My boss says: Use your real name on Facebook!

I escaped my past. Social media threatens to bring it back

Published June 1, 2011 12:01AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I was not a popular child in elementary, junior high or high school. In fact, I was mercilessly taunted from fifth through ninth grades, and only eventually learned that the way to make it better was to be more invisible (read: less myself).

I always thought it came from being a non-Mormon in my small all-Mormon hometown in Idaho.

I left Idaho and everyone in it behind when I moved away to college. I maintain absolutely no contact with anyone there. I shook off the dust, and with the help of cosmetics, fashion and some confidence, I live a happy, shiny new life, and have for 20 years.

Enter social media. Now, I can easily find anyone from that hometown on Facebook and see all that they are up to. And if I used my real name on Facebook, they could find me too. Silly as this sounds, this chills me to the bone. Looking at Facebook is, for me, like going to a high school reunion every day. (And no, I have not gone to any real reunions.)

I don't want to be found. I don't want to reconnect.

I have a new job that is about to force me to change my social media presence to my real name, and my No. 1 concern is that these people from my old hometown will find me and laugh at me.

I mean, there's a chance I'm missing out on some powerful healing by reconnecting with people. Right? And surely, I don't want to tell my new boss my rather ridiculous reasons for not wanting to go public with my real name? How can I take a deep breath and just get on it with when I feel so frozen in this area?

Thank you so much,


Dear KJ,

Why does your company want you to do this? What is the business purpose? Is it to raise your public profile? Is it to show the public what outstanding employees work for the company?

Find out. Then, if you object, you are in a position to propose alternatives.

Your own discomfort is important to me and to you, but it is not a compelling argument to the leaders of your company. If you were a salesperson, you might be asked to return to your hometown to contact some people you'd rather not see. An honest and committed employee would do that if it served a clear business purpose.

So what is the business purpose of this Facebook page?

You don't have to do everything your company says. In matters of conscience, it is a healthy thing for employees to voice concerns.

But if you object, come up with an improved alternative.

This argument is weak: You shouldn't have to do it because it makes you uncomfortable. This argument is strong: Here is a better way to meet the same business objective and, incidentally, it will be more popular with employees.

Encounters with your past can bring up feelings of helplessness. So remember: You are not helpless before these people from your past. You are your own person. You don't need their permission or their approval. If you must interact with them, keep it professional.

In fact, come to think of it, that may be one advantage of having your Facebook page serve a professional purpose: You don't need to play the role of that young student on it. You can play the role of the adult you are today. That's probably what the leaders of your company would prefer anyway.

Write your truth

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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