Social Network Friending – Proceed With Caution

My brother’s bachelor party was in Las Vegas this weekend and as I could expect, there was pretty much a play by play of the whole trip documented on Facebook.  As his older sister, I can say that there were many details exposed which I really just didn’t need to know about!  It got me thinking – who else does he have as a friend on Facebook that also received hourly bachelor party updates?  My Mom has just learned how to use “The Facebook” as she calls it, so surely she saw the updates.  What about his co-workers?  Boss?  Future in-laws?  I love my brother, but something tells me he failed to remember that of his 500+ friends on Facebook, he may not have wanted ALL of them to get the dish on his last weekend as a bachelor.

Privacy features aside, I think that most of us lose track of who we friend/fan/connect with across the various social networks we manage.  We forget that certain messages meant to impress one crowd may not be received well by others.  Your boss might not find it funny that you faked being sick to go to the beach.  Your current boyfriend may not enjoy seeing wall posts between you and your ex.   Your parents aren’t necessarily going to like the fact that you are hung over from one too many drinks.   So while it may seem fun at the time, it’s not always the best strategy to universally add all contacts across all social networks.  There’s a time and place for each one depending on what role they play in your life.

Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz, editors of the CNN column, “Netiquette,” help to clear up the social protocols and etiquette behind adding Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Linkedin connections and Foursquare stalkers (I mean friends).  The scenarios below outline when it is appropriate to add someone to a particular social network (and how) so that you can avoid sharing too much information with the wrong person:

Situation No. 1: You make a legit business contact at a network event (before spilling your drink on an intern). You arrive home, business card clutched in your damp, shaking hand.

Do you add them on …?

LinkedIn: Go for it. This social networking site is basically a digital Rolodex. Although you might not have a pressing reason to e-mail this contact the day after meeting him, adding him on LinkedIn reminds him that you exist in case he, too, got sloshed at said networking event.

Twitter: Proceed with caution. Dunbar’s Number claims that we can be friends with only 150 people at a time, a concept that applies to social networks: If Joe Business has 50 Twitter followers, they’re probably all inner-circle; if he has 150 or more, he probably views Twitter as a business tool.

Facebook: In most cases, hell, no. Unless homeboy has more than 1,000 friends. But then you have to ask yourself if you want to associate with what is commonly known as a “friend whore.”

Foursquare: Um. Does a potential employer need to know you’ve unlocked the “Crunked” badge?

Situation No. 2: You make a new friend! Yay! Friends are life’s gifts! Or something. Whatever.

LinkedIn: Hell, no. No one likes to make a new bud, only to discover that he was being “networked” all along.

Twitter: Proceed with caution. It’s fine to keep up with your buds on this microblogging site, but we suggest hanging out with your new bro three or four times before getting all up in his lifestream. Unless you’re an agoraphobe, and then you’re on your own (literally).

Facebook: Go for it. Everyone knows you’re not really friends until Facebook says so.

Foursquare: Proceed with caution. After you hang out (shoot for three times in a month), it’s OK to add someone on this location-based tool. While your new bud might not be the first person you text when embarking on a night out, your respective groups might be keen to hook up along the way via nearby check-ins. It’s the equivalent of a late-night “What are you up to?” text.

Situation No. 3: You’re perusing the stacks at your local used bookstore when you brush hands with a dark-eyed dreamboat. She’s a doctor. You enjoy being stethoscoped.

LinkedIn: Hell, no. However, feel free to check the suitor’s LinkedIn profile to ensure that she is not a dirty liar.

Twitter: Hell, no. You don’t need to follow someone on Twitter to read her tweets (unless they’re protected, in which case, what is she hiding?). Snoop silently for now.

Facebook: Proceed with caution. Facebook friending someone you’re dating fuels angst: Who’s that dude on her wall? Why does she have time to change her status but no time to text me back? And the web-wide “like” button thing — really, she “likes” this cat video from Inevitably, however, your date will friend you, and you must accept. Welcome to the beginning of the end.

Foursquare: Excuse me while I have a patronizing laughing fit. How many “serendipitous” check-ins until you get your “Stalker” badge?

Lesson to be learned – take caution when adding individuals to your social networks, frequently manage your contacts (someone who was once Facebook worthy may one day evolve into a Linkedin only connection) and stay cognizant of the messages you communicate to each group.  After all – what happens on Facebook doesn’t always stay on Facebook!



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