives (old and young), I have craft buddies, book buddies, gym nuddies ... and yet all are treated equal on FB. Now, thanks to Dan's response I may be able to put them back into their real life hierarchies! Thank you both!