Is my professional life starting to cross over into my Facebook life?

by Jeff Hilimire on July 23, 2010

Facebook has always been where I connect with my friends and family.  It’s where I share pics of my kids and stories about my vacations.  I’ve tried to keep a fine line between my professional life and my “Facebook” life.  I’ve tried to use Twitter and LinkedIn for “work”.  But I noticed something the other day that made me realize I’m starting to blend the two more than I thought.

Looking at my News Feed as a barometer, I saw the following (and I bolded the “work”-related updates):

~ 7 minutes ago: Business contact posted about a marketing conference he was attending

~ 8 minutes ago: Mashable posted a new article

~ 12 minutes ago: My cousin posted something about Sea Turtles

~ 12 minutes ago: Business contact attending a social media conference

~ 13 minutes ago: Another Mashable article

~ 28 minutes ago: Family member pointing out how much they miss another family member

~ 30 minutes ago: Message from the American Heart Association

~ 32 minutes ago: Friend/Co-worker posted a Seinfeld video (Serenity Now)

~ 33 minutes ago: Co-worker just arrived in Atlanta

~ 45 minutes ago: Business contact just got to the gym

~ 46 minutes ago: Business contact again saying they are at a social media conference

~ 49 minutes ago: Friend excited about tomorrow night

~ 56 minutes ago: Business contact posting pics of some kind of airplane or something

That’s 9 out of 13 (69%) that were work-related Facebook updates.  If you had asked me before I did this exercise I would have guessed maybe 20% would have been work-related.  Granted, I could take this same snapshot at another point in time and probably get very different results, but this still shows a movement toward work and home/friends crossing over that I didn’t expect to happen.

I’m wondering if other people are experiencing this same thing?

  • Josh Martin

    You're not alone. I was mentioning to someone the other day that I have to search for content from my friends and family within my news feed because it's covered with content from brands. Granted, I may be more fans of brands than others, but this is a concern I have for Facebook as brands are flocking to Facebook as a marketing channel. I actually stay connected to my close friends/family through more micro-blogs like Posterous and Tumblr than via Facebook.

  • David Burke

    About two months ago, i made a huge purge on face book of friends, really slimmed it down to family, old friends who i no longer live close to but want to keep in touch, and my immediate friends who i talk to outside of face book already. no work peeps, no old college guy who i said hi to once, etc. (sorry to everyone on this post ;) ). it was getting to the point where it felt like it was all office talk. I also did the same with the brands. I'm not a big music guy, but have found that posts by the artists i follow seem to still be enjoyable. Like Josh, i also tend to follow close friends through other channels.

  • Meredith

    I suppose it depends on your industry, but as a member of the meetings and events world (broader hospitality industry), I had to long ago let go of the separation. Well over 50% of my “friends” on FB are actually work peers and FB is a great source of networking and research information.

  • Tom Harris

    To me, this is Facebook at its best… as long as everybody comes to the party with the right spirit.

    By that, I mean I expect Facebook conversation to be casual and personal, like a social gathering. Discussing business or work or hearing from co-workers doesn't bother me a bit, but it seems out of place when somebody takes the tone of a business meeting or uses FB purely as a platform for their own work objectives (connecting to somebody on Facebook explicitly to get a job, say). It seems inappropriate, in the same way giving a PowerPoint presentation at a cook-out would seem inappropriate.

    In other words, I really enjoy the wide mix of people and the wide mix of subjects on Facebook (how cool is it to be at a social gathering where your kindergarten friend shows up right next to your boss?), but I prefer everybody keeps it relaxed and personal. Let's not hand out business cards on Facebook. That's what LinkedIn is for.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Yep, I think that's the norm for people “our age” :) Wondering though if younger people are more comfortable mixing those worlds?

  • David Burke

    Our age? would you like to step outside? :) There is certainly a different cultural norm as the millennials (is that what they are called) are entering the workforce in terms of what they share, etc. <puts on grandpa pants> but i suppose when i was there age, we didn't have the opportunity to do so in the same medium.

    I had an interesting discussion on FB the other day with someone who didn't see the value of Linked In since they do all there networking through Face book. She was a post doc PHD. She seemed to feel like there was nothing wrong with her worlds mixing. I maintained that i get a different reach through Linked In, by its nature, that through FB.

  • @KathleneHestir

    The majority of my Facebook friends are people I met in school (I've only been out of school a year) so that ratio will probably change over time. It's funny how many of them talk about their jobs though, whether it's teaching, banking, police work, promoting clubs or talking about how to raise kids.

    I’m sure I’m more comfortable than most about adding work friends on Facebook – because we work in a field that thrives on networking. On the other hand, my friends that are teachers are terrified to add any of their students or coworkers because they could get fired in a second over something stupid. So I really think it depends on the type of job you have.

    Oh and if we're talking about fan page messages in my feed – yes I am completely spammed out, but that's just how we do it in DIG:)

  • Greg H

    Maybe it is a generational thing,

  • Greg H

    Maybe it's a generational thing, but my approach is similar to the one Jeff describes as his original plan. I try to keep my Facebook life separate from my Twitter one. The few coworkers who slipped into my Facebook network are all on limited profile, and very few of my friends follow my Twitter account. I suppose LinkedIn is the Great Melting Pot, but that's because when it comes to job searches, I want to help and be helped by as wide a range of people as possible. Also, I'm not using LI to post anything that I wouldn't want anyone in either world seeing.

    As I see it, I do a lot of things differently in the office compared to in my personal life: I dress differently, I'm more likely to avoid certain topics in conversation (politics, relationships), and I spend most of my day focusing on things that my outside friends don't care about. So why shouldn't that extend to online?

    My guess is that if your too lives are merging online, it's probably a reflection of what's happening offline as well. If you hang out with coworkers, if you spend lots of your free time talking about your job, if the way you act in both settings is fairly similar, then it makes perfect sense that your various personas will start to bleed into each other.

  • Joe Koufman

    For those of us who intentionally don't create a line between our personal and professional lives, t his is no big deal.

  • Joe Koufman

    Please stop reading my diary, Greg.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    I think that's well put, Tom. I'd add that it'd be equally weird to have your boss at your cookout in the first place if that's not the type of relationship you have with him/her. Yet, by friending all your business contacts you'll end up sending them photos of your cookout, your family vacation, your thoughts and feelings about the series finale of Lost… things you normally wouldn't share with them, but because its a simple click to be “friends” with them, you move into a relationship like that.

    Or you do as Greg points out below and give them a limited profile view, which is a little awkward isn't it? “I'll be friends with you, but only when it comes to my status updates and my basic info. But you're not going to see my photos and stuff, that's over the line”.

  • Tom Harris

    Great point — the “one size fits all” friendship introduces some major challenges, and so does overtly segmenting your friends.

    Another possible consequence: Given the business contacts on your friends list, you end up self-censoring to the point you're not really sharing anything. I'll admit I rarely say anything especially personal on Facebook, given the mixed crowd.

    One possibility for Facebook is to add a simple “who can see this?” selector on the individual post level. So, instead of making a global decision about who can see what category of content (as on Facebook today), users could (discreetly) divide their friends into groups and decide what group they want to reach with each individual status update, photo album, etc. You'd decide who you're talking to, just like we all do offline. The blogging site does something like this. You can choose to share any individual post with everybody (public), your friends and family, or just your family.

    It would need to be transparent to your friends, so they don't know what friends grouping they're in. Too complicated? Too much like Junior High?

  • David Burke

    Tom- facebook has this ability. You can create groups, and when you go to share, you pick the group you want to share to. i found though, that you have to be incredibly proactive with the management of your groups for this to be effective.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    True but I like where Tom is going. Would be cool to have 10 photos in an album and literally pick the one that is racy and flag it only for your close friends, but have the rest of the photos be open to your entire friend list.

    Flagging individual items would be a great feature.

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