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.

Multislacking Day

It is the Day After Thanksgiving, a national holiday in and of itself, a day that celebrates one of America’s favorite passtimes: Slacking. Today, I am taking the celebration to a new level: I have embraced the art of multislacking.

Yesterday, G and cooked our asses off in the kitchen for our traditional feast. Today we’re enjoying leftovers and laziness. I am entertaining myself finding random websites while G and I watch re-runs of Cold Case and Scrubs. I got sucked into the surfing vortex that is wont to happen when I find one interesting website that leads to another and another and another. That is how I found out about the definition of multislacking, according to the Urban Dictionary. I also learned about the Word of the Year Contest sponsored by the American Dialect Society. I nominated the word “bromance.”

Yes, I’ve been finding a little of everything today, as evidenced by my bookmarking on Ma.gnolia.

Today is the day that slackers and multislackers can enjoy this pass time and feel virtuous. Today is also, as most everyone knows, Black Friday, the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping season and biggest shopping day of the year. It is also International Buy Nothing Day. I have done my part in observing this day buy not only buying nothing, but also doing nothing.

Honestly, G and I seem to go in spurts where we are really busy, going all the time until we drop and can’t do any more. And we’re anticipating another busy time coming up after this weekend, both of us going back to work to demanding jobs, the crazy vortex of the holiday season that no matter what I do I cannot help but get sucked in. So, yes, I’m not kidding myself that couch surfing is really some sort of social or political activism and is doing anyone besides me any good. And I do hope and strive to achieve a better work/life balance than this blog would reflect (that was one of my great hopes for returning to the Midwest, after all).

I promote and try to live out the values of International Buy Nothing Day. My family has agreed, at the suggestion of my niece, that we don’t have a gift exchange this year, but rather make a donation to our favorite charities. And I do believe that getting sucked into the vortex of the Internet is healthier for me than getting sucked into the vortex that is the consumer craziness.

This year I am resolved to achieve the work life balance that I so long for, practice healthy amounts of work, regular yoga practice, church, creative outlet. And yes, occasional multislacking. It’s all about balance and moderation.

Why I Love Ma.gnolia

I have become a social networking fool. You can find me at any one of many social networking sites, most of which I list in the side bar of my blog. By far, Ma.gnolia is my favorite.

Ma.gnolia was founded by my friend and fellow Earlhamite, Larry Halff. Put simply, Ma.gnolia is a tool where you can save and share bookmarks. This is useful for many reasons. First, you can access your favorite sites from any computer. You can also create your own tags, essentially categorizing, and organizing your bookmarks in a way that feels natural to you.

The beauty of it is that you can share your sites with others who share your interests, and discover new sites in the same way. This is where the social part comes in. You can create or join groups with shared interests (like knitting or yoga). You can also have contacts with other Ma.gnolia members, which also facilitates sharing sites. The three latest links that your contacts and groups have saved appear on your home page. There’s also little side bar menus which show you the most recent links that random people have saved. You can also see the “Hot Groups” which shows you groups that are particularly active. It is so satisfying to see my links and my groups appear in those side bar menus. It makes me feel so popular.

One really nice feature is that you can thank people for their links. I have made a few contacts that way, thanking or being thanked. I was thrilled the day that Henry thanked me for my Out in Scripture link. It was just such a nice thing to be thanked for sharing a link that I like. I added him as a contact after I saw his link to the Music Row Democrats, a website for promoting country musicians with progressive politics. Since then, I have been able to keep tabs on the links that Henry is sharing, which is really cool because he is discovering stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily come across on my own.

I have waded into the waters of social networking, blogging, and the like this past year, tentatively exploring the possibilities. Information professional and shy person that I am, this is a perfect way for me to gently put feelers out there and see what building on-line community is all about. I plan to do more on a professional level in the coming months, but I’m still feeling a little be timid about it. The personal and the professional really collide here, and I have been more comfortable having a clear separation between my two worlds.

However, as I go further down the road into management in my career, I really appreciate it when people bring their whole selves into the work place. It’s how creativity can really be applied to help build a better mouse trap, if you will. So, to lead by example, I will begin to share more of what I am setting up professionally with my colleagues, starting with two groups that I have created on Ma.gnolia, Development Research and Fundraising and Philanthropy.

Sharing these Ma.gnolia groups more widely with my professional colleagues will give folks access to my personal web presence. They’ll be able to check out my Ma.gnolia profile, see what groups I’m interested in, and check out the link to my blog, which will lead them to my presence on Pandora, MySpace, or Cork’d, which will tell you what I think about the wine I am drinking (though I have yet to use this one much, I just think it’s really cool).

Ultimately, This is what I want, because this is bringing social networking to full fruition, which I feel I have yet to do. I’m nervous about it, but Ma.gnolia is a web tool that I think my fellow information professionals will get really excited about.

And that’s what social networking is all about, right?