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Editor’s note: The machines know my personal Venn diagram

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Who am I?

It’s a question I confront more and more lately as I drift around this ever-expanding social media universe.

Last week I decided I needed to create a new “professional” Twitter handle to separate my Capital Business thoughts from my other life. So meet @dan_beyers (and please follow me).

The underscore wasn’t my first choice but someone else out there likes my name, or maybe I created that account and just forgot.

I was amazed at the suggestions Twitter offered of people to follow without me doing anything more than surrendering my name and e-mail address. Somehow the service turned up longtime soccer buddies and my son’s classmates, along with sundry local business organizations.

It was all unsettling at first: The machines figured out my personal Venn diagram. I don’t tend to view my world in that way. For me, its about social circles. There’s my work, my family, my neighbors, my food group, my soccer team and on and on it goes.

Once, those communities largely intersected; my network revolved around my small town. My teacher was also my soccer coach. The grocery clerk was a neighbor. But our circles have dramatically expanded in the digital age and we “know” a great deal more people, and we often draw artificial lines to organize them online.

The other day I bumped into a co-worker at my local shopping mall. We see each other just about every day, but standing there in sandals, T-shirts and shorts, I had a difficult time processing a bit of work-related gossip he was dishing. This is the suburban dad you are talking to, work does not compute!

Sports team owner Ted Leonsis alludes to this trend when he advises people to break out of their circles. “Be an active participant in multiple communities of interest,” he urges, in dispensing suggestions for a happy life.

As social media evolves, I suspect our communities will begin to merge again. Already complete strangers are following my Pinterest page, and I didn’t even know I had one.

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