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.

Blogging Revelations

When I started blogging back in November of 2006, a mere nine months ago (but time really does fly), I felt that a whole new world had opened up to me. I was stumbling across tools and other blogs that gave me ideas and inspiration. I ventured into the world of social networking, and at every turn I discovered people and communities doing really cool stuff.

In November, I felt as if I was diving in with my whole self, embracing my inner geek, and I have been having loads of fun writing, sharing photos and sharing my newly discovered links (I really love Ma.gnolia). When I speak about blogging and social networking to my friends, many of the either have no idea what I’m talking about, or they think that it’s simply about a MySpace page, and I am too old for that. I admit that I feel a little old sometimes out there. It does seem as though many bloggers that I come across are a good decade younger (at least!) than I am. But many are not, and I found an article recently about how folks are using blogs and web presence to enhance their resumes.

So far, I have met and corresponded with a few strangers with shared interests, giving me a little taste of what it’s like to have an on-line community. I have found many great resources this way, and encountered a few blogs that I now like to check out regularly. Admittedly, I have not been producing enough content on a regular basis that would be of interest for readers to check back regularly. I guess I am still a bit of a lurker, in a way. I haven’t quite found my place in Cyberspace.

But when you have more of a personal blog, I realize that it is a really cool way to keep in touch with friends and family. Indeed, that is how many of my younger friends are using blogging and social networking. I guess my close friends and family just need to catch on, check in regularly, and leave a comment now and then.

Yesterday, I had the experience of finding a bunch of websites that really put things in perspective for me. Some times you find a link to a site or blog that becomes a portal to another world that takes you to places you didn’t know existed. I love the Internet for that. One of my Ma.gnolia contacts posted a link to the blog of librarygrrl, which for those of you who know me that blog name has appeal for numerous reasons. I had to check it out.

librarygrrl’s blog, cool in and of itself, has a blog roll for other websites run by librarians. I found the The Cool Librarian, The Library Spot, Library Thing, The Beacon for the Freedom of Expression. What a gold mine! And this is just a sampling. I kind of went crazy with Ma.gnolia with all of this.

By absolute random coincidence, by searching for favicons in WordPress blogs, I found the blog of a Quaker Ph.D. candidate from LA at, and through his blog I found the Convergent Friends blog, for Quakers responding to the challenges of defining what it means to be Quaker in the world today. I am not in the world of Quakers too much these days, but as a formerly Quaker-identified progressive Christian, I am delighted to come across these sites. I now have a place to check once in a while to see what people are talking about in these communities, and perhaps even find a place for me there.

All of these discoveries yesterday I now am aware of how much I have to learn about blogging. I don’t think I will ever fully be on the tech side of things. I blog more for sharing content, and beyond adding specific functionality to my sites, I really don’t care to delve that far into the world of programming and web development. I do find this world and the language they speak a little intimidating, so I guess my struggle will be not to let my limited abilities hold me back.

As in real life, I am a Jill of all Trades, Mistress of None. My interests are broad and varied. And even if I was able to pick just one topic to write about, I don’t think that blogging would give me the satisfaction and even the focus that I find in it. I guess one of my passions in life is information. I love information, hence my excitement about the library links! Blogging and social networking give me the media and tools through which to find, organize, and share information about everything that piques my interest. Perhaps my blog will be a portal for someone else to make their own discoveries, leading to their own blogging revelations.