Clash of Professional and Private: Concerns of Social Networking

I will be the first to admit that I love Facebook. It is so much fun. I love seeing photos from the past weekend, reading my friends’ crazy statuses, getting birthday alerts. All these things are great! Of course with everything we love, there have to be a few drawbacks. The biggest of which is friend requests from people you “have to” befriend. This is simply not cool. These “have to” friends include my mom’s friends, older relatives and random people from High School that I kind of remember; now, all on Facebook. It is bizarre to get a friend request from a woman whom I have known since I was five. I don’t want her looking at photos of my friends and me at a wedding or the lake or doing whatever ridiculous things we did when we were 16 that someone found, scanned and has now posted.

Taking this one step further, I do not feel comfortable being Facebook friends with my business relations. I do not want people with whom I work on a professional level to see photos, statuses and comments from my free time. While I do consider our clients, vendors and partners my friends, that does not mean I feel comfortable letting them into the private sphere of my life. There is a level of professionalism that needs to be maintained and I do not want something silly that a college friend said or posted to change the way a colleague perceives me, or worse, our company.

Social networking is about building relationships. However, for business, I foresee some serious negative consequences. I can see how some business relationships could be severed based on too much shared information, how an image of an event to which someone wasn’t invited could turn into a big deal, or a status could be taken completely out of context. For example, I’m tired this morning. Need an extra cup of coffee. I make that my status and then the whole world knows that about me. Not a big deal, until a client looks at that and gets the impression that I am not putting my all into my work today. Or that instead of working, I am playing on Facebook. So posting a completely innocent status can leave a negative, potentially, lasting impression.

IDEA, the health and fitness association, has a page on their website with suggestions for when a client friends one of their members on Facebook. I find this interesting (You can click here to read it). As fitness professionals, it could hurt them to have a client see a photo of them eating a big greasy cheeseburger. It’s the old adage, “Practice what you preach,” but we’re all now preaching from online pulpits, accessible 24/7 to anyone with a computer or phone.

All this said, times are changing and we need to be careful. Facebook is essentially inviting someone into your private life and unless you’d invite this person over for dinner, you may want to think twice about befriending him or her.

1 Comment

  1. Tino

    I agree that you shouldn’t “facebook-friend” someone you wouldn’t invite over for dinner, but I guess that carries over from “real life”.

    I think it greatly depends on the relationships you have with clients. If I end up talking about facebook with a client and we both decide that it makes sense to move forward and feel that we can take that next step…wait…

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