Thursday, October 23, 2008

Would you friend your boss on Facebook?

I've been thinking about the differences between networking online (professionally, as on LinkedIn) and socializing online (as I do all the time on Facebook) lately, after looking at my Facebook profile and realizing that I'm Facebook Friends with several people from my office, but not with those with whom I work directly...

I was on Facebook the other night, scanning through my friends' status updates. I've declared my love of Facebook here before -- sometimes, it's the easiest way for me to reconnect with friends and extended family, and reading the Twitter-like mini-posts and shared news (or non-news) articles makes me feel a little more in-touch with the far-flung people in my life.

I generally try to keep Facebook for my friends and family and use LinkedIn for professional networking but, just as in real life, those two worlds collide from time to time.

Among my Facebook Friends' status updates was one from a colleague. Or, rather, from her husband, whom I've never actually met in real life and yet am friends with on Facebook. Their new baby had arrived over the weekend, hale and hearty, and the good wishes were pouring in.

I surfed over to my colleague's profile and added a "Congratulations!" to the growing list of posts on her wall. And then I took a peek at her Friends List. There were several familiar faces there... other colleagues, mostly, but also our boss.

Now, my boss is a good guy, but we're not buddies or anything. There's a definite hierarchy in our department, and he and I move in distinctly separate circles. Though we are networked on LinkedIn -- I asked him to be one of my connections there, and was grateful that he accepted -- I can't even imagine asking him to be my friend on Facebook (if he asked me, of course, I'd say yes. I'm skittish, not stupid).

Which made me wonder: Why am I comfortable asking my boss to network with me on LinkedIn but not on Facebook?

For starters, when it comes to people I know from the office, the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook is much like the difference between handing someone your business card versus handing him a scrap of paper with your name and number scribbled on it. There's a formality and a sense of professionalism on LinkedIn that I don't feel on Facebook. (Call me crazy, but any place where someone can lob a sheep at you just isn't that formal, in my book.)

Also, there's a difference between networking and socializing, I think. I don't have family photos on LinkedIn, I don't post one-sentence snippets about what I'm thinking there, I certainly don't log on and tell my LinkedIn contact list that my daughter is sick or I'm sleep deprived -- all things I feel fine about mentioning to my Facebook Friends. My LinkedIn profile is set to public -- anyone can see it. My Facebook profile? For friends' eyes only, thank you.

That said, you won't find me letting it all hang out on Facebook, either. Just as there's a difference between networking and socializing, there's a difference between socializing and airing my unmentionables in public. Whenever you post anything on the internet, your reputation is on the line, after all. Even if your boss isn't on your Friends List.
So, do you Facebook with your boss? And, if you're a boss, would you Facebook with your subordinates?

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