Should you protect your status updates on Twitter?

Twitter is about the conversation. It's about connections. It's about transparency.

So a question for you: In any other public conversation, would you make your peers and professionals sign a request form before you let them hear what you have to say?

Hopefully you're not saying anything on Twitter that will get you in trouble. By now you should be in the habit of knowing that if it's on the Web, it can get out-- private or not.

Protecting your updates goes against everything Twitter is all about.

Conversation One of the most valuable aspects of Twitter is being hyper-connected to a huge group of people all the time. There is so much to be learned from partaking in discussions with students, educators and professionals in your industry, but if you protect your updates, the conversation is one-way. It implies "I want to see what you say, but you have to be worthy of seeing what I have to say."

In the Twitterverse, we're all equals -- whether you're Ashton Kutcher, Lance Armstrong or just some dude from a small town. Protecting your updates impedes that equality and creates an almost hierarchical feel to Twitter.

Connections As what I consistently refer to as the most powerful text-based medium on the Web, Twitter gives people who otherwise would never know each other the chance to develop lasting relationships-- on a both personal and professional level. All Twitterers have their own niche, whether it be industry-related or hobby-specific or even geographically bound. Twitter unites people.

If you're on Twitter to make connections, the likelihood of someone following you back is low if your updates are blocked.

People follow you based on your recent tweets, the way you tweet, the links you post, the insight you share and your contributions to the worldwide conversation. You're depriving potential followers all of those things when you force them to follow you before they know what you're all about. Is that fair?

Transparency For student journalists, it's an especially risky business to have private tweets. With the rise of social media, our industry is increasingly about putting a person behind the words. It's about transparency.

Reporters who protect their updates make it seem as though they have something to hide. Do you have something to hide? Are you going to choose who gets to see what you tweet and who doesn't? If you reject someone, you're excluding them from your conversation and trashing your personal identity and transparency.

Be smart I know many people protect their updates for privacy and safety. But there are better ways to attain both of those things. Twitter is not a place for privacy. Twitter is wide open for everyone. If you're worried someone will stalk you if they know you're at the market or know more about you than they ought to, then maybe you should rethink the way you Twitter.

Is the social network really a way to broadcast where you are and what you're doing at all times? No. It's a tool to build your identity and expand your mind. Be a smart Twitterer. And if someone truly does creep you out, the "block" option is there for a reason.