Self-expression vs. Privacy: Social media as a communication strategy?

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In times of the General Data Protection Regulation and privacy discussions at Facebook the topic is more topical than ever: How should you deal with your data when you present yourself on the internet? An overview.

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Here writes for you:


Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


Cultivate staging

Should Internet users strictly separate the private from the public, or should they on the contrary turn their innermost outside? Neither is ideal. The model of success is: Forget the inexperienced “authenticity” - cultivate the staging.

In a post about "More quality of life thanks to smartphone, eMail"Chat and Co" our reader Benjamin Wagener raised the question of why electronic communication should be less valuable than direct communication simply because eye contact and the conscious perception of the other person are missing. His counter argument:

To be myself?

Even in real life, according to Wagener, many people maintain a façade. Wagener even says:

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“So what are the benefits of direct contact, the nuances of the voice, etc., if these advantages are not used in terms of content? I say: It was only the relative distance of the Internet that made many people open up and entrust themselves to others because they can communicate more relaxed behind the keyboard when they are not exposed to each other's eyes. ”

The study "uniebook Profiles Reflect Actual Personality, Not Self-Idealization”At Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz seems to agree with Wagener: According to this study, most people in social networks want to be as completely themselves as possible and express their own personality. In cooperation with American colleagues, the Mainz psychologists examined a total of 236 German (studiVZ / meinVZ) and American (Facebook) User profiles.

Personality vs. self image

Questionnaires raised the actual personality traits of profile owners as well as their idealized self-images (ie the idea of ​​how they would like to be). Subsequently, foreign judges saw the user profiles and gave their personality impression. The foreign judgments were then compared with the actual personality as well as the self-ideal of the profile owners.

It turns out that the spontaneous impressions of the foreign evaluators coincide with the actual characteristics of the profile owners and are not falsified by their self-idealization. The results contradict the view that online profiles are only used to create a deceptive virtual identity.

Idiots in the sense of the ancient Greeks?

This openness scares many people. Because, as the common opinion, in private life, one should give oneself, how one is. But too much openness has lost nothing in public and even in professional and professional environments. Here lies the original meaning of the word idiocy: In ancient Greece, an idiot was a man who does not separate the private from the public. And that is exactly what many people do when they present themselves on the internet.

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So many Internet users are idiots? Or not?

With openness to success

In October 2010, Uwe Knaus, Daimler's blog manager, received a memorable one Casting for a social media internship:

“I'm addicted to social media… yes, I hereby officially acknowledge myself. Nothing can sweeten my day more than the golden ringing of a new message on Facebook and a hoped-for retweet ... Yes, it is ... I keep receiving reports of harassment for following people on the street. And worst of all: ... My boyfriend now only speaks to me as @Schatzi ... The only thing that can help me now is the structured use of social media. I count on your support. "

The limits of good taste?

The sender was Regensburg graduate Natascha Müller, who caused heated discussions among staff and social media experts. Because Knaus had the application, initially anonymous, published in his private blog - not without his own impression:

“At first I thought: this is not possible! Someone made a joke, or someone else submitted a fake application. Let us assume that the cover letter is not a fake. Then it is fun, open, honest, funny, outstanding and the applicant will be remembered. But it doesn't fit Daimler - or does it? If the lady had applied to an agency with that, she would probably have been able to start tomorrow. Thoughts about thoughts. She has at least achieved one thing: I am dealing with your application intensively and for an above average time. ”

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Professional staging as a success strategy of our time

And that was precisely the success of Müller's application: With her cheeky, unconventional way, she not only brought the blog manager of a global automotive company to think, but also reached via Twitter and large, usually approving attention. Openness and authenticity as a success strategy of our time?

The matter is much more complicated and complex. Because not every form of openness is well received.

The perfect-authentic self-expression

The management consultant Best of HR –®-Author Olaf Hinz warns even to exaggerate it with the authenticity:

“What is needed is a coherent appearance or a coherent staging. And staging in particular also has an eye on the role models / expectations of employees, colleagues or the public. Because those who come highly personally, authentically and 'honestly' are quickly perceived by their professional environment as 'too close' and 'too private'. I think it takes a professional appearance that by 'balancing' between authenticity and role play neither adapts nor appears too private: a coherent staging. ”

Political scientist Eva Horn works and masters this staging in her preferred social media channel, Twitter, perfectly: with her green hair, the rather random snapshot and the cheeky saying “I often stay up late, drink a lot and feel ashamed of all of us ”You perceive your profile as a private and therefore particularly authentic channel.

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First think, then tweet

Nevertheless Horn also thinks exactly what she tweets and what does not, because she knows very well who reads everything - and to which misunderstandings the interlocking of private and public can lead:

“With self-portrayal in social networks it is like everywhere else: some do it more than others, it just belongs to it. However, I would never tweet any crap to get more followers. That would be dishonest. What you write must fit you. I keep private things like my love life to myself. But people can know that I am a misanthrope and sometimes drink a little more. Spontaneous expressions of feeling too, even if this sometimes causes irritation: Once I tweeted 'accidentally started crying' - many people thought that I had to be totally bad because I make it public. These are just short snapshots. There are just a lot of people who don't understand the irony and cynicism with whom Twitter topics are carried to extremes in 140 characters. That has to suit you. Through Twitter I've already got a lot of professional contacts and job offers and I'm also tweeting officially for the Greens - they have already noticed that I can formulate well. In the official account of a party or a company, however, private statements have not lost anything, you have to strictly separate them, otherwise it looks unprofessional! ”

Strategy or idiocy?

So a well thought-out strategy that has nothing to do with "idiotic" behavior.

One should not take everything so seriously in social networks, because things here are often sharpened. That's part of the game. But even if you know that, it's not always easy to see through the game. And there is always the danger that one gets a wrong picture from others.

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  1. Claudine Loughman

    Many companies simply expect too much from their employees - and the requirements are getting higher and higher: But of course, with such a massive oversupply - all work has long been outsourced to Cina, including development activities - you can afford it, the companies say.

  2. Daniel Maglott

    Very good text about everyday working life!

  3. Mauricio Pancho

    Wow, a really good site, keep it up!

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