There were a few benefits to being private:
Fewer spammers wanting to be my “friend”. I think. There were still a few.
I could perhaps be slightly more candid than if I didn’t know who was listening (but I still figured things were pretty public though).
But there were also downsides:
I no longer seemed to get emails when someone wanted to be my friend. Instead there was a list of people who I had to individually Accept or Deny, a sometimes laborious process. A few spammers, a few strangers who have nothing better to do than accumulate thousands of “friends”, and a few people I knew.
With each of the people I knew, the previous social angst recurred. Most were people I’ve met a few times, and who seemed jolly nice, but whose lives I didn’t feel the need to receive regular updates about. Because of Twitter’s one-way relationships this meant I had to Deny them. Which always felt very rude.
If one’s tweets are private then they won’t show up in any of the third-party websites that search or otherwise play with public tweets. Which is a shame, as I like the Internet being a big open place, and it felt odd to keep things private when I wasn’t saying anything particularly private.
There were occasions I asked a question that I wished more people were following me — all those friends I had to dump when I went private.
On balance, being public seemed the lesser of two evils.
One thing that would make being public easier is the ability to see one’s Followers and Following in better sorted lists than they currently are. Dopplr’s new lists of connections are a great example, as the different kinds of connections are separated into groups, rather than a single, apparently random, list of people.
Phew. I don’t remember deciding who to talk to in the pub ever being this much trouble.