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?

Farhad Majoo:  You’re my coworker, not my friend!

Emily Yoffe:  Oh, thanks, Farhad! I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist.

Farhad:   I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.

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Emily:  Today's question is from a listener who worries that her decision to draw a line between work friends and real friends makes her seem like a crank. Her name is Rachel, and she's actually in the studio with us today, so neither Farhad nor I have to read her letter. Rachel can tell us exactly what her problem is.

Rachel:  My question is that I have recently started a new job that requires me to manage our organization's fan page on Facebook, and a co-worker told me that I had to friend her so she could pass off the controls to me.

I, at that point, then gave her my very well-rehearsed speech about how I just don't friend co-workers, although I'm happy to friend them after we don't work at the same company.

This rule is born out of my caution, but it's also from the fact that I've really never figured out how to use Facebook's incredibly complicated privacy controls to limit what some friends see.

I just kind of think that I'm coming off really rude when I give this speech, because she just looked at me like I was paranoid. So my question is: what's a better speech I can give the next time that this comes up so I just don't seem like a snob?

Emily:  Can you clarify a little more about what's going on here? Have you been burned in the past, or you have a very freewheeling personal Facebook page that there's content on it that 's just private or could be damaging to you if it spills out into the workplace?

Rachel:  I'm a really cautious Facebook friender. I keep less than a hundred friends, and I often actually de-friend people if they drift out of my life.