Random Thoughts

The Social You vs The Professional You

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The last couple of working days and the rest of this week I’ve been talking with high school students about why we (ISB) have given them a blog to start building their ‘Professional You‘.

When I put it in terms of Facebook is the ‘Social You’…the you with your friends, and the you while hanging out. Then your blog is and should become the ‘Professional You’. The place you mold who you are, what you are interested in, and where you want to go. The you you want colleges and universities to know about, that you want your employers to know about. The you that is preparing for life after school.

I get a lot of head nods when I explain it this way. They also appreciate that the blog is theirs. They have full admin rights, they control it, design it, layout it out, organize it. They are building their professional self…..and they get it. They get how important it is, they get that it’s something they need to be doing, and they’re excited to get started.

Of course the Professional You can and sometimes overlaps with the Social You, and that’s OK. Your goodreads.com account can post both to your blog and to your Facebook account. You can create a Facebook Fan Page to show a more professional you to colleges and universities. I also hope that some of the things you learn in social groups transfers to your professional reflections. There’s a blurry middle where content overlaps and on the extreme left and right you have your Facebook profile and your professional profile.

But that blurry part…that’s the tough part. That’s where decisions have to be made. Where students at the age of 13 need to start making decisions that we never had to make. We never had a professional side at 13….we didn’t need one. But if you are going to have a social side on the Internet then you better also start building your professional side.

We’re starting in 4th grade with student blogging, starting to build their professional you. What we’re hoping is we’ll get ahead of the curve of the Social You. That students understand that when they start a Social You that there’s this other part that people see, read, and respect and that side is just as important, if not more, than the Social You. Making decisions in that blurry area we hope become a bit easier.

Do you have a Social You and a Professional You on the Internet? Where do you draw the line? How are you teaching students to manage both?

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Do you have a Social You and a Professional You on the Internet? Where do you draw the line?
    I wrote a post just a while back: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/google-buzz-and-george-costanza-worlds-collide/
    That looked at how Google Buzz combined my social and professional profiles in a way that I didn’t want it to. The more I think about it the more I realize I can’t have a social and professional me online (or anywhere for that matter) that are very different… I need to be consistent in many ways! But I can have a ‘voice’ in my different networks that is quite different, (a more social one here, a more professional one there, etc.). There are too many opportunities for overlap to draw a definitive line.
    How are you teaching students to manage both?
    We are starting with Blogs as ‘containers’ for students’ learning portfolios this year from Grades 7-9… we will start with a bootcamp (still working on this) and go from there. Any suggestions you have along the way would be greatly appreciated!

  2. I have both (FB= personal, TF and blog= professional). I find the toughest time to separate them is when I encounter something I am really excited about. I want to tell everyone, both my public audience and my private audience. That is where the spillover occurs. I have learned to temper my enthusiasm by not posting immediately or tweeting rght away in the moment of discovery. It is like the old people’s adage about letting an email sit for a few hours before sending it in the heat of the moment. I love the fact that I can write the post and simply not publish. Holding back on a tweet or blog comment –like this– is a little tougher. As a definite side benefit, letting posts sit always makes my writing better, since I can better excise the unnecessary stuff. As a teacher of writing, I find that a double-dip benefit.

    I also have learned that the more roles I play in my life, the tougher the separations/spillovers become. For example, I also serve as a seriously committed volunteer in local government. Do I allow that role to spill over into family/personal space and professional space (and vice versa)? Students need to think about all the roles they now have and may have in the future. Perhaps it helps for them to think of adults they know well and what might happen a message to one constituency were discovered by another. I do not keep “secrets,” but sometimes one group simply does not understand the context of another.

    It might be fun for students to envision historic figures cross-pollinating some of the personal relationships we now know they had with some of their professional ones: Churchill? Kennedy? Roosevelt? who else? Could be an interesting research project.

  3. I too have both in that I use FB and blog about my travels. I have two professional blogs – one that reviews children’s books and one that reflects on my classroom experiences BUT I am always aware of the digital footprints that I leave so that even on FB I am careful about posting comments that are professional. I stay clear of controversial subjects and TMI. I teach my students to approach social media in the same way – once on the web, always on the web.

  4. Hi,

    My name is Haley Drinkard and I am a junior at the University of South Alabama majoring in elementary education. After visiting your blog, I will summarize and share my thoughts about your post on my blog. I will be posting this summary to my blog on 9/12.

    I took a marketing class about a year ago and the whole class was basically getting to know ourselves. You have to know yourself in order to market yourself in a professional manner.

    A ‘Professional You’ and a ‘Social You’ have to be consistent. We have to think about our future – job interviews and the people that we will be encountering. You can be searched on the internet and instantly have results. You have to be careful about what you post on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. For example, two people went for a job interview and the first thing the human resources department did was google each of them. Both of their facebook profiles popped up under the search. One of them seemed to be a party animal and portrayed that by posting obscene pictures and using language that was inappropriate. However, the other person did not have any obscene pictures or inappropriate language and was still able to express themselves and communicate with their friends and family in an appropriate manner. The good guy is ahead by a few points before even going into the interview. 🙂

    If we are posting texts and graphics that we know we would not want potential employees and universities to see, then why are we posting it? You can be social and still be professional. A guy in my EDM 310 class made the comment that we leave an “intellectual trail” on the internet and we do. That is why we should always prepare to be professionals.

    • Thanks Haley….now the question is how do you…as an educator…get this message across to your students. Yes…you have to be 13 to be on Facebook but half our 5th grade and a 1/3 of our 4th grade are already there. You and I as adults understand this. How do you teach a 4th graders that what they post today is part of their permanent record? I know that’s not what I was thinking about in 4th grade.

      • Jeff,

        I was not thinking in that way when I was in fourth grade either, but students are a lot more up to date when it comes to technology than I was when I was in the fourth grade.

        Since children are now using computers, we could teach them how important their permanent record is through the computer. By doing so, they can see just how much information is available on the internet.

        Have them research their friends and family through google and see what they come up with. Even have them research themselves. After completing this task, ask them if they found anything out about themselves that they would not want others to see.

        By doing this small research project, students will be able to see that EVERYONE can see what they post on the internet. I believe that students are unaware of just how much information is actually on the internet, and I feel that this would be a great way to give them some insight on what SHOULD be posted on facebook, twitter, myspace, blogs, etc.

        I believe that blogging in the fourth grade is a wonderful thing. By developing a professional blog, students can compare to their social side (facebook, twitter, myspace), and we, as educators, can teach them how to be consistent in what they post.

  5. I completely agree and think that children should be exposed to the life lesson of the professional side of them and the social side of them. It is a lot harder for someone who has never been taught this to differentiate between the two. I feel that especially in high school when students are preparing to decide their life plans that this is exceptionally important and could be very beneficial to their future.

  6. Hi Jeff,

    I am a junior at University of South Alabama taking EDM310. We are required to read Teacher’s blogs and comment on them. I have to tell you that your blog was not only informative for me as a student but as a parent as well. I have a daughter in the 5th grade this year and the terms “facebook” and “blogging” are common place language amongst her peers. As a returning adult student who has never blogged or commented on others blogs I am realizing how behind I am. With regards to teaching students to not only have the social blogs but also to work on professional blogs this is great teaching for not only students in high school but for those of us beginning the journey of becoming “professional’s.” Very helpful thanks!

  7. Hello Jeff,

    I’m also a student at the University of South Alabama. I think this idea of blogging for the more “professional side” of yourself is a great idea. Today a lot of kids aren’t realizing when they are throwing all of their personal information out there onto facebook that everyone and anyone can see that stuff, not just their friends. I would much rather have a potential employer view my “professional” blog than my personal facebook page. I think it’s a great idea for younger children to think about where they want to go and what they want to become. I think entering goals on a blog could really help students remember what they are striving for in life.

  8. Jeff,
    I used this excellent explanation with my high school students on the first day of school last week. However, instead of “the professional you” I used the “student you.” After all, high school students have a hard time imagining time beyond “what’s for dinner?” Modeling good student behavior is in many ways easier than modeling good professional behavior since their professional role models are often poorly behaved celebrities.

  9. Thanks for this post. My 9 and 11 grade students create and manage their own blogs. I love that they find their unique voices as the write about topics they care about. Like you, I try to teach students the importance of creating the proper online image. Thank you for this reminder to talk about the need for students to project themselves in a professional manner.

  10. Pingback: Reflection Week 6: The Thinking Stick » Ashley Chavez

  11. Barbara Jean Reply

    I post with my real name when posting professionally. I use a pseudonym for personal posting (like my blog, twitter, and g+). Lately, I’ve been giving greater thought to having a more public presence using my real name, but I’m waiting for my school district to open us up to Google+.

    I teach middle school, so I haven’t thought about teaching Professional You to the extent that you do, but we do talk about formal and informal writing as it relates to technology. I probably should think harder about starting this talk earlier with my 6th graders.

  12. Mr. Utecht

    I enjoyed reading your post on the Professional You vs. the Social You! I personally think that you hit every nail right on the head here. The way you described the Social and Professional you was descriptive and accurate. Also, it brought these facts back into perspective and really made me start thinking. If that was your goal then it was definitely achieved! Thank you for pointing these facts out to the World Wide Web and its vast community. I hope that your blog will really make others start realizing that they need two ways to represent themselves on the internet. I know I do! I think that young people really need to have a Social AND a Professional persona online. It is of great importance to them and their future. Especially when they are applying to schools or jobs. And being a young person (13) I feel like I have missed out on my chance to start a Professional me but then I remember that the internet will always be there waiting for me to get out there and represent myself as a mature young person who is capable of amazing things. I haven’t missed my chance to make a Professional me, I have just delayed it.

  13. Hi Mr.Utecht. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I understand what you’re saying and it makes perfect sense to me. Being a 14 year old student and having a facebook for about three years I never really thought about having myself look professional online. I never really understood why that all mattered. But now I do when your online you should think about that anybody can see what you say. Not just your friends but future employers college scouts ect. People actually see what you put on the internet and it can make or break your future. The internet is about more than just being social. Now that computers are everywhere they will be a necessary tool in the real job world. So if your internet reputation is tarnished with bad pictures post and other stuff your chances at getting a job are slim. I don’t think it matters how old you are it doesn’t matter on the internet what you put on there it stays forever. So if you’re not mature enough to put appropriate things online that can represent a social and professional you, you shouldn’t be on the internet. I think I should keep my facebook to keep my social self but also I should set up something separate so I cant represent my professional school self. These things matter if you want to get a job.

  14. My name is Jayde and I thought this article about social vs. professional you gave good information on how you ‘act’ online. As a 13 year old just starting out their online image this was a good description of the difference between your social you and your professional you. Like how people can easily misrepresent you by the things you do and put online. The picture also helped me realize that because I don’t know one thing about this person yet I can still make judgments and assumptions about what kind of a person he is. Even on facebook you want to be sure that what you’re doing is professional because things online stay online and colleges will look at that when you want to apply. I think I have both a professional and social representation online. My professional would be school work that I display online and my social would be things like my YouTube account.

  15. HI MR. UTECHT ( sorry that’s me!), my name is Drew, from Mrs. Hegstrom’s (Sherry) class and I just read your blog post on The Social You VS The Professional You. As a 14 year old student I had never thought that there was a difference between social and professional views online but I think I should start thinking about what I can do to make that professional me. I knew that there was a line but I could never think of a ways to separate it out like that. I do have a social me because I am on Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff, but now that I’m in Mrs. Hegstrom’s class I see what it’s like to have a professional me to because I now have a blog. When you draw the line is when it goes from informal “Hey”, “What’s up”, and “Nothing much” to have as many followers on a specific blog post that brings you many people to your own website in a day talking about something you ALL have in common. I have never taught about this but when you’re teaching it I think you separate it by who has these things and completely “losing” it and make them think and see what they have done by social on the internet. Then take that and see what they have done professionally and try and combine them that having a better way to “see” YOU online. This blog has a lot of interesting things that I can think about when making my blog and while reading others. I think I will come back a little more often to keep checking up, I find it really interesting!

  16. Hey, I am Tessa. This blog post really helped me understand what my blog should be about. It should be about me and my life. Also it helped because you talked about 13 year olds which helped me understand more. The picture also helped me understand how easy it is for people to judge you on a picture. I know now that putting pictures on line that aren’t really representing you can give you a bad representation. Also it makes other people think differently of you and I don’t think 13 year olds including me ever thought about that. Thank you for helping me understands the importance of my online photos.

  17. Kind of, I only have the social me. I don’t have a lot of professional things about me. Except for how to be yourself and to ignore Bullies. I have a face book and I keep it personal and yet I am social. And I try to keep my blog professional. I am social and professional, and I think I can be even more professional since I will be going to the high school next year.

  18. Hi Mr. Utecht, I’m Destiny and I’m in Mrs. Hegstrom’s tech class. As a bell ringer today we read your post about The Social You vs. The Professional You. Personally I found this post quite interesting. I never really looked at the internet that way before. I was aware that the internet sometimes reflects on people’s opinions on us, because we learned about our digital identity last year in class. Your blog post brought my thought about this onto a completely different level though. I feel this way, because I think it’s difficult for anybody to separate their social side from their professional side. Many people integrate both sides to become a unique employer or employee that everybody has a fun time with. I used to have a Facebook and recently made a Twitter, and I already see how hard it is to watch my every move because I have no idea who is looking at my profile. It’s hard to go from an informal “hey, what’s up?” to a “Hi, how are you?” It takes a lot of work to make a difference between your professional side and your social side. At this moment, I think students in middle school definitely need to start thinking about their professional you, because you can apply for a job at Market Basket at 14. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody in middle school needs to make a professional Twitter or a professional Facebook, but maybe we need to start thinking about everything we post online. I mean anybody can write about their life story on Facebook, but what if you knew an employer was watching your every move on social networking sites? I believe people of my generation need to be aware of everything they are doing online, even if it is their social side. The social side of somebody reflects on their personality more than their professional side. When you’re thinking about your professionalism, you are always typing formally and even talking formally. When you’re not thinking about your professionalism, that’s when the real you comes out. I believe you have to separate the professional you from the social you, but in some ways I think the social you tells more about you than your professional you ever would.

  19. Dear Mr. Utech,
    Your blog post ROCKED. I really liked your questions at the end. I liked how you brought up the social and professional views. I have a social view on twitter and now a professional view on my blog. Where I draw the line is where personal things start happening and are really exciting but if only some people would know what I was talking about I would post it on my social view not my professional. If I were able to teach students about the internet I would teach them that everything is always on the internet it can always be found. ALWAYS it never goes away. I am really starting to think about making a professional view; I think it will be important since I will be attending a private high school next year.

  20. I do have a ‘social you’ on the internet, and the site that I go on and use is facebook. When people view me only I know that there is nothing that I need to worry about, I don’t have pictures that could come back to haunt me or any comments that could be seen as cyber bullying. When I go on Facebook or youtube, I never post any rude comments that could hurt anyone in any way possible. Thank you for posting this!

  21. I have a much more social me than a professional me, I only have a Facebook and not really anything as a professional me. I like the idea of starting early to make a professional you. It is just so much easier as a kid to start and learn to be professional. You can learn at an early age what is good for being professional and what is being too social is. I draw the professional line and the social line at schools. I want to have a good school background and be serious about it. I want to have a good education and set up for a good future.

  22. Hi Mr. Utech. This is a student of Mrs. Hegstrom’s 8th grade class
    In response to your blog post, I really found this to be an interesting blog post, a real thinker. I have a very good social self on the Internet, not much of an interesting person, but still social. But mostly, I make more of a professional self on the internet. From what Mrs. Hegstrom taught me about Internet Identity, nobody can see you always, so they piece out your personality on the internet. Having a social you is great, but a professional you is what people will look for the most, and that using your professional you online. This post is amazing and shows the great examples of the identities of Social and Professional you, and that helps, especially for people who are looking for job opportunities. This really is a very helpful idea to put in our heads, especially now, as we near High School. This Information was inspiring and great. Thank you for the great post.

  23. I do have a professional and social identity online. Social identities that many people have online can be found on social websites such as facebook. Many facebook users should know what information is and isn’t appropriate to have online. Many students my age don’t think about creating that “professional you” online. But on the other hand, I do. I draw line when it comes to more important or professional things that are shared on the web. For example, when applying for jobs or to different schools, educators and bosses would much rather look at your “professional you” other than the “social you.” They want to see what you have to offer to them according to what you want to do; not how you are socially. Several people like to share information on social websites, but there comes a time where you have to separate the professional side and the social side of who you are. Therefore, creating these two identities gives you a better opportunity to have success.

  24. Responding to blog post THE SOCIAL YOU VS THE PROFESSIONAL YOU

    Hi Mr. Utect, I am in middle school and I am a student of Mrs. Hegstrom. I do not have a “social you” online. I don’t use twitter or FB. I have recently made a blog in class that is my “professional you”. I know of many kids don’t have both a professional and social identity online. I learned in Technology last year that these are very important later in life. Such as when you go for a job interview I know that they look at your history online. I believe that they would like to see the “professional you” and what you have done with the privilege of being able to post almost anything online for anyone to see. I think that I draw the line between “social you” and “professional you” on the internet is when people don’t always think about what they are posting online they don’t think about who can see it is very important to have a “professional you” and a “social you” and to know the difference. I think it is very important to know learn how to manage both because it will affect you later in life.

  25. For me, there is not really a professional side to my online interactions. Sure, in school we have to make a mahara account, but besides that, I really don’t have a professional side. I have an account on facebook, I say what I think. At this age, there’s no reason to create a “professional me” online. I’m 14 and I highly doubt that my first job will be with people who will refuse to employ me because of my personal opinions on facebook. I do not plan on keeping the same job throughout the rest of my life anyway.
    I, personally, don’t have a place to “draw the line.” If I do have anything bad on my facebook, I will delete it when I am looking for a job if necessary. I don’t think that I do, or will, have anything critically bad that could damage my career when I’m older.

  26. Jeff,
    I really enjoyed reading this response because I agree that kids should have the chance to have a social life and professional on the internet, as long as they aren’t mixed too much. I have noticed that I do not have a “social me” known on the internet. I do not have a facebook or any other social networking system that I am part of. My “professional me” on the internet is on my blog. My blog is all about skiing. I could easily mix my social me and professional me because skiing is a subject that easily fits under both parts of my life. By not having a facebook a spillover won’t occur as easily. In the future I plan to get a facebook. This will probably complicate things. My plan is to try to stay off the topic of skiing and other the other ideas of my blog when I am presenting myself in a social way. Of course I can talk to my friends about skiing on facebook, but I wouldn’t post questions to them that I am also asking readers of my blog.
    Also I think that at the age of 13 it is important for kids to start a professional life on the internet. At age 13 kids are starting to look at private high schools and jobs. By having a professional life online it will help you when interviewing for jobs and schools because they can see that you can present yourself to other people in an adult way. Also having a professional online life will help you when it is time to start applying to colleges. I liked reading your blog and it really gave me a new outlook on the different ways to present yourself online and why they are important.

  27. I have a professional and social me; for the most part I don’t do many things on the internet. I don’t have a facebook, twitter, MySpace, YouTube account, etc. The only online activities that I have done are, created my account on BlogSpot and my own Voki. But I do draw between online gaming and work I do for school. I try to think that when I play games or do other things besides school work and my professional me is really my school work. One of the reasons I don’t have a social networking account, is because I fell that I wouldn’t how to organize it between a social and professional me. Do you have any tips for me?

  28. Abby Farrington Reply

    Dear Mr.Utech, I’m a student about to go into high school and I agree with you. I think that I need to watch what I post on my face book page and other social networks. I need to do this because colleges will soon be looking and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about me. I’ve heard stories about how these responsible teenagers about to go into college post a picture of them at a party with friends and they may not have been doing anything irresponsible but I look like that, I’ve heard that colleges will either write them off or question them repeatedly about it. I’m also nervous because I would have no idea what to put on my professional page nothing at all, sure I wouldn’t post pictures of me at a party but what should I put up there??

  29. Hello Mr. Utuech. After reading your post: The Social You vs The Professional You, I had a few thoughts. First of all, I do have both social and professional personas on the internet. I do try to keep one from the other because, if I want to direct a subject, I can say “lol that is da coolest thing evaa!” on my professional blogs. But saying it to a friend or a fun video on YouTube would be fine. For me, I think that even though it may be important to think about this subject now. Being a teenager, I feel like a professional me is important but not something of my greatest interest. Being the social me is more fun than being serious and professional. But I do think that kind of putting your social creativity into a professional blog would make it more interesting to the reader. I want to thank your for writing this blog because it has given me some skills as a blogger and a responder.

  30. Well, I never thought about colleges and universities when I do something on the internet. I usually only think about what exactly I’m trying to do. Also I never thought about the two sides you mentioned, the social and professional me. That is a good point, this post made me truly think about what I should be like on the web and who will be watching. It really let’s me think of who I want to be what I want the world to see me as. I think it’s true that we need to make a professional and social side to us online, because if we don’t make both we may be judged or viewed in a way that is unwanted. As a student myself I see the importance of both, the social life online is needed for our purpose of being ourselves with friends online, but we also need a side that the world can view us as that’s showing the world that we’re more than goofy videos and posts online. We can show that we can be professional and we are ready for the world out there. I think that it’s a great idea for us to keep tucked away in the back of our minds.

  31. I think your blog post on The Social You vs. The Professional You makes a very good point. If people at such a young age can have a facebook to share their thoughts then they should already be using the internet to create a professional side to their life. A social you is very important but a professional you is equally as important. If we, as kids, learn how to do this now, in the future we will be so far ahead of people who didn’t take advantage of professional blogging. I don’t think that we should even have a facebook at this age because stupid mistakes can follow everybody around forever and right now we can get kind of rowdy and post things we never meant to. I myself don’t have a facebook or a myspace or anything like that because I’m very nervous about information on the internet.

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