Social Enterprise

Are you Facebook-promiscuous?

Accepting any and all Friend invitations willy-nilly may feel good at first, but be aware of what that could do to your career.

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.

About

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.

60 comments
mahf08085
mahf08085

I really can not get into the whole Farmville, Restaurant, Second Life, Mafia kind of thing. I have way too much real life to live than to sit and tend farms. I have mostly family on my list and people I grew up with. If I dont know you directly Im not accepting a freind request. I am good friends with a girl who is married to a very popular DJ in town and they see me on his list and see that Im on his wifes list so they think "oh get on her list." um no. But with that said my family and I who are scatter across the country can share photos pretty quick by posting them on there. So it has its good points and its bad.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

A most excellent article, my naturally curly haired real-life Facebook friend. :) In reading the commentary your article has generated, I was struck by the thought that Facebook is a late arrival to the social web-phenomenon. I am sure there are some of us who were SYSOPS or users of BBS, RIME and Usenet groups technology, all of which encouraged people to communicate with each other. I've been a member and contributor to TechrRpublic for over a decade. In that time, I have made some very good friends, contributed a few articles which I hope some folks enjoyed and shared great conversations with people that often made me reflect on my own thoughts and philosophies on life, in addition to answering and commenting on technical concepts and issues. All of these things have improved me as a person. TechRepublic is a social media site with a focus on technology. I use Facebook and I do accept friend requests from people that are friends of friends. I will moderate and defriend people that I find offensive, just as I will ignore people that offend me in real life and on this site. I believe that you should not say anything to anyone that you would not say directly to their face. As our friend Thrisha-poo says, "Jerr is Old Testament," which is both true and my personal goal of treating others as you wish to be treated. If a member of the TR community is interested in adding me as a friend at Facebook, the link is herein provided for you: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=592224215

unellen
unellen

Got so many replies of denial, thought you might like to hear from an admitted facebook-aholic. Yes, I collect friends, sometimes people I don't even know, of which I am now better friends with than some people I do know. Yes, I get neo-nazi posts on my page, but I also get uber-American posts, Socialist posts, and just about every other kind of political post imaginable. Love it. If I actually had a potential employer look at my page he would probably shake his (or her) head and wonder why I waste so much time on farmville. Farmville is a job when you don't have a job. How far you've leveled up tells how engaged you would be if you were actually employed. Hopefully, I'm not an a*hole, but definitely do enjoy reading other opinions. So tell me, if you collect friends of friends why is the moral of your story not to?

Ron K.
Ron K.

What career? I agree with you though and am guilty of posting the occasional curse word, knowing where it will appear, but I do try to be careful. I should probably post a disclaimer here but I can't think of a good one.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

One of me is an outright whor3 for FarmVille, one of me is connected with family and friends, and one of me is an outright whor3 for FarmVille. None of me has posted information as to my whereabouts, education, etc... and all of me have my accounts locked down as tight as Facebook will allow. edit: '3' for 'e'

seanferd
seanferd

But yeah, I do remember back when Bill Cosby was funny.

Jaqui
Jaqui

not likely. if they actually deleted accounts instead of just disabling them my facebook profile would be gone. my twitter profile lasted 30 minutes. my linkedin profile is gone. just not into that whole scene.

adam.ainsworth
adam.ainsworth

This may have already been covered, but why would you let a prospective employer see your FB profile in the first place? Presumably, at some point, you're going to get an unflattering picture of you on a night out or doing something stupid, so just make your profile private and your Nazi-loving, inappropriate friends will be kept away from those whom you are trying to impress.

Robert Lerner
Robert Lerner

Screw it, if my employer can't keep an open mind about my personal time, they're not going to be around in a few years. That's what happens to companies who spend more time managing me putting up a few drunken comments on Facebook, instead of managing the employees sleeping in their cubes.

Thumper09
Thumper09

I keep my friends limited. Most are from HS, and if I get a request from a friend of a friend, I won't accept unless I've actually met them, or find their profile very interesting in some way. I filter my privacy settings so that new friends are limited as to what they can see about me, until I know if am comfortable with them. I am visible only to friends, and it even makes it difficult for people I know to find me. This gives me the ability to be freer with what I say and my personality than I would be on a professional site, like LinkedIn.

smatteson
smatteson

I see some posts from people stating they don't use Facebook so they experience none of the problems this article describes. To me that's like saying "I never go out to eat, so I don't have to worry about food poisoning." True, but you also miss out on some nice meals. Facebook offers the ability to serve as a one-stop portal for information including what your friends and family are doing; news feeds; updates from musical groups you like, and other items. Yes, you can get these details individually but it would certainly be more time consuming. These benefits plus the rules I employ with Facebook make it a positive force for my social and technical life. The fact is that I've learned a lot about my friends and in-laws which I simply couldn't have done otherwise via individual phone calls and emails and it's strengthened my relationships in this manner. Rule #1: Only friend or accept friend requests from actual family/friends. I don't have anyone on my friend list that I wouldn't want there. I learned the hard way by accepting friend requests from people I barely knew, and in one memorable case a former co-worker of mine showed me the error in that by constantly posting melancholy complaints about how bad her life was. Defriended, and lesson learned (yes, this could happen with people you genuinely know/like but I find my actual family/friends to be a bit more grounded and upbeat - vetted, so to speak). Now if I receive a friend request from someone I don't know well, I ignore it. Case in point: I received one from someone I went to high school with over 20 years ago; a person I barely knew. I saw no real reason to accept the request. This is why I have 130 friends not 800+. Rule #2: Be careful about establishing Facebook connections with coworkers. As Rule #1 states, they should be actual friends, but even then tread carefully. What happens if you or they leave the company, perhaps under harsh circumstances? What happens if you post an update stating "My poor son has the stomach flu" and word gets out around the office that you might be a Typhoid Mary (granted, if you've been exposed to someone with a potentially contagious condition, you should take precautions to remain home if possible, but what if the circumstances are misconstrued and your child was sick while you were out of town, rendering you unaffected but still presumed diseased?) Rule #3: Don't post inappropriate details or items that might come back to haunt you. Bragging that I'm "so wasted at the Maroon 5 concert" might impress one or two of my buddies from my twenties, but probably not my wife, sister, mother, mother-in-law, coworkers, and other people I have different types of relationships with. You have to assume whatever you post will be forever visible. No complaints about the job. No political/religious opinions. No controversial items unless you enjoy dealing with the fallout. Rule #4: Don't post meaningless or boring information. Everyone on Facebook knows the person who just has to breathlessly tell the world they're "Drinking coffee and getting ready for work" or "Starving and hoping lunchtime comes soon!" If it's something most people would automatically agree with but offers no insight or remarkable content, skip it. It only renders you a boring blabbermouth that people will tune out. Personally, almost every post I write to Facebook contains humor or some interesting concept (at least I think it does). My persona is that of an IT Dad juggling work, marriage and kids, with a lot of stuff about zany things my youngest has done (but I don't overdo it, nor load it up with cloying "Aren't kids just so silly?" tripe). Rule #5: Ignore the applications, surveys, games, and other timewasters. Facebook is famous for this, but it has been getting better. You can hide the pointless Farmville/Mafia wars notices from friends and just don't use any of the applications or you can put your information/computer at risk. Ultimately, Facebook will give back what you put into it. If you use it improperly it will result in an unpleasant experience. If you are diligent in how you interact with it, the benefits can be very meaningful.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

I am pretty indiscriminate when it comes to Facebook friending. I use it to communicate with friends and family home and away, but also for networking with other musicians and people from Church. I also have coworkers from existing and prior positions. This all lends to some colorful personalities and diverse opinions and mindsets. :D

JamesRL
JamesRL

Actually I only joined FB reluctantly and not that long ago. I am careful. And I don't make friends of friends' friends if you know what I mean. I'd rather have a small number of friends than a large number of dimly remembered acquaintences.

Tim Heard
Tim Heard

I see Facebook as the site where family members are likely to post less than flattering photos of me as a kid, and a means of staying in touch with old high school friends, cousins, and others with whom I have been close (or at least known) in the past. I use LinkedIn for professional networking. There has been some bleed from one to the other, but I'm trying to hold firm. Have even created a "professional" Facebook profile for my company, for those that really want to connect with me on Facebook. In my opinion, an even more dangerous aspect of Facebook is the number of apps that the site allows and the alarming tendency for people to get their accounts hacked and send out malicious links.

pgbzr1
pgbzr1

Bravo!!! Excellent article... As an IT professional, I constantly try to educate (family, friends, etc..) about the potential consequences of social networking on the internet. These places are a breeding ground for viruses, scams, identity theft, etc... The personal information, pictures and content that people post makes me cringe.

DBOConnor
DBOConnor

I agree with you 100% Toni. I have one friend on facebook who had acquired over 1300 friends. I removed her afterwards. I couldn't understand how someone can keep up with so many people and still continue to make new friends each month.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Nice to hear a player acknowledge this, although that doesn't make F'ville unique.

Jaqui
Jaqui

You don't like my opinion or how I express it? Oh well, tell someone who cares, like your twits following you on "twit"ter

santeewelding
santeewelding

This is a young-person game; young and early in the game, upcoming, and having to always look up in order to see who "above" can shilt on who is below. The ladder is narrow and you can't jump out of the way. That's what "piss-cutters" were about. If you choose to do it that way.

NexS
NexS

Facebook whor3. Bahaha!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How'd you do it? I clicked to close mine at least twice, but when i check months later, it's still there. I'm hesitant to check again lest doing so indicate I've had second thouts and restart the timer.

boucaria
boucaria

I can see the attraction of the social networking sites for people who like to message to many people, but in the last 8 years, I have seen a multitude of sites across the world change radically. Also, in Aus, the impact of social networking sites is usually less of a problem than the sites in the US. I used the security features in the sites, and still people I never wanted to see or hear from again could look me up. Of course the biggest concern for these sites for me now-a-days is the impact on security of applications with the social networking sites, and the social networking sites fail all the standard security testing we have done to date. For a system that is used so commonly in the US, it has a very large impact for some people who use the social networking sites, even Linkedin which is mostly positive can have repurcussions of some types in the realms of the applications that I have to work with. Thankfully though, I have been put off of the social networking scene some time back. But my basic view is to each their own, however, I have seen many people live or die in a job interview because of social network site entries; it gets so bizarre.

Jaqui
Jaqui

"Facebook offers the ability to serve as a one-stop portal for information including what your friends and family are doing; news feeds; updates from musical groups you like, and other items." Lets see, don't follow any music groups activities. news, well for that I use the news service site. and I prefer face to face time with family and friends to catch up on their lives. it gives us something to talk about besides the news and weather. literally, social networking sites are only meant to disconnect you from those you would otherwise be with in person. or to connect you with those don't want to be around.

david.walker2
david.walker2

...that we who choose not to use FaceBook, et al are missing out on something. I disagree completely. And quoting your rules at us will not change my mind in the least. Cell phones may be a good thing. I just broke down and bought one after going 10 years without. BUT - I remember a time when people didn't drive down the road talking on the phone because they couldn't. Now I work with people who can't make it from the building lobby to their cars without calling someone, and then they drive blithely away, hand to the head, chatting all the while. That aspect of cell phones has not enhanced, has even detracted from, the driving experience for me, and for many others. So, while I see the potential usefulness of cell phones, I fail to see any redeeming features of "social networking" at all. In fact, many times social networking leads to social engineering or worse. And we all know that's a bad thing. You can socially engineer me if you can actually find me. And I'm okay with that.

rondadams
rondadams

I agree completely. FB, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. are all just tools. They can be used or abused just like anything else, it just depends on how YOU choose to use them.

PoconoChuck
PoconoChuck

Knowing potential recuriters managers, and HR folks Google applicants, I knew that eventually I would need an online presence. To that end I created a FB page which is, by comparison, dull by my people's standards. So it's there, but it doesn't have apps or the like. Ironically, I use it mostly to post links (like this one) to family and friends that deal with the hazards of social media.

mahf08085
mahf08085

Some people like to see the numbers, it makes them feel as if they are popular or somehow liked. On Facebook its really not about you talk to every person on a regular bases but when you join people you knew in your past come out of the woodworks, you may talk for a couple days but then someone else comes out and your attention turns to them or its that way for the other person. Personally I get lazy and every so often have to go and clean out the people I no longer talk too. I sit down in front of the screen and say ok 6 months...who havent I spoken a word too in 6 months...boom they go. If Im really on the ball I move to 3 months. But not all people do that, and thats why they wind up with 3000 people on their list. Its not realistic to be in contact with all of those people but because of work, life and or laziness they dont tend to the list. I thought you werent on FB Bri?

moborisn
moborisn

You know, Toni, if someone does post a comment to one of your FB posts, you can delete it. FB notifies me by email, so I always know immediately when someone posts a comment. As I've said before -- even though FB doesn't seem to get it -- in the modern era, FB is way to MAKE friends, not just hook up with people who are already friends. That's what makes it so cool to me, as an INFP, I make friends a lot better this way.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Similarly, some people think the number of folks following them on Twitter is an indication of their self-worth. In both cases, they don't realize most of those friends / followers are spammers and other scum they wouldn't talk to for two seconds in the grocery line.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I've been lurking is all. It's been very hectic at the office recently. I did contribute a new Geekend article this week!

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

I know people who have jobs, and spend more time playing Farmville than actually performing job functions. :p ;\

Jaqui
Jaqui

in the options when I looked at it. and I never went back afterwards.

smatteson
smatteson

Social engineering can occur in any venue; email, at the office, door-to-door visits from scammers, etc. To assume it is more prevalent among social networking doesn't change the fact the same tips to prevent this activity in other areas also apply in Facebook: use common sense, steer clear of strangers, reject the "something for nothing" gimmicks and keep your privacy settings optimal. I think your comments about cell phones made a good point, rather than showing them as not being analogous to social networking. Some people use them to act like jerks; others use them responsibly for a proven benefit that doesn't detract from others. No redeeming features of social networking? I've received useful parenting tips from friends, details about neighborhood goings-on, updates in the technology realm, advice on home repair, birthday greetings and job/consulting work offers. This last is a significant one as few jobs are found through traditional methods of answering newspaper ads or blindly sending out resumes. When I'm ready to seek new full-time employment elsewhere I am sure social networking will prove invaluable, and will give me an edge in finding employment over those who shun social networking. I think of a career in IT as not a rat race but a boat race - and whatever gives me the fastest engine, the most streamlined hull, and the least wind resistance is a welcome plus. That plus the fact social networking relies on and is tied into technical skills pretty much makes it a "must have" for me, to stay current and modern.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Who are your people, the cast of 'High School Musical'? NFL wide receivers? The TR editorial staff?

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Animate it and use the voice actors from Total Drama Island!

santeewelding
santeewelding

It's because of a word Michael used recently -- "savvy" -- where because of the "typeface" (font to you guys) I noticed that the two letters "v" come out looking just like "w". So, it's "whore" spelled "vvhore".

NexS
NexS

Facebook yourself. ;)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Santee just wants to show you how to do it properly. :0 What can I say I'm NICE. :^0 Col

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

it wasn't asterisked out for you is that you put it inside quotation marks. [ sticks out tongue ]

Jaqui
Jaqui

the email address attached to it isn't around any more. :D so it is useless.

smatteson
smatteson

Thanks for proving my point again. Anything of value to offer the discussion, or is it just easier to contibute infantile whining and moronic playground taunts? What immense value you must contribute to the organization lucky enough to employ you.

Ron K.
Ron K.

I can think of very few people, none that I don't know, where I'm going to spend more than a few moments reading their comments about a subject that is bull$hit anyway. Translation? F**k off!

smatteson
smatteson

All too many people are saddled with short attention spans and the inability to actually finish reading a sentence before... oh, never mind. Lost you already, I'm sure. ;-)

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

It may have been a typo. I surmise 'most' was implied. :p :)

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