It was a debate of workplace magnitude. To friend or not to friend (on Facebook)? I argued passionately on the side of “not to friend” but to connect via LinkedIn. My coworkers took the stance of friending, far and wide, on Facebook. We were at a stalemate and I wondered if I am simply too cautious or if they are playing with fire.
Let me back up. Over the years, I have worked with several organizations and maintained great friendships with colleagues. However, as a person with a healthy distrust of the Internet, I try to maintain a separation of personal and professional relationships. I don’t want future bosses making snap judgements about my work ethic based on political leanings, musical taste, and photos with friends and family. Until I see some hard and fast rules about ethical hiring and firing practices based on internet searches, I will ardently maintain my personal anonymity. I suppose my inherent distrust of the Web can be attributed to growing up in a pre-Internet generation, along with a hefty dose of Orwellian fear.
My colleagues, on the other hand, are recent college graduates and maintain a sizable Facebook base upwards of 1,000 or more “friends.” They friend classmates, friends, coworkers, and bosses alike and believe it’s impossible to separate the personal from the professional. So, when I told them I prefer to connect on LinkedIn, or friend them after my contract comes to an end, they were offended. They believe anyone with a wide Internet presence; i.e. website, blog, Facebook business page, and other social media tools, is a fool to think they can create boundaries. Maybe they’re right, maybe it is ridiculous to believe my one hold out, a single Facebook page, shares any more or less about my personality and personal beliefs than my blog, twitter feed, or website.
The question to you is where do you draw the line? Is it naive to believe a person can maintain separate personal and professional identities on the Internet?