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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Rachel:  I actually made a brief allowance. She friended me and passed off the controls and then I immediately un-friended her.

Subsequently, we did sort of figure out how a fan page administrator can pass off administration controls to somebody they are not friends with. I just find these controls very difficult to use, which is why I actually use Google+, because of its clarity in terms of when you are accepting somebody's friendship. So in this case I did relax it.

But I've had other situations where I have started a job and become friendly with a co-worker, and she told me, "Oh, I friended you on Facebook," and I maybe do want to be friends with her in real life; I just don't want to break this rule.

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I just feel like my rule is good for me; I just need to figure out how to politely explain it to people.

Emily:  I have two reactions. One, I agree with Farhad. This comes under your work responsibilities. So in fact, it's incumbent upon you to keep up, as best as anyone can, with Facebook privacy settings, the various technical aspects. Because people at your workplace are going to be coming to you, which is “Hey, can you help me? I want to get this person off here.”

That's just part of your job duties and you should know that. I think you should consider your Facebook page a lost cause. Actually, since you do already have Google+ and like it, make that your default personal page.

Consider your Facebook page a semi-public, work-related page and tell your friends who are on there already, “Hey, come over to my Google+. Tthat's where I'm going to show pictures of me naked and drunk over the weekends,” and they'll go over.

Farhad:  I agree with that. And I actually think that the way you should be cautious is not in who you friend on Facebook, but in what you post of Facebook. And despite Google+’s better privacy controls, I think that you should use better caution there in that if you go by the rule that, everything you post on either of these sites on or anywhere else on the Internet can become public very easily, then you should just be cautious in whatever you post.

Emily:  Okay. No drunken, naked pictures. I take that back.

Farhad:  Yeah, not anywhere. You work in communications, so I imagine that part of your job is to create a public image for the company, and I think that if you work in one of those positions – like Emily and I are journalists, and I don't even think that I have personal profiles on all of these sites, because they morph into professional profile and that's kind of how I regard them. I think that maybe if you work in that kind of public role for a company, you kind of have to let your Internet profile become a part of your professional life.