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Social-Networking Sites And Multiple-Personality Disorder

If you spend enough time at any one social-networking site, you're likely to find that some of your friends may have chosen to take up residence on a different social network, while work colleagues can be found at a third and neighbors at yet another.

If you're going to keep up with all these folks online, you'll have to set up accounts at each of these site, which means one of two things: uploading the same information multiple times, or creating different identities at each network.

As Kim Hart wrote two weeks ago, many users have opted for Plan B after seeing the perils of publicizing too much of their private lives (read: potential employers saw too many pictures of them drunk).

This sort of image-management can become a serious time-suck as you craft a different "super-me" at each site. Just picking out the right photo for particular social networks demands careful consideration:

* In a Facebook profile picture, you're supposed to be clutching an adult beverage;

* On MySpace, you should be wearing a minimum of clothing or engaged in some heroic athletic endeavor rarely undertaken (like finishing a marathon or hiking the Rockies);

* LinkedIn shots require a suit or a tie, even if you haven't worn either in years;

* Twitter avatars ought to be artsy but unrecognizable, and need not be photos at all;

* At Yelp or any other locally-oriented site (say, DCist for those of us in or around the District), you need local scenery in the background to prove that you emerge from your parents' basement occasionally.

Plan A, pushing the same personal brand across multiple sites, has a certain simplicity in its favor. And that should get a little easier now that three major sites have introduced initiatives to make it easier to share profile information across the Web.

On Thursday, MySpace announced a Data Availability program; Facebook followed up on Friday with Facebook Connect, and this morning, Google unveiled Google Friend Connect. (See today's story by Peter Whoriskey.)

All of these projects will let you take the information you've entered at one site and easily publish it to certain other sites. For example, MySpace will let you push your profile info to your Twitter page, while Facebook users can link their profile to their Digg identity. Google's initiative should let you embellish your own page with profile data from any social network that supports the right data-portability standards.

I like the idea of connecting some of the different social sites I use. As you can see from the dreadfully boring shot I've put on my own Twitter page, I'm already failing to live up to my own brand-management advice. I'm just not ready to bind them all together. What about you? Do you want to consolidate your online identities, or is the whole point of social networking to keep your personal and professional worlds in separate orbits?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 12, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Windows XP Service Pack 3
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I cannot believe this just happened over the weekend. With this "web 2.0" era and social networks taking off, this has to be one of the biggest innovations to the web. Furthermore, I hope that Facebook, MySpace and Google can all get along with their Profile migrations. It might bring their value down as individual sites, but it would be better for everyone. Then you write some cool applications for Google's new cell phone OS Andriod, and you have a complete package with a lot of possibilities.

Posted by: Eddie M. | May 12, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

About as far as I get into social networking is to use Mologogo so my family can track me via the GPS on my Boost Mobile phone. But I do maintain a strict division between work and personal with respect to Email.

Definitely off-topic, but am I the only one who can't get to the previous posting about "Windows XP Service Pack 3"?

Posted by: Charles | May 13, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

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