Digital Manners: Facebook Work Friends vs. Real Friends

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Nov. 15 2011 3:58 PM

Sorry, You Can’t Be My Facebook Friend (Transcript)

Farhad Manjoo and Emily Yoffe debate the question: Is there any good way to tell colleagues that you have a no-Facebook-friends policy at work?

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There was a situation that I learned of at one point where a woman that I knew worked at a company that did not allow any Internet during work hours, and she was Facebook friends with people that she worked with.

She had started posting things on her Facebook page things like “I hate my job,” and “I can't come in” and “I'm just so miserable,” and somebody who was her Facebook friend leaked that to HR and it got back to her boss. I've just felt since then that it is not work the risk to my job in terms of how well I like or may trust my Facebook friends.

Farhad:  Is Facebook a big part of your job, managing the Facebook page? If that's the case, I guess I feel like I don't know why Facebook's privacy controls are beyond your ability.

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Rachel:  I do work in the field of communications, so I am managing various forms of social media, and I regularly manage different organizations’ fan pages. But I have never thought that it is necessary for me to use my personal Facebook account to promote any organization that I work for.

There are various other social media forms, such as Twitter, where I think that it is appropriate and I choose to do that. But Facebook, I'm locking down to my personal self.

Emily:  Well, I think this underlines the point I've made on this podcast several times, which is even an expert cannot figure out Facebook privacy controls. It obviously is not in Mark Zuckerberg's interest for his privacy controls to be very easy. I think they're being changed all the time.

Farhad, I have gotten you to agree if you think anything on Facebook is private, you're ridiculous. Even though there are ways you can segregate people, I do understand your overall concern about it, Rachel.

Farhad:  I guess my response to Rachel is that I understand your caution, and I think it's appropriate because of the scenario you cited and because of various other ways that Facebook can kind of interfere with your career or hurt your image in front of your colleagues. Being cautious about it seems fine.

But in this case, I think that your policy was actually interfering with your job. It seems like you are required to manage the Facebook page, and part of that – just on a technical level – is just to become friends with somebody else.

I think that probably you should have made an allowance in your policy for that specific reason. So I can understand your co-workers surprise at your speech about being cautious.