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Before I got into publishing, maintaining my social network pages was easy. I joined Facebook in 2005, a bygone era where the most I had to worry about was whether or not my profile picture made me look chubby.

When I was lucky enough to land a job in publishing, I suddenly realized that my Facebook profile was filled with material I didn’t exactly want every writer out there to see: three years worth of immature jokes shared with college friends, photos of me in silly costumes from various Halloween parties, and links to off-color material that made me laugh. I decided the day I became an agent that I was going to maintain Facebook only for my personal use. If I didn’t know you or want every piece of information on my profile to be available to you, then we weren’t going to be friends.

Predictably, I started getting friend requests from writers. Those were easy enough to ignore at first. Then I started getting from requests from editors. Those were a little tougher. After much hand-wringing (seriously, my hands were wringed), I accepted that in today’s digital world, it was hopeless to hold out.

I’m sure many writers out there are struggling with the same issues. What should be on your Facebook page, your blog, your Twitter updates? Will you hurt your chances by posting something seemingly innocuous that could offend the wrong person?

The answer, unfortunately, is a very big maybe. We’ve all heard tall tales about editors reading bits of information about a writer that has turned them off to a project. I’ve personally encountered information about writers or my publishing brethren that made me hesitant to want to work with them. I don’t go seeking this information out for the most part, but sometimes it has a way of showing up.

My main advice to you is to develop a strategy and stick with it. If you don’t want all your information out there for the world to poke and prod, make sure that you’re controlling what strangers can see. After all that hand-wringing I did, I’ve stuck to my guns and kept Facebook mostly personal by using different privacy settings (in case some of you out there were wondering why you can barely see any pictures of me or information but the basics, there’s your answer). I decided that Twitter would be the tool I used more for communicating with writers and editors. For the most part, it’s worked for me, aside from the *occasional query that references personal information about me and makes me squirm a bit (examples below).

So how about you? How do you make sure the information about you is only what you want people knowing? How do you ensure your professional identity is separate from your personal one in this connected world of ours? Or does it not matter to you?

*Nearly true examples of things culled from Twitter used in recent queries:

  • Dear Mr. Richman: I hope you enjoyed your recent trip to California. I’ve written a book about surfers you may enjoy!
  • Dear Mr. Richman: I recently read that you enjoy Philadelphia sports. How lame! May I interest you in a book about vampires?
  • Dear Mr. Richman: I sincerely hope your rash has cleared up. My 109,000 word manuscript won’t make you itchy at all!