Bill Cosby in his 1983 concert film Bill Cosby: Himself described a conversation he had with an associate who did cocaine:
I said to the guy, "Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful," and he said, "Because it intensifies your personality." I said, "Yes, but what if you're an a**hole?"
I always thought that bit was hilarious and I remembered it the other day when I was talking to my boss about how people use Facebook (which is, arguably, like cocaine to some people) to expose their "personalities" to more and more people.
We were lamenting that Facebook and Twitter allow people who, in ordinary conversation, don't exercise a conversational "filter," to go global and immediate with their verbal missteps and off-putting remarks. These people don't understand why something they say out loud would be inappropriate; social networking tools just open up a whole new world for insensitivity. (Case in point: Celebrities like John Mayer who frequently tweet ill-advisedly.)
Anyone with a Facebook page has been friended by someone he or she doesn't remember or by someone who is a friend of a friend. And if you accept this friend, you then have to deal with embarrassing updates from this obscure person until you hide him or her.
Let me stop here and say that I'm a pushover for accepting friend invites, because I have a terrible memory and I always think that maybe at some point I knew this person fairly well but I just don't readily recall. My general wussiness has resulted in having "friends" I wouldn't recognize on the streets if I saw them and, apparently, their friends who they encouraged to friend me for some ungodly reason.
Here's why all this can get complicated. Since I happen to be one of those people with an internal filter I run my thoughts through before I verbalize them or put them in writing, this seriously constricts my creativity on the Facebook forum itself. Where before I took pains to make sure what I said wouldn't be misconstrued by my actual friends, now I have to worry about my comments being misconstrued by anyone from my middle school class, someone who knows me from the neighborhood Walmart, personnel from my last three jobs, my son's babysitter's family, etc., because I've been drawn somehow into the vortex of indiscriminate Facebook-friending.
Now, add to this fact that one of these near strangers might be a neo-Nazi with a vocabulary that would surprise the Jerry Springer show censors and might post a comment to one of my updates. And what if a prospective employer sees that and makes an erroneous assumption about me?
So the moral of the story is: Be strong. Facebook promiscuity is not the way to go if you're serious about your career.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.