NEW YORK — Techtiquette answers your burning questions about the proper way to use technology in social situations.
My friend has a hard and fast rule about being friends with her co-workers on Facebook: Don’t do it, and maybe never do it, even if you or they leave the company.
I just graduated from college, and am in my first full-time job. Should I follow her advice? Or is it OK to be friends with them online? What about LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram?
To say you won’t connect with co-workers online is erring on the side of caution — especially if their opinion of you can impact your professional and financial life.
Bosses who follow certain employees and comment or like their posts on Twitter or Instagram can be accused of favoritism. Co-workers may fret over pictures from parties they weren’t invited to, adding nastiness to office politics. Secret job searches no longer stay secret if you publish a suspicious update to your LinkedIn profile.
There are real examples of people who have been fired because of social media posts too. Last year, a hospital worker in Houston was let go from her job after she published violent thoughts about Ferguson protesters on her Facebook page. In April, a veterinarian was fired from her job after she posted a photo of a stray cat she shot with an arrow.
Even if you’re careful about what you post, you can’t control what others do. A well-meaning friend can drag your personal details out of the shadows with just one tag. Strangers can call out your activities and land you in hot water.
Scary consequences aside, there can be many benefits to friending your co-workers on social media (as long as you stay vigilant about your behavior). Creating a personal bond outside of the office can build camaraderie quickly. And the longer you stay at a job, desk buddies, bosses and mentors can become some of your best friends, so keeping in touch online will become a natural extension of your relationships.
Ultimately, your decision should come down to two things: how you view your Facebook account and the specifics of your job.
Is Facebook a glorified phone book that you don’t really update? Do you see it as your personal fan club, where you try to friend as many people as possible and post as much stuff about your life as possible? Do you work for a small, casual company? Then adding coworkers probably doesn’t matter much.
But if your office mates aren’t people who would understand or appreciate your after-hours lifestyle, or if you prefer to keep a strict boundary between your work and personal life, then you have the perfect reasons to say no.
Got a burning tech etiquette question? Email Hope King at firstname.lastname@example.org.