How many lives do you have? Family? Job? Hobby? More than one hobby?

I have several lives that braid themselves together–mother, business woman, gardener, skater, teacher, artist, writer, cook. They intertwine with the lives around me–my skating daughter, my teacher son, my musician husband. The gardeners that I know through gardening, and the ones that I know through family. The skaters from the rink, and the ones from my writing. The cooks who sing and the business colleagues who skate.

But sometimes it’s better to separate the conjoined, for the health of all. So I have multiple Twitter feeds.

I don’t hide any of them, but I’m selective about who I follow on which feeds, and if someone from gardening finds my business persona I might gently suggest that they may find the other feed more interesting.

I first did this because the skaters were getting annoyed when there was a lot of gardening activity and vice versa. I now have three personal feeds, and I also tweet for 3 clients. Here are the benefits:

I get much more out of each feed when the focus is narrow; interesting tweets and links don’t get lost in the maelstrom that a twitter feed can become. I don’t miss important announcements or time-sensitive topical issues.

Because my feeds are focused, I can take care of my followers better–retweeting and sharing interesting links and statements, commenting in real time (except when I forget to check the direct messges). I also don’t inundate my followers with topics that don’t interest them, an especially important consideration if you participate in a lot of chats.

One of my feeds is “me.” I feel comfortable sharing political views, daily life and pictures of cats. The others are strictly business. None of them is really private, as there is no such thing as anonymous on line (see below), but by keeping the feeds distinct in topic it limits what the various followers are seeing. A few people have found me interesting enough to follow me across multiple feeds, but for the most part people stick with the feed that most interests them.

Privacy, redux
I learned the hard way (by having a family member’s emotional difficulties rather cruelly outed on a site when someone got annoyed at me and tracked down me, and everyone I was connected with). This taught me that there’s no such thing as anonymity online. If someone wants to know who you are, they will find you. So I made it easy to find me. I use my real name and I don’t hide behind anonymous. This not only makes it uninteresting to track me down, it keeps me from saying things I might regret.

Your business persona on line should match your business persona live. Your clients do not want to be hearing about your menstrual woes, your child’s grades, your political diatribes or other personal life. They want business insider information, industry support, and education. If you clog a single twitter stream with too much personal information it’s not going to function well in a business context.

How do you keep them straight?
How do you keep anything straight? How do you remember not to talk about skating to the guy who likes basketball? How do you remember not to talk about your child’s grades to the CEO at the business after hours event? This argument makes me insane. There’s nothing different about having a conversation, or a relationship, on twitter than there is in real life. It’s as intimate and as superficial as any other relationship, as casual or businesslike as you care to make it.