People create secondary or alternate social media accounts for any number of reasons:
- You’ve started a new job and need to keep your professional social activity separate from personal.
- Authors create alternate accounts to keep their author work separate from their personal updates.
- Law enforcement creates them to assist in catching criminals who use social platforms to conduct their illegal activities.
- Many political activists create alternate accounts for things ranging from opposition research, to having a backup for when they engage in disagreeable debate with the other side.
My reason to do it started in June of 2015 when I opened a second Facebook account. I was returning to school to become a Political Science major and decided to keep my activism targeted to a specific audience. After all, I have friends and family that will discuss politics, but they’re not as interested in it as I am.
It was going fairly well in that I could broadcast my activism and commentary to that specific audience without inundating my apolitical friends’ news feeds. A frequently heard argument at school was, “What do you care? If they are truly bothered by it, they can delete or unfollow you.”
The second account was mostly consisting of family and my apolitical friends. I knew these people long before politics became a big topic of interest. Though they knew that politics was something I was passionate about, and talked about frequently, I don’t like to inundate news feeds without a good reason.
For every time I wanted both accounts to be updated with something, I would have to use two devices. The devices of choice ended up being my iPhone and iPad Mini. Between my moves to and from Wisconsin, my returns to Massachusetts for holidays and other family events, and my desire to keep family and apolitical friends updated on the details of life in Wisconsin, it was becoming difficult to have both devices around.
It would be something different if I were employed in the social media world and my boss required me to create a company account. In that case, my company-issued device would have that account, and my personal iPhone would have my account.
While I’m speaking of Facebook dominantly in this article, this could apply to any social network, even though Facebook is the only network that allows for selective targeting.
Last month, it was occurring to me that the proverbial wind was being cut from my activist sails, and that I was updating the secondary account’s seldom. As I began to reflect on the secondary account’s purpose, three things occurred to me:
- My political views have never been a secret to anyone, but my goal was to keep a wall of separation so that my political identity was not the totality of who I was.
- With the election of President Trump, it became impossible to keep that wall of separation. Inevitably, in-person, I’m seldom the starter of a political conversation, but I have no problem engaging. When you find that more of your apolitical posts are getting political, it’s time to re-evaluate things.
- If things were to perk up again and I was to re-engage in some kind of activist movement, I would be more likely to selectively target my updates.
On March 9, 2017, I made the decision to proceed with the deletion of my secondary account and transition back to using one account for everything. Over the course of seven days, I began re-friending close to thirty people, tweaking privacy settings, enabling some newer security settings, and double-checking app settings to make sure only my mobile devices were what had access.
As part of the transition, I put up a more professional profile banner, though I kept my constitution-advertising avatar as it was; Facebook is still a casual social network, and I didn’t intend to depersonalize it. I began the process of changing the audience settings on many prior posts. I rearranged friends lists to make sure the right people were viewing content that I’d want them to see. In also went through and deleted a number of “share because it was relevant at the time” posts (especially ones that went without engagement), and proceeded on a general cleanup.
For what it’s worth, most of my shares came from reputable media sources for which I was one subscriber out of millions.
Long story short, and absent what will be the loss of some good family-related posts, it will be much better to go back to one account. For whatever it’s worth, I will still be doing cleanup on the account until at least the end of the month.
As a wrap-up, if you are considering creating a second account, here’s some things to consider:
- If you’re creating the account to hide information from someone, consider how small of a world it is, and who knows who. While it’s possible to use a pseudonym, you are bound to tell some people about the account.
- If your second account is for employment, and you’re making it with your company email address, treat it as though it weren’t yours. That profile might be on the monitor as your boss is giving a presentation and the last thing you want is a message from your boss saying “Your profile was up before the CEO, and he didn’t appreciate one of his employees sharing a political post given its potential impact to stakeholders.” Also, remember that putting “opinions are my own/RT’s are not endorsements” means nothing in the employment or world. The most common response to controversy is, “Why would the company hire someone like him or her?”
- If your alternate account is because of threats, harassment, or stalking, consider speaking to police and a lawyer before creating it. Be sure you’re using the block button where appropriate. If all else fails, make sure you have offline contact information of people you trust and consider suspending the account until the situation is resolved.
I am thankful that my experience didn’t involve much transition work, but others may not be so fortunate.