Her Majesty The Queen of England serves as an inspirational role model in terms of personal privacy. Despite being in the public eye for 60 years, she has managed to keep her personal opinions to herself. Almost nobody knows, for example, what her favourite tea is (although Smokey Earl Grey has been hinted at). Yet there are many people who seem to announce to the world each time they blow their nose!
The balance between public and private is, of course, a personal choice, and one made more difficult by other people openly talking about one’s activities or tagging one’s photos, and much standard business advice. But if you do want to be fairly private while maintaining a strong online presence, here are some suggestions. You may like to share and discuss these with students, who are also striving to get this balance correct.
Don’t give your true date of birth
Too many websites, including ones that should know better in my opinion, ask you for your date of birth. Identity thieves need only a couple of items of information to be able to do their dirty work, and your date of birth is one of them. Unless it’s crucial for a particular form of documentation, like a driving licence or passport, your date of birth is irrelevant. If you’re being asked because the organisation is checking your age, you can always give the correct year, and make the rest up.
Don’t state your personal interests
Business 101 states that you should always give personal information about yourself in order to help build rapport with your (potential) audience or clients. This is baloney. The important thing is building credibility. Nobody ever hired a teacher, a consultant, a writer or anyone else, as far as I know, because they’re married and have two children, a cat and a hamster, and like Puccini. In fact, whenever I see that sort of stuff it makes me question their suitability for the work because it lacks professionalism. I realise I am a voice in the wilderness on this one, so just ignore me…
Don’t say what you’ve been doing
This is a subsection of the point above I think. If someone tweets “Just coming out of a meeting and going into another one” (which I have seen), all that tells me about that person is that despite going from one meeting to another they have plenty of time on their hands, or lead an incredibly boring life if they feel the need to tweet about it. It certainly doesn’t make me think “Another hapless meeting attendee! I must get to know them!”
Needless to say, I’d recommend that all of these points be taken into account when creating a personal profile, eg in a social network. They’re just my suggestions. It’s not easy to keep oneself to oneself online, but it certainly isn’t impossible either.