Proper Facebook Etiquette

#306 WorkFace

Monday 28th January, 2008

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I work in a respectable and high-powered job. My profile on Facebook was just for friends, but now work is here too and I don’t want a respectable bank seeing we was smashed again last night! Suppose I could check the privacy thing but then they wont see what a great guy I am. So should I make up a face for employers?

By and large Facebook can be said to about boundaries. Boundaries that are put in place around the self that is profiled, and to some extent ‘protected’ by the provision of privacy settings, so Google cannot snag you, and by the kind of profile page that ‘friends’ have access to. It is because of these kinds of social positioning that makes social networks so dynamic and interesting and also adds to their appeal. Where else can you ‘friend’ you boss and your ‘real’ best friend all in the same place and at the same time. Just do not let both have access to you more exposed pictures, or looser notes and shares.

These kinds of activities are beginning to merge work and social lives, to direct previously separated relationships and re-define social boundaries. At one point these social actions work off previously set relationships that were locked into certain circles of contact and physical locations. The transference of offline relationships online now offers up a meeting point for friends, family and work colleagues alike. And all achieved without any necessary direction.

Facebook’s own criterion for circumnavigating the social hierarchy is getting better. Far from sophisticated the privacy setting does offer some ‘privacy’ between ‘limited profile’ and ‘block user’. However, this is not fool-proof, in that a user can always create another profile and attempt to re-friend and re-connect whilst as a ‘new’ persona. Moreover, it takes a certain kind of individual to be lucid and aware at all times to whom they are broadcasting their latest status update and who is/n’t on the limited or block lists. This never the less strengthens the cultural experience of ‘being in touch’ and seen to have busy and exciting lives. A profile page on Facebook does not just indicate ‘hey this is who I am’; it is also indicative of a kind of lifestyle and ‘fun’ that is shown to take place.

I cannot imagine that the concerns about work colleagues seeing your profile would be the same if you were seen to lead a ‘boring’ Facelife. So this is about manipulation and fronting. Exciting and perhaps more risqué activities offer up a ‘hey I’m fun, look at the fun I’m having’ image. From an employers perspective they are also evidence of what could be ‘lively’ and therefore interpreted as ‘risky’ behaviour. Obvious solution; limited profile list. No-one gets hurt this way. Plus if you manoeuvre things so that select people i.e. ‘friends’ at work (and on Facebook) can see some updates that this can penetrate the office in a way that is socially acceptable and raises your ‘exciting’ social profile. Kind of the new equivalent of the source of office gossip.

When you create just a ‘work’ profile you run the danger of being:

  1. Seen as a bit of an ‘old fart’
  2. The other extreme, you’re so ‘exciting’ you need 2 profiles!
  3. You have 2 profiles, pretentious
  4. You have 2 profiles, you neglect one, everyone thinks you’re boring again, and you ‘friend’ only those on one profile anyway. So back to square one.

Another risk with a ‘work’ and ‘play’ set of profiles is that there is contradictory information across the two, fine when you can really separate work and social life, but more tricky manoeuvring is required if one says ‘look at me I’m in France!’, and the other ‘hard at work on Report X’.

From personal experience it is good to standardise your profile page. Think of this like your outer self, much as that is ‘standardised’, i.e. the same face of you interacts with friends, family and work. Then it is what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, or rather the image file uploaded, wall posts, groups joined etc that define, or say a bit about who you are.

Also who on earth has time for two profile pages? Is not one enough?

5 Responses to “#306 WorkFace”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have 3 profiles
    One left behind on mysapce – which i don’t use much now
    One on some new site I cant remember what as did it on parents home pc
    One facebook which I can’t keep off!!!!!!!!!

  2. Miss Maz Hardey says:

    @ Imran,

    It’s funny that the complex human side of relationships that we choose to share and ‘tag’, become so one dimensional on what is (and should be) a very sophisticated social platform. Hey just look at some of the api’s on Facebook; social graph maps my friends, (kiind of) Friend Whell makes them all look pretty and yet the shared discrepencies, or otherwise are lost amongst the noise and colour of pretty pictures and social rankings.

    Imran work your magic and cultivate an applcation that takes these relationship connectors to a new and more sophisticated level!

    But only i can be labelled as one of your ‘best friends’ hmmm!


  3. Imran Ali says:

    There are other approaches too…one of the things that Google’s OpenSocial *should* be addressing (but isn’t) is the notion of multidimensional relationships edges on the social graph.

    Right now a service like Facebook enables me to ‘tag’ relationship with another user, but doesn’t allow me to use that descriptor smartly.

    Why can’t I assert that a certain bunch of items are to be shared with people I’ve tagged as ‘Colleagues’ & ‘Friends’, but not ‘Family’.

    LOL, actually that infrastructure was what I spent 2004-06 working on in Orange!

  4. Miss Maz Hardey says:

    @ Jumper,

    a resounding and very sensible way to approach social networking. Things only get ‘messier’ when you cross into the work and friends ‘friends’ categories…

    as for full and fool, oh the irony huh! 😀

    duly noted and corrected. Damn typing on trains! 😛

  5. Jumper says:

    Big issue. I run two profiles on different network sites for this very reason. I get into dangerous sports and there has been debate amongst us that it we shove this activity onto a public profile not all employers would be too happy and I would not want my insurance company to see what I got up to! So it is two profiles for me – but I do use the friend one rather more. BTY do you mean fool proof – not full proof?

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