SO, you wanna be my friend on Facebook because we met virtually on Linkedin and we follow each other on Twitter? More than likely, I’ll “ignore” your request. No hesitation required.
“Gasp! That is SO RUDE! How can you IGNORE people!”
Glad you asked. Here’s the deal: I use social media tools functionally. This means that I use Facebook for friends and some closer acquaintances, Linkedin for business connections and Twitter for research/social broadcasting to the masses that may care. In essence, I put boundaries around my use of these spaces. Yes, I put them in a box!
Why? Because I’m a realist. We all have personas and roles/different hats that we wear – employee, customer, friend, spouse, parent, child, neighbor, board member, etc, etc. How many of us can really be all things to all people all the time and feel comfortable? The research says very few of us. We need to be able to let down our hair with friends and not worry about colleagues who might use the facebook info for alterior purposes. We need to show a professional side when networking. It’s healthy to have boundaries. And it’s okay to say NO to those who want to (wittingly or unwittingly) breach those boundaries. (You can even say it nicely.)
I like my social interactions to be relatively clear. That said, here’s a few bullet points as to the advantages of using social media functionally as opposed to all mashed together.
- Allows for Authentic Communication. Let’s be real for a minute, here. Are you really gonna say what you think of work on Facebook if some of your not-really-friends-but-I-work-with-them colleagues are able to see it? Probably not. There’s too much to risk, whether from misinterpretation or dissemination of that info beyond Facebook or that it offends one of your colleagues for whatever reason. So, if you don’t have any colleagues as friends, and only your friends are your Facebook friends, you can communicate authentically with reduced risk. The same logic goes for people who have never really been your friends but now want to add you to their Facebook lists. Maybe they are being nosey and just want more info on you. Maybe they just want to add to their own army of friends for popularity sake. Maybe they are secret stalkers. Who knows? But more importantly, who cares? They are not really friends and may hamper your inclination to be real with those who really do care about you–which robs you of authentic socializing within your own circle! Bottom line: Only add real friends and then be real with them.
- You Save Face. What does that mean? Well, how many of your colleagues really care what you ate for dinner or that you are potty training your youngest or that you have a leak in your basement? These are a few of the mundane status updates that you might put into Facebook because your real friends will care–either because they are far away and it helps them keep up with you on a more daily basis or because they do keep up with you on a daily basis and these are the things you talk about. Your colleagues on the other hand, might think less of you–your larger than life work persona may shrink a bit in the translation from work to Facebook. The alternative? Keep connected with colleagues in environments that foster business type interactions such as networking and project development, brainstorming and the like. Add them to your Linkedin network and chatting with them via Twitter or another business community will allow you to still be SOCIAL with them, but not at the risk of TMI (too much information).
- Boundaries Keep You Healthy. All the social juggling that we are only beginning to do in this new social web of ours is only going to increase as the tools increase–and it’s mind frazzling! By using these tools functionally, you can keep your sanity, have real conversations, maintain your personas within your roles as employee/friend/spouse, etc, and enjoy yourself! And that, my friend, goes a long way toward maintaining mental health in a twitterspeed world.
A few people have criticized my Functional Social Media perspective, accusing me of being less authentic or less social and kind of a control freak, since you can’t really control who shows what to whom and why. To my critics, I say reread my benefits above, know that I am NOT advocating less social activity – I AM ADVOCATING FOR DIRECTED SOCIAL ACTIVITY, and that if this approach doesn’t appeal to you, don’t do it.
I will offer this prediction: more and more “niche” social media tools will debut in the next 3-5 years and I’m betting that they will be more functionally oriented…business style social media communities for project management collaboration, neighborhood and PTA type social media sites will pop up to help foster engagement in those areas and provide tools to assist, etc etc. There will be entertainment/reality show type social media tools and gameshow types of tools…all of this will allow us to be more social, but in niche oriented, directed ways. Just a prediction.
Final word: the next time you feel compelled to add a not-really-a-friend to your FRIEND list – stay strong, hold fast to those healthy boundaries and dare to say no to them. But hey, if they will increase your social capital at work, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn or follow you on Twitter. Keep it social, Keep it real, Keep it all FUNCTIONAL.