Unfriending Friends on Facebook

Posted by dwallace on August 9, 2010 in Facebook |

Are you friends with your “work-friends” on Facebook? My guess is that you probably are, or at least have been in the past. If you are in the second group, then you’ve probably had some problems and decided to delete your work-friends. If you’re not in that group and you still have all your work-friends as FB friends, then you might want to start thinking about separating your private life and work life before trouble begins.

Let me start off by saying, I like keeping in touch with my friends. I’m the kind of guy who picks up the phone and calls someone if I haven’t heard from them in a month or two to see what’s going on with them. But now technology is making that unnecessary—or is it?

I’ve been on Facebook for about three years now, collecting a little over 250 friends that I actually know and talk to. I refuse to accept random people who try to friend me just to have more friends. My rule is, I really have to know you for me to accept you as my Facebook friend.

It’s been interesting to watch the Facebook explosion. The service has been around for five years this year. I was invited to join in 2005 but didn’t because I had finally joined MySpace and was just getting used to that. My friends from college kept inviting me to join Facebook and telling me why they thought it was better. Most of those friends had graduated six years earlier from college and they all lived overseas, I decided to join so I could keep in touch with them. I, like everyone else who joins Facebook, began having people pop back into my life that I haven’t seen or thought of in years.

I grew up in Hawaii and am now living in St. Louis. Most of my high school friends still live in Hawaii, so I was pleasantly surprised when Facebook turned into a high school reunion. It was nice to see that my friend was still teaching and it was surprising to learn that my other friend now owns the largest real estate company on the island. I was also shocked to learn that one of the biggest jocks in the school was now a nurse. All these kind of discoveries were the things I loved about Facebook.

Then weird things started happening. A couple years after being on Facebook my mom joined and friended me. It took my three days to accept her. I really wanted to say what I thought and not have it scrutinized by my mom. But I accepted her friend request and sent her a lengthy email on FB etiquette and a warning not to be writing motherly-advice on my wall. Then my grandma joined.

One by one my family found Facebook—my Grandma, my ultra-conservative aunt, cousins who I only talk to at family reunions, and finally co-workers. And it’s the last group that makes life a little more complicated.

At first I accepted co-workers, who I thought of as real friends, as “friends” on Facebook. Then people who I never hung out with outside of work began asking me to be FB friends, which I accepted them too. Then supervisors started asking. I begrudgingly accepted them as well, but I knew I need to watch what I said about work.

I have a built in censor since my mom and Grandma are friends with me, but that doesn’t mean other people do. People say things on Facebook that if their employers read it, they would get fired, and this is what almost happened to my friend. She had made an off-handed comment, someone didn’t like it and reported her. She had to stand in front of the Director and Assistant Director and explain herself. She didn’t get fired, but she did erase her account the same day.

It took me about two days to follow suit. I put out a status update that said, “Don’t think I should be mixing business and pleasure,” and the next day wacked 35 co-workers from my list.

I did make sure to go around and tell almost everyone why I deleted them from my list and I also made sure my real friends had my phone number. No longer would my quips and quibbles be a spectacle for the workplace. I’m not saying you have to do what I did, but if you do decide to keep your work-friends as your friends on Facebook, remember you could be the one standing on the red carpet in front of your boss and explaining what you meant by, “My boss sucks cow balls.”

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