Have you ever seen a social network that lets you file people under "acquaintance"? The biggest headache on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn is deciding your friend threshold. Don't take my word for it — MySpace founder Tom Anderson has a private profile, and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg might have doubled up on his own site. Instead of making you wade through bad friend requests and pointless updates from people you don't know that well, the double-profile technique puts you in charge of your own friend network. Here's a three-step technique for splitting your online presence between your "friends" and your real friends.
1. Break open your profile
The profile you already have (on Facebook, LinkedIn, or whatever site has started overwhelming you) is now your public profile. Turn on all permissions and let everyone see everything. (Remember to clean out anything scandalous; you can add it to your secret profile later.) As I explained in "How to be a good 'friend,'" social network users like to see other people's profiles even if they're not friends.
Now approve every friend request Keeping a crowd-approving profile is a bit like being the life of the party, without the party. (Or most of the life.) At least it satisfies acquaintances who don't realize they're getting B-listed.
2. Make a secret profile
You know how to set up a profile. Here are some tips for keeping it secret:
- Use a nickname, either one that only close friends know or one that you just made up.
- Use a second e-mail address; you should probably switch your public profile's contact info to a secondary phone number and e-mail address and use your real ones here.
- Don't use your common name, so searching that name only brings up your public profile. People on your "secret" friend list are, by definition, too close to you to care that you used a handle.
- Don't link to this profile anywhere. On this profile, you are in control, not the people who want to find you.
3. Invite fewer people than you want to.
Decide how many people you consider really close contacts. Now invite 75% of them. You can always add more later; the point here is to pare down. If you go overboard and feel overwhelmed again, you'll have to delete someone who already knows your secret identity.