Friends Aren’t What They Used to Be: A Facebook Folly

When my daughter — who just crossed over into teenager territory — asked me how many friends I had, I was reminded of how things have changed.  Surely I have less friends, now that I am in my fourth decade. Yet by her definition I actually have more friends than ever. Just a second ago I confirmed that I was friends with someone who I didn’t even know. Friendship is a wonderful thing.  I plan to “un-friend” her just as I have “un-friended” many others who have entered my social network online and who, just like with my “real” friends, I really don’t need to know that they’re running to Starbucks to get a latte or that their dog just got his shots. By the way, I have been de-friended a few times online and it doesn’t feel so good.

I am a communicator at heart, and as the publisher of PR News, I advocate for honest, open and intelligent dialogue with the public.  But I am hearing from PR people that Facebook in particular has been both a blessing and curse. Corporate PR Directors are now friends with their direct reports. Agency heads are friending clients.  A media relations director at a nonprofit told me she just defriended her whole staff on Facebook because she “just didn’t want to see it all.”

So, it’s open for debate whether Facebook is good for us as business people. We know it’s not good for (or to) nursing moms, yet we know it’s fun and usually harmless to connect with old friends and classmates. And for industry colleagues, it’s great to have them as friends now, since it’s harder to connect in person these days.

But I would advise to think twice next time an employee of yours asks to be friends with you on Facebook.  Your relationship will take on a different nuance. Which brings me back to my daughter who asked if I wanted to be “friends” with her on Facebook.  We agreed that would not be a good idea, as I just don’t want to know it all. But she did give me her password to check in on her time and again.

What has been your “work” experience with Facebook? It’s time for some friendly discourse…

– Diane Schwartz

  • Meghan

    I recommend, if a co-worker or someone kind of “iffy” tries to friend you on Facebook and you want to be nice, approve but only offer them access to your “limited profile”. You can choose what they get to see instead of the other way around.

    At my first job, a new hire was announced and I immediately Facebooked her– she had very unprofessional pictures visible to the public (I wasn’t even her friend and I could see it). I sent my friend in her dept a message to kindly say “ooo I saw this stuff, you may want to remove” because I didn’t want her to get in trouble.

    People are looking, though, so we should always be aware!

  • Whitney

    The more friends the better. You only have to pay attention to the ones that are interesting. You can also add the Top Friends application to organize who you really want to focus on and show people who you consider closest to you.

  • diane schwartz

    These are great points. I’m noticing more people are organizing their “friends” into groups which is a nice way of differentiating relationship levels.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Daniel Durazo

    Perhaps I don’t see the point here.

    While facebook has the potential to take down the walls separating traditionally formal relationships, this can in fact only happen if BOTH friends constantly post the mundane (or not so mundane) details of their lives while pouring over the status updates of others.

    If you rarely post or read facebook, there is no issue. It’s also a non-issue if you are a self-editor and only read the updates about people you truly are interested in.


    Daniel Durazo

  • Sheila Graham

    I think it is better to be cautious and keep only those that you would actually be “friends” with in real life as “friends” on Facebook. I’m on Facebook mostly to share pictures of my children and keep connected with family who live overseas. I have recently become Facebook “friends” with three work colleagues who also have children – but we talk all the time at work about them anyways, so this saves me giving them updates or emailing them pics. I am not, and do not intend to be, “friends” with clients or work supervisors. And because my Facebook focus is my kids, my security is pretty tight. This isn’t junior high anymore and it actually isn’t about the number of “friends” you have!

  • matthew

    Depending on how you use Facebox (as I like to call it) it can be both a blessing and a curse. Professionals need to be aware of their online reputation and how to manage it. If you are posting sloppy drunk photos from the weekend and you have zero privacy settings you are probably unaware of your online reputation. Social networking and social media is changing the way we ‘know’ one another. For professionals it is important to be aware of these trends and the possible downsides. It is also important to build a positive online reputation as this can translate into the office.