Amsterdam Center for Social Media

There’s a fine, fine line between personal and professional

facebook and workBy Chei Billedo

With the risk of revealing too much private information that might have negative professional implications, many people are wary about adding colleagues on Facebook. However, the increasing ubiquity of Facebook makes it almost inevitable not to mix personal and professional aspects of our lives. How do you respond to a Facebook friend request from a colleague? Do you accept, reject or ignore? If you accept a colleague’s Facebook friend request, how do you manage your posts?

A study done by Frampton and Child (2013) gives us an idea of how people react to a colleague’s Facebook friend request and how they manage private information on Facebook when they do add a colleague. Their results show that the most common response to coworker Facebook friend requests is to accept them as opposed to leaving them in limbo or rejecting them. So, if most people accept co-worker Facebook friend requests, it is a wonder how they manage private information revealed on Facebook. Do they make changes on their Facebook account to protect private information (e.g. change privacy settings, delete previous posts)? According to the same study, majority of the participants are less likely to modify their privacy rules after handling a colleague’s Facebook friend request. Meaning, they do not change their privacy settings nor do they delete previous Facebook posts after including a colleague in their contact list.

Additionally, Frampton and Child (2013), found several factors that increase the likelihood of people accepting a colleague’s Facebook friend request. These are organizational, personal and interpersonal factors such as: 1) when their organization privacy orientation encourages more openness among colleagues; 2) when they are more open with disclosure and privacy management practices on Facebook; and 3) when they experience high levels of coworker communication satisfaction.

All in all, this research tells us that personal and professional lives are becoming more intertwined via social media. This brings up speculations about how this could impact our social and professional lives, and our organizations. On the one hand, Facebook is a social space that could provide opportunities for greater collegiality. On the other hand, it can be a source of privacy issues and conflicts among colleagues. It can also be a source of threat to organizational privacy and reputation. In this day and age, treading the fine line between personal and professional lives on Facebook is something that working professionals have to learn and master.

Frampton, B.D., & Church, J.T. (2013). Friend or not to friend: Coworker Facebook friend requests as an application of communication privacy management theory. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, (2257-2264). doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.05.006

Picture taken from www.someecards.com


Category: Facebook, Social media, Uncategorized


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