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Be Careful Who You Friend

September 21, 2009

Billy Jo Bob has sent you a friend request…will you accept?

 Ah, Facebook. 

Within a matter of days it may make you feel like one of the most “popular” people  on the planet as your friend count climbs by the minute.  You will experience elation as you reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in decades and always wondered “what ever happened to Jimmy from first grade?” It’s like the 10- 20- or 30-year class reunion you never went to…all in the privacy of your home. 

Ever wondered what your co-workers do in their spare time?   Guess what? Facebook puts you in the “inner circle” of the people they share their most intimate thoughts, ideas and pictures with….and they may never know you peeked!  In fact, unless you regularly comment on their page, they may forget you’re one of their 789 Facebook friends.

Ever wonder who’s looking at your photos, posts, or quiz results?  Ever wonder about the real motivation behind someone’s friend request?    It’s easy not to think about such things when you’re in the middle of a post…until you happen to glance over and see just how ridiculously high the number of your “Facebook friends” has become.  “Where did all these people come from?”   It’s in those moments you realize that a little more caution about those posts, photos, comments, games and quizzes might be wise – don’t forget, they can see what time you were playing “Mafia Wars” or “Bejeweled.”  And then there’s this…how do you know for certainty that any of those people you’ve not seen in 20 years are mentally unstable?  You may have known them well way back when, but what’s happened since then?

Time to pare down?  Well that’s not so simple either.

If you’ve ever realized you got “unfriended” as one of your “friends” pared down their list of groupies, you know the shock value of “What happened?!”   You wonder if it’s something you said – or didn’t – or if they just plain don’t like you anymore.  Probably, it’s none of the above.  Which leads me to something my mother used to always tell me as a child, that I think today carries a great deal of relevance…. “Be careful who you your friends are!”

Recently, I have had a significant number of people ask me “what to do” about their Facebook friends!  When they started out on Facebook, they sent friend requests and accepted friend requests like it was going out of style.  The only qualifiers were:  “Sure, I know who they are,” “It would be interesting to know more about them,” or “We have 2 friends in common, they have to be alright…” 

Friending that person today might seem like a good idea, but is it really?  There ARE other options! And you DON’Thave to accept! For example, if you’re reconnecting with high school buddies, maybe the best place to leave your re-found friendship for a while is at the reunion group page.  And co-workers?  Hmmmm…  What about the boss you just adore? Some things are just better left alone. And if you refuse the friend request, tell the person why: “Hi Susan, thank you for the friend request.  It is sure nice to reconnect with you.  I have decided however to keep my Facebook page private to just my family and closest friends.  I joined the AHS reunion page though – would love to continue our conversation through Facebook mail or on the reunion page….”

So, what do you think?  Is it time for some ground rules? 

1. HOW    Decide HOW you want to use Facebook.  Is it for networking? Reconnecting with people?  Sharing photos, and personal life experiences?  

2. WHO     Once you’ve decided HOW you want to use it, you need to put parameters around WHO you allow into your personal space – aka your Facebook page.  If you are using it strictly for networking, what are your criteria? Mutual friends, people you know, business acquaintances, etc.  If you are using it to share life, you need to be more careful about those ground rules – and stick to them… Say “no” to work related friends and anyone you don’t know well. 

3. WHAT     The how and the who will determine what you post.  Did you know that every time you post, you are branding yourself?  You are creating a distinguishable mark that someone may remember about you – favorably or unfavorably.  THINK about what you are posting and WHO is listening!  If you have 1,000 friends from all walks of life, and gathered them all in a room, would you grab a microphone and say what you are posting?  Probably not.  If you are using your FB page strictly for professional networking posts, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want quoted in the paper, and by all means DO NOT POST anything offensive or polarizing!  Sure, an occasional post about the stunning sunrise, or a great little place you tried for dinner are appropriate as you share some life experiences, however, your business colleagues don’t need to know the intimate details of your date last night, neighborhood gossip or all the gory details of your day.  You may also want to be more guarded as to photos you post of your family and children – you never know who’s looking!  If you are friending only people you trust deeply, you have a great deal more freedom to post at will. 

Breaking up is hard to do…

So, what to do with the “unfriending” quandary?  It’s never easy, but if you DO decide to “unfriend” anyone on Facebook, be prepared to explain!  True, some people may never notice – or care – but others will feel jilted or crushed that they weren’t “good enough” to be your friend and their imaginations will run wild. Be prepared to explain to a “former Facebook friend” why they no longer have access to your page.  I’ve found that people generally are understanding if you explain that your large friend base became too difficult to manage (honestly, who can keep up with 1,000 friends every day – let alone 100!), so you decided to scale it back.

In the end, treat people as you would want to be treated.  It goes a LONG way!


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 19, 2010 10:13 pm

    Jeannette ~

    This is a great post. I don’t think most people think of these issues as they interact with their FB friends. I’ve been trying to be very sensitive to the flavor or my posts and the types of posts I respond to. You are so right about our posts leaving an impression on others.

    Great advice.

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