The New York Times’ assistant managing editor, Craig Whitney, is responsible for overseeing the paper’s journalistic standards. As Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools have changed the face of communications, he recently issued policies for New York Times reporters governing their personal use of social networks. As Patrico Robles writes on econsultancy.com:
“Employees have more influence on the image of the companies they work for than ever before. And with social media and online PR being so important these days, that trend is likely to continue.”
Whitney from the Times believes that these services “can be remarkably useful reporting tools“, but clearly also recognizes their potential impact on how the public views the quality or impartiality of the professional reporting.
I am often asked how these concerns apply to Jewish organizations. One Rabbi told me, for example, that he is often “befriended” by teens in his congregation on Facebook. Thank G-d! Our teens want to be Facebook friends with the Rabbi? Wonderful. But, he told me, he has a personal and professional obligation to take action if he sees inappropriate things on that teen’s Facebook profile, for example, a photo of a 16 year old with a beer bottle in his hand.
This particular Rabbi has developed an informal but consistent policy, which goes something like this: I would love to be your Facebook friend, but I have a responsibility to say something if I see inapprorpiate things you’re doing. Thus, I’ll leave it up to you if you want to give me full access to your profile, limited access, or withdraw your invitation. He reports many give limited access, and some withdraw their invite, but the conversation itself builds stronger relationships, gives an opportunity to talk about ethics and responsibility, and also gives him the chance to extend an invitation for the teens to talk to him privately about more serious things.
Another congregation I’m working with is investing energy in developing their Facebook Page. The staff person who manages the page wanted to provide transparency — including some personal information to make her “real” and not “institutional”, but didn’t want to have to edit her personal life on Facebook because of the professional transparency. Thus, she created a separate profile for her synagogue role, and manages all her synagogue relationships with the casualness of Facebook, but without impinging on her personal life.
Personally, I’ve recently split my personal and professional lives on Twitter, for many reasons. I’ve established @DarimOnline for my professional self (other Darim staff also contribute), where we share tips and news and links. I encourage people I know professionally to follow this both for the content and to see how an organization can use Twitter to further its work. Many people I know professionally also follow me @LisaColton on Twitter, which I welcome, and think is useful to see how people use it on a personal level. However, they know to expect updates about my social life, children and commentary on my lunch, among other things!
What issues have arisen for you in managing the line between your personal and professional lives online? What are you comfortable with, and not comfortable with? What policies or strategies have you developed (informally or formally) to navigate this new territory?