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Can we have a single, unified, authentic online persona?

Book Review, Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking Add comments
One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

In her inspiring book, One Person/Multiple Careers, Marci Alboher (a lawyer-turned-journalist/speaker/writing coach) argues that we should be unleashing, rather than hiding, the multiple career identities that many of us have. Marci’s book was the first place I heard the term “slash careers” as a description of the multiple career trajectories and multiple income streams that so many of us have. Almost everyone I know is a something/something else.

So okay, I’m going to finally do it. I am a Speaker/actor/writer/trainer/manager/consultant/sailor. How hard was that? In the world of online social networking, it seems to be exceedingly difficult. Most people I have talked to are very ardent about keeping their various “sub-personas” very compartmentalized. Facebook is for friends/family/partying (ie. never friend the boss…), LinkedIn is for corporate life, Twitter is for… hmmm – don’t have an answer for that one yet.

A friend/colleague and I kicked off this year by agreeing that this should be a year of authenticity – that we were going to move our various sub-personas into greater alignment, and care less about what our various “markets” think.

This got me thinking about social networking, and how I have most of my actor/writer/sailor connections on Facebook, whereas most of my consultant/manager/trainer connections are all on LinkedIn. My speaker/author friends are one of the few crossover communities that are on both. Could I bring all of these communities together?

Pink shirt guy

Pink shirt guy

As a first step, I unified all my profile images into one of my acting/speaking headshots – pink shirt guy. Before that, I was the Mr. scruffy actor/sailor on Facebook, buttoned-down Mr. Corporate on LinkedIn and pink shirt guy on Twitter. Though not all-encompassing, pink shirt guy probably does the best job of capturing the kinds of enthusiasm I feel for speaking to groups, acting on stage, a great day managing a team, teaching a course I am passionate about etc.

I used to also have separate Web pages (Speaker, Actor, Sailor, blah blah blah). This was beyond tedious, both to maintain, and to be forever thinking about the “message” that was appropriate to go out to separate communities/markets. So I scrubbed all that and am unifying everything here under one umbrella. It’s a work in process, but a step in the right direction – toward an authentic, 360 degree view of a whole person.

How about you? Do you have multiple personalities online, or have you been able to unify things? Are you still cautious about the self/selves you reveal to the various communities/markets you operate in, or have you decided to chuck it and present one face to the world?

I would really be interested in your thoughts, so please weigh in here with a comment or contact me directly.

To explore having me speak to your group or team about authenticity, social media, or other topics please contact Rob Duncan at or via the Contact tab on this page.

5 Responses to “Can we have a single, unified, authentic online persona?”

  1. Gail Severini Says:

    I love this notion – I believe I am “authentic”, if segregated – I keep my professional (LinkedIn) and private (Facebook) separate, it’s just a start to say that neither photo would work in both places and I’m not sure that I know what a cross-over would look like. It would certainly be easier to be “whole” but that might be “too much information” for some.
    On Twitter I do follow a leader I think comes pretty darn close – Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada.
    Thanks for giving me more context to think about it. And I do like the pink shirt – I think it might have just become part of your branding.
    Best regards. Gail

  2. Gail Severini Says:

    Ok, this really got me thinking – especially as I see the dynamics in online Group Discussions (LinkedIn) changing dramatically over the last couple of weeks.

    I have even begun to wonder if a single individual has several identities in the group – yes, it blows my mind a little but why would the virtual world be any different than the real world? In fact, some elements might become more extreme.

    I have an hypothesis that some of us, perhaps myself included, are creating online “Avatars” to serve our online purposes. The degree to which it challenges our integrity lies in the extent to which is it authentic with as least a sliver of our true, whole selves.

    While I am tempted to reconcile the parts into one, I am also very cautious of the wild, wild web where reputations are often unguarded and few have the courage to come to another’s defence.

  3. Willis Turner Says:

    Rob, I have been working on a similar approach in unifying my persona in the digital world. I have actually been encouraging others to try doing the same. I use the same profile photo on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc. as well as on my blog at It also helps with recognition when I am meeting in person, especially when public speaking or meeting a group for the first time. I also think there is something to be learned and practiced about authenticity. I am not a big fan of avatars. While the Internet gives us freedom of expression, when expression is cloaked behind and expressed by an avatar it can lead to frightening consequences for others.

  4. Rob Duncan » Blog Archive » Don’t brand yourself, be yourself! Says:

    [...] is when they become a mask, a lie that prevents us from being authentic. Several weeks ago, I wrote here about the importance of not spreading one’s selves too thinly, and the need to present a [...]

  5. BRAND – NEW YOU Says:

    [...] Social CEOs, etc… If Mark Zuckerman gets his way, you’ll continue to struggle with the one face to show the world dilemma and if Google gets its way, you’ll have the option of a social network [...]

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