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Social Media – Personal vs Professional

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I’m a bit out of synch with social media and have entirely out-dated notions about personal vs professional spaces.

For me, Facebook is a personal space to share what I chose with friends. As in ACTUAL friends. As in people I really do honestly KNOW. As in really have MET at some point in our lives.

Not random strangers who happen to have at least one common connect (necessary to find me on FB) and a bizarre notion we can ‘make friends.’ For the unfamiliar, that is code for “I expect to get my jollies by chatting you up as after all… you are a loose ‘white’ woman.” (Oh and the ‘white’ part only enhances the sleaze factor, lovely desi ladies are not immune to such unwanted attentions).

Whereas for me, LinkedIn is a professional space where I’m happy to keep connected with those I’ve met professionally. Ideally we’ve worked together directly. If not, we have at least met in a professional context or there is a rationale for keeping abreast of each others professional developments. The bonus about LinkedIn is it doesn’t seem to be the horny stalker social medium of choice – yeah!

Sure the lines between professional and personal are blurred. It is perfectly natural to meet interesting professionals along the way and become friends. Just as some friends share professional interests.

Carissa Hickling LinkedIn

Professional is Professional

As I try to keep LinkedIn to REAL connects, if I receive an invite and do not have an instant ‘Aha!’ based on name, photo and work history, I generally reach out to confess my poor memory and ask clarification of the connect.

Often this is ignored. Sometimes I get interesting responses. A lot are in fact random with no real merit aside from complete strangers somehow imagining I can land them their dream job! A few are real connects and I am more than delighted to have my defective synapses jogged and reconnect with folks I’ve met along a 25+ year professional journey!

I’ve also amusingly learned that name alone is not sufficient! I know far too many people with the exact same name – seriously. I’ve even had my phone merge two CEOs into one contact as they share names. And call one when I meant to call the other!? Thankfully they are both gents, in the same industry, so aware of each other and laugh it off.


Professional to Personal

Years ago, the first time I received a Facebook invitation from an ex boss, I ignored it for at least six months. It thought highly of him, felt comfortable with his seeing the more personal side of my life but I struggled with a very North American notion of the personal vs professional divide.

As I’ve stepped outside of the regular corporate space, have enjoyed watching the lines between professional and personal increasingly blur. I’ve shared that my annual update embraces both sides and that I receive some amazing responses. I’ve also opened up with this blog and am a lot less fussy about such personal / professional distinctions.

However recently I’ve had a spat of FB requests from people with vaguely familiar names that I just could not place. So I started to adopt my LinkedIn practise and send a brief message requesting help to remind me of how we know each other.

In most cases, the responses reveal some distant professional connects. As in we briefly met in a professional setting like 10 years or more ago?! As in once… maybe… Or heard me speak… Or some friend of a friend who worked in the same organisation I did mentioned me at some point… you get the picture.

I find this puzzling. Why not track me down on LinkedIn? Why, if we are already on LinkedIn, are these folks waking up a decade later to connect on FB when we – let’s be fair – barely know each other?

Am I the odd one out actually thinking FB ‘friends’  should actually be ‘friends’ or at least social acquaintances??

Denzil Smith Official

Personal to Professional

My partner is the opposite to me in the FB vs LinkedIn equation. He often gets FB messages for work related assignments. FB for him has become a professional medium. I cajoled him into opening a LinkedIn account and he zoomed to over 500+ connects in days! Yet he barely uses it and needs to be prodded to post notices there.

He also has lively and often very entertaining twitter exchanges. He enjoys poking fun at various absurdities and gets a reaction too! Yet with twitter he carefully choses who he follows whereas my twitter handle is mostly for this blog, so I’m happy to follow folks with common interests without actually knowing each other!

However my partner has a different challenge. He is ‘known’ and so daily gets a barrage of FB requests. He’s run the gamut from ignoring completely to, more recently, obsessing over gently redirecting to his official FB page. He is perilously close to FB limit for a personal page and for 95% of the recent requests, that’s where the connect belongs. What provokes him is after her takes the trouble to redirect and delete the personal page request, the same person pops up again on the personal page begging ‘Sir! Please Sir! Accept my friend request Sir ji!!’

He also has ‘look alike’ FB pages – using his name, photos but are not actually run by him. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the random ‘Sir ji!’ requests went there to disappear into a social media black hole??

Sure, I know anything you put ‘out there’ becomes public domain to some degree or the other. However isn’t Facebook supposed to be for friends? And LinkedIn for professional connects? Or am I just an old social media ‘fuddy duddy’ thinking there should be some kind of actual connect?

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  1. When I started reading the post, I thought it was me writing! I too am of the school which believes my Facebook friends should be people I actually know and those who are professional acquaintances belong in LinkedIn. However, in the initial days of the Facebook euphoria, I made the mistake of accepting professional ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely here) on FB, but lessons learnt now and I try to restrict FB to people I know in the real world!

  2. Karolyn Cooper says:

    I just looked at the list of my Facebook friends, and I’ve met them all in a social context, not professional. Don’t tell them, but there are some “friends” who could walk in here now, and I wouldn’t recognise them. We were all in groups (sporting, studying) where everyone became FB friends. Then the groups disbanded, we scattered across the world, and I can hardly remember some people.

    • Oh I have one FB friend that knows my partner well, we regularly meet at social events and I’m blank every single time. And she calls me on it too! (my head hangs in shame). I’m just terrible…

      I do understand your point about FB friends – meet a couple times in one context and then lives or locations change and near impossible to recall the original context!

      That’s what I like about LinkedIn – you can make your own ‘memory cue’ points so you don’t look like such an idiot when reconnecting.

  3. I felt the same way for a long time – in fact I was so private that I didn’t even want a fb account for many years until I was made to get one after the birth of my daughter to appease those long-distance relatives and friends who all wanted a glimpse of the baby.
    I still never post anything very personal on fb and find the whole social media circus of people’s personal lives wholly unsavoury. I don’t care what anyone has had for their dinner and when you get those posts from people who have had an argument and are using social media to air their dirty laundry it actively winds me up – social media is responsible for making many grown men and women behave like they are still in a school playground and don’t even get me started on the narcissistic stream of ‘selfless’ (doesn’t the word make you cringe?!)” It worries me what social media will do to the next generation!
    More recently however I have found myself using fb and twitter as an admin for my company work page and sharing every post and tweet and update on all my personal social media and encouraging all the team in the office to do so also as a pure marketing tactic. It seems to make it seem OK not to know every person on my friends list so well and even to make ‘virtual friends’ who turn out to become friends in real life later down the line.
    I have definitely had my fair share of men mistaking fb for shaadi.com and wanting to become my ‘friend’ and the strange stalky creepy types. However, one case of a mistaken identity and a few mutual friends to confuse matters further, actually led rather wonderfully to love. Apparently it’s quite normal nowadays to meet your life partner on the net and not just through the traditional dating website medium. Funny old thing the internet!

    • I completely put my foot in it at a cousins wedding when my sister and I were dissing meeting partners through online / dating services. Turns out the very wedding we were attending was such an example! And two other cousins at the table – eek!? All so far from all appearance happily married. If I can accept arranged marriages in India, why not the modern avatar in Canada?

      As for airing private laundry publicly, I’m completely with you on that. Especially painful if mental illness is involved… as is the case for a dear friend’s partner who had a rather public meltdown.

      Have no doubt you have encountered your fair share of the ‘friendly’ creepy stalker types.

      However those that are genuinely connected to your ‘real’ friendship circle have the possibilities of being interesting folks you will eventually meet one of these fine days. If that turns into something more…?? 😉

  4. NancyTex says:

    I could not agree with you more, re: Facebook. Initially I shunned the idea of having any professional connections on FB, but eventually relented when I realized the lines are sometimes blurred. Still, I’m not confused about the intent of LinkedIn (which I use heavily) versus FB.

    I’ve seen the phenomenon you mention with your partner: where people use FB the way I use LinkedIn. I think that situation primarily plays in professions that service individuals versus businesses. i.e. Many friends I have who are realtors, hair dressers, artists, etc. use FB exactly as I would use LinkedIn. I guess I get it, but it does strike me as odd that anyone would want professional connections to get such an intimate look at their ‘real’ life. I do know of some who create two FB profiles: Sam Smith (personal page) and then Sam Smith – Hair (professional page) — and, that make sense to me. Separate church and state, so to speak.

    My conundrum more recently is that my Twitter account was primarily used for personal and blog stuff these past 2+ years, but had carry over/residual professional contacts from my last role with Microsoft. When I joined my current company, I didnt’ want to have to rebuild twitter followers (or to have to manage two twitter accounts) so I’ve just adopted it for work use. However, that means I now self-censor, knowing that business contacts are reading/watching everything I do. I even have to rethink blog post titles, for fear they might offend (since my Twitter is linked to my blog). As much as I hate the idea of having to juggle two accounts, I may need to do that.

    • Ah… I’m terribly inept at twitter! Hope you don’t need two account. I recently created a ‘WhiskyLadyIN’ twitter handle to keep my whisky stuff separate from EverdayAsia blog stuff. I don’t hashtag or do any of what you are supposed to do as its – like twitter used to be for you – primarily just to share blog posts.

      For those in creative fields – LinkedIn seems to be foreign territory – whereas FB is ‘home turf’ for work related stuff.

      What I don’t get is why I feel so rude declining on FB some random 5 min professional encounter from 10 years? Heck if they contacted me on LinkedIn and I vaguely recalled or they could help remind, I’d be fine.

      Yup – clearly fuddy duddy. 😉

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