I took my own approach to dealing with what I call the noise of social networking by relegating portions of my life into different online platforms. For example, I have both a professional (@berrybrewer) and a private Twitter account. That said, I barely use the private one, because nothing on Twitter is really even remotely private. Also, I find that Twitter has gotten so massive that I cant focus on the Tweets I receive. This makes me even less likely to send Tweets out, and while I havent abandoned the account entirely, it doesnt get much use.
My LinkedIn account, on the other hand, is used solely as an online profile for my business. All communications there are strictly professional and the only relevance they have to my personal life is where a personal friend has also been a client or I have hired them.
I also have a Facebook account, but I decided early on that it was only for IRL (in real life) friends. That is to say, no clients allowed. Before I instituted the rule, I had a client who would open up a chat window to enquire about her projects whenever she noticed I was online. I realized that I just wasnt comfortable with clients knowing my web habits, and I liked the idea of having a space that was a little more private. So, the FB page became friends-only. I did recently add a fan page, however, that is specifically for the Berry|Brewer Freelance Agency. I am careful about what goes there, and while I do infuse some personality, I try to keep it professional.
Somewhere in between these two is my public blog. I write under my own name, but it is generally stuff that only other freelance writers would find interesting. It is a bit risky, as I've been known to occasionally complain about client behavior there (where other writers can commiserate), but I always change details so as not to reveal anything about the client.
I know that many business people and nonprofit professionals mix their personal and professional lives online, and that's a valid choice, but isn't one I've made. When I see someone post a political opinion on his or her Facebook page, for example, I always wonder if it cost them any potential clients with differing views. To me, it seems much safer to keep those two worlds as far apart as possible.
Apparently, I'm not the only one, either. Michelle at Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology recently wrote about her own experiment in limiting social media, and has found that not only has it changed the dynamic, but it has also freed up time. You can read more at External, Alienated, Busy-Busy .