The Personal is Professional and Vice Versa: Expressing the Passion of the Geek

Recently I stumbled across a blog that talked about work/life integration as a concept to strive for, as opposed to work/life balance. The word balance suggests things that are in opposition to each other. Staying balanced is like walking a tight rope, which can be stressful. I don’t want to stretch the metaphor too much, however, integration as a concept feels more sustainable and satisfying, not a struggle.

I am not out to change the world here, though I do hope to contribute in my small way to a cultural shift towards this noble ideal. I don’t think there’s any escaping the 9-5 for me any time soon. I am a manager where I work, so hopefully I can model leadership my belief in flexibility for employees to be able to address personal obligations during traditional work hours. I’d also like to institute nap time. One thing at a time.

Not that I don’t want to have clear boundaries around personal space and time. I occasionally bring work home, yes, but when I am working, I don’t like to invite the distractions of personal life there, and vice versa. I certainly don’t want my work to interfere with the sacredness of my home.

Nonetheless, I don’t want the personal and professional to live in opposition to one another. I’d like to find the best way to keep them in harmony. Work gives one a feeling of purpose. I want to know that what I do from day to day contributes in some small way toward making the world better. I also want the way that I live to make a difference, too. Where I shop, what I eat, how I observe spiritual practice, how I communicate with friends, family, and colleagues about things that are important to me.

I’ve been social networking for a while on various sites, in earnest for about the last year (it’s Larry Halff’s influence; he invented my favorite social bookmarking tool, Ma.gnolia which got me started). In my quest to find more opportunities for work/life integration, I am finding online social networking tools to be have the most potential and effectiveness so far. These days, I like to explore just about every social networking site out there just to see what they have to offer. You’ll find my favorites and the ones I use the most in the side bar. From LinkedIn to Change to Ravelry, I am trying them all (only if I find them compelling).

Of course they are most useful if other’s use them, too. Can you imagine using FaceBook for anything other than communicating with friends? This is the site that I am using the most for simply networking these days. Mostly it’s silly stuff; virtually blowing kisses and serenading each other, comparing knowledge of movie trivia, and my favorite these days is playing Scrabulous, though I hear rumor that it will soon be unavailable due to copyright infringement. Mostly I’m using FB because I have many friends who do, and it is fun to stay in touch with them. But I’m also finding that many people that I work with are using FB, and it is also a useful tool to communicate with colleagues.

There are other sites like LibraryThing and Ravelry which actually serve a purpose besides connecting with people. With LibraryThing, you can inventory your book collection in a very sophisticated way. It has the added benefit of connecting you with virtual strangers who are reading the same book you are, or getting ideas from other people who have similar interests and tastes to help you decide what you should read next. Ravelry is for knitters. Here you can share your projects, get inspiration for new projects, and learn new skills.

Ma.gnolia remains my favorite, and in my opinion, has the greatest crossover in terms of its usefulness professionally and personally.  Though it hasn’t yet caught on in the workplace, I have faith that it will soon. I’ve created a group there for fundraising and philanthropy links and a group for development research (which I’ve made private because, for some reason, spammers were interested in it. If you want to join, just send me a request via Ma.gnolia.).

Online social networking is certainly not the be all, end all answer. Indeed, it has also proven to be quite a distraction. I can’t tell you the number of days I have spent whiling away the time simply bookmarking cool websites, trolling the web to locate old friends (which I have done with quite a lot of success), simply getting sucked into the vortex.

However, as an information professional in the non-profit world, I feel I have found a calling of sorts. I feel a responsibility, as well as a keen interest, to feel out the potential of these online tools to promote philanthropy and good works, to build community and share ideas, to find and maybe even help create the most efficient tools to gather and manage information. Maybe many of these tools most of the time don’t directly apply to the work that I do from day to day. But there are many points of connection. Out of a passion for growing professionally and personally, I am determined to explore social networking to the fullest.

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