I had a conversation the other night with one of the Wolf Trap Studio artists about online presence and privacy, particularly Facebook. This is an element of “career development” that is still very new, so it’s probably not yet covered in any kind of “Completing the Singer” type course in school, should you be lucky enough to have such a class. (At Juilliard, this class covers things like taxes, publicity materials, personal appearance, etc.. Useful stuff, and I hope they’ll add a section on “teh internets” here pretty soon…) In light of that conversation, I thought I’d share a bit of my strategy, if you can call it that, for trying to maintain a sense of online privacy.
Obviously, this blog is the place to start. This is pretty easy, since everything I write about here is “on topic,” mostly. Loosely related to my career sometimes, but fairly on topic! I’m not going to write about or post pictures of my vacation or a night on the town. That said, I still use initials rather than names and don’t give any substantial clues about where I reside. People who know me or who are in the business can often decipher the initials, and it’s fun to get an email along the lines of “I didn’t know you were working with PDQ!” When I tell people that I mentioned them here but only used their initials, they’ll often say, “Oh, you can use my name; I don’t care,” but better safe than sorry. It can be disconcerting to do a Google search and find your name somewhere you weren’t expecting.
Speaking of Google searches, this is something I do regularly, maybe once every couple of months. It’s a good tool to see where I show up online, and also where I don’t. Social networking sites, like MySpace, can show up in searches, and when I figured that out, I thought it might be time to change my social online presence.
I recently deleted my Friendster and personal MySpace accounts, choosing to focus instead on Facebook for keeping in touch with friends. In a job like this one where you have a new batch of colleagues every three months or less, it’s hard to keep in touch with your new “best friends.” Social networking sites have turned into an opera singers’ favorite communication tool! (I still maintain my MySpace Music page, but more for publicity and less for keeping in touch with friends.)
Why Facebook? First, I find their user interface to be simple and elegant. I hope it stays that way as the site grows in membership. It is easy to communicate with my friends (seems like a given, but it isn’t!), and I love their photo applications; it’s easy to upload photos and you can label the people pictured. But the biggest reason I chose Facebook is that it has excellent Privacy options.
There are several people who are my “friends” on Facebook who I either don’t know in real life (blog friends or friends of friends), or whom I knew ten years ago, or who I’m still getting to know today. For these friends, I have chosen to show them what Facebook calls a Limited Profile, and here’s the best part: I get to choose exactly which elements I want included (or excluded). I’ve chosen to keep things like my education and work history public, but my favorite music and movies private; my performance photos public, but pictures from parties private; my Friends list public, but the comments “wall” private. I currently have about 1/5 of my Friends on a Limited Profile; as I get to know someone better, I’ll let them in a bit more.
Every person building a career should think about this kind of thing: what their potential employer could find “out there” about them. But even more then that, as performers in the public eye (albeit a small public with classical music, compared to others), we should try to keep the line between our private and public selves well-established. I think I really recognized the importance of this after the TONY article was published and I got a few emails asking me out!
This post feels a bit rambly, but I hope it’s interesting and gives food for thought. Public persona, but private life. That’s the goal, and one I’m going to hold on to. With a little help from my Facebook friends!