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Recently, I discovered some “dirty truths” about Facebook that I found somewhat disturbing, even though the situation can probably be explained with personal and cultural differences. Nevertheless, I find the practice offensive.

 

In a nutshell, it’s become more and more popular for people to create “levels” or “castes” of Facebook friends who they give different “access rights” to content on their FB pages.

 

If you are not familiar with Facebook lists, here is a quick tutorial. This feature allows you to create lists of “friends” and to then limit their access to your Facebook content through settings in the profile area.

 

Quite some time back, Jeremiah Owyang wrote a block about what to do if your boss wants to be friends with you on FB. There seemed to be a moral dilemma to tell your boss if you’d like to keep your private life separate, that is, you don’t want him to be friends with you on FB.  Coming from German decent (we are very direct), I found this hard to relate to. My believe is that if I can’t tell my boss that I don’t want to share my private life with him, I should probably be looking for a new gig.

I am personally confused by the need to segment your “friends”. Obviously, Facebook is a semi-public tool. For one, very few people trust Facebook security and (should have) consequently have made peace with the possibility that the information they share might end up on Google one day. Second, if you are not limiting your FB page access to close family or your closest circle of friends (most people I know don’t), you are already customizing your postings to sanitize them. Let’s face it FB is a conversation with many people at the same time, and some reputation management is required. If you want a private conversation, pick up the phone or meet in person.

 

 

My FB strategy subscribes to the Malcom Gladwell philosophy, that it’s good to not just have “A” and “B” contacts but also stay in touch with “C” and “D” contacts. For example, once you set out to find a new job, your “C” and “D” contacts are much more likely to provide new leads, than your “A” and “B” contacts who you are constantly in close connections with already. You also find out a lot of great information from people in your wider network, stuff you’d not learn from your closest friends. It’s a big world out there and fun to get access to other people’s worlds/lives. Voyeurism is part of FB, be honest.

 

My rules are simple: I have to know and like you (this means we’ve at least spoken, ideally met but not mandatory); I consider you as a person with enough common sense to not write something embarrassing or stupid about me; I assume you are interested in what I share on FB and I would like to know more about you.

 

Obviously, my philosophy is not shared by everybody and I was almost shocked to recently learn that it is very common to segment your friends on Facebook into different lists. Well, it happened to me and I take offense. If I ask somebody to “friend” me, I have absolutely no problem in getting no response at all (“Not Now”) or to get an honest response that says “FB is very personal to me, how about we connect on LI (or not even that)”. What I find offensive is to get accepted as a friend – but not really – to end up on a FB wall that I can’t write on. It means, I accepted you as a friend but I did not really want to but did not know how to tell you that.

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33 Comments

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  1. James Oswald
    So willing to speak your mind.

    It does seem to be largely an American condition to be so Passive/Aggressive.  I myself am totally that way. Fortunately my wife is not, so I’m slowly learning to stand up for myself, as when I chided on Twitter that you had better be worth all of the “Natascha to TechEd” hullabaloo (which you absolutely were).

    My feeling with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and everything else out there is that if you say it, you’d better be prepared to defend it, or (when appropriate apologize) because nothing is ever lost anymore, and don’t think one of your *real* friends won’t share something with a *non-friend* if they feel like it (see Matthias’s great blog http://www.inscope.net/post/1980). So, if I say something anywhere on line I use my own name (or at least my consistent and easy to find me pseudonym, oswaldxxl) and know that at some point someone may meet me at TechEd and say “So you’re the one who thought I might not be worth all of this ‘Natascha to TechEd’ hullabaloo.” and I’ll need to be prepared to answer for yourself.

    Fortunately for me I have good friends, great family, and I’m employable so it hasn’t yet bitten me in the backside when I say something questionable (which I can assure you is very, very rare indeed).

    As for myself, I’m perfectly happy to accept any request from anyone in almost any context because if they really want to know what I had for breakfast (a scone) or what pants I got for Christmas (some awesome Champions’ from Target) they are going to find out anyway, so it isn’t worth potentially offending someone when I don’t really care that much. The only exception is twitter, where I won’t follow everyone who follows me because I don’t have enough time to read everything people put there that I already KNOW I want to follow.

    I suppose the next question is what should you do? I’d say you can accept that some friends are better than others, or you can realize that some people just aren’t worth your time and you can unfriend them so you don’t have to spend your precious time engaging someone who isn’t all that interested in engaging back. And from knowing you personally, I’ll add that is there loss.

    One of my favorite proverbs is “if you lend someone $20 and you never see them again, it was probably worth the $20.” That isn’t even remotely applicable here, but it is one of my favorites nonetheless.

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  2. Stephen Johannes
    The problem is that we all have this crazy notion that there is a concept of privacy while being online.  I am in the camp that everything that I post in public area, could be viewed by anyone.  Therefore I really don’t care who views my facebook or twitter feed, as long as I have met that person someone in some fashion once.  The only reason why I don’t “friend” someone on facebook is there is enough “spam” that I have to trim and hide a lot of the posts by most people.

    I’m not as active on facebook anymore or even twitter lately, and if I post on facebook it usually ends up being something related to one of my children.  Otherwise its a pretty boring feed and unless you really want to know some of my personal favorites in books, tv, music, etc. theres not much there.

    Take care,

    Stephen 

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  3. Joseph Caruso
    The blog really made me laugh and reminded me of why I used to really love working with SAP.  Back in the late 90’s my company was part of a FCS of a component and I worked with German developers for many years (home in the US and in Germany).  I really enjoyed the “if you mean it, say it” culture of my German friends because it reminded me of my own family (from Italian decent).  In my opinion, that culture is the main reason why SAP was such a great company.  I still enjoy working with the product, however it is much different now.
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  4. Kenneth Moore
    You are so funny!  I enjoy reading your posts.  Having lived in D-Land for several years, I understand a bit your feelings.  Let’s just say I fit-in well in D-Land, probably more so than in the USA.  😉
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  5. Natascha Thomson Post author
    How wonderful to see all your comments…gave me a good laugh this morning and the feedback confirms that cultural “norms” play out on social media just like in real life.

    I just love connecting with people and am very nosy :-).

    Thanks for the kind words spoken about me too (blush).

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  6. Jon Reed
    “What I find offensive is to get accepted as a friend – but not really – to end up on a FB wall that I can’t write on”

    Agree 100 percent. I remain baffled by those who friend up casual acquaintances on FB and then control their access via elaborate privacy settings. I have heard of a few folks who like these settings for their relatives who they feel compelled to be friends with, but the whole thing smacks of the deterioration and abuse of the term friendship to me.

    However, it gets worse. About six months ago Facebook made an algo change that actually has Facebook making judgements about what you should see on your feed even from pages you already liked and friends you already made. So, even though you opted in, Facebook opts you back out. To me this represents a big mistake on Facebook’s part in terms of assuming that you have no interest in a particular friend because you haven’t interacted with them lately. How many old friends fit into that category? The end result is you see updates from the chatty acquaintances but not necessarily from older friends you don’t talk to all the time.

    And yes, you can adjust this somewhere deep in your settings – Facebook apologists always justify FB based on obscure settings that super users can tweak. But it doesn’t change the general experience of FB making decisions for you. The end result is a more insular experience which is why you see me rarely on FB and much more often on the more open Twitter platform.

    p.s you can write on my wall anytime. 🙂

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      I love it when you agree with me, Jon, don’t let Dennis see that :-).

      To get ALL news updates from ALL your FB friends, simply scroll to the bottom of the newsfeed. Where it says “Edit options”, select “Show posts from all of your firends and pages”.

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  7. Bharathwaj Ragothaman
    Hi Natascha,
    Lol. I think a large part of it depends on our culture , personality and even region.
    In case of C and D contacts ,  i dont like to post my family related content .. Sometimes it not even about privacy but also based on interests.
    if I post something specific to India or something in a regional language it make sense to post to relevant groups.
    It does represent the societal structures for me 🙂
    Bharath
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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      I totally omitted the aspect of different kinds of content for different audiences in my blog, you got me.

      Somebody else even commented that they write some posts in Hindi, and hence their English friends will be bored.

      I see it as part of somebody’s life and like to observe (does not take much to scroll down in the news feed) but there’s definitely room for this approach.

      I guess, I feel it would be way too hard to maintain different lists and post different types of content. But that’s who I am in real life, very similar to the person at work, only trying harder to seem respectable :-).

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  8. Clinton Jones
    what a great post with some quite pertinent points about social media etiquette. I am guilty of the lists and quite happy to admit it. I think the concept of not ‘friending’ colleagues and in particular bosses is quite normal though, in fact I would go so far as to say that in larger organizations being ‘friended’ by ones’ boss verges a little on creepy, past bosses perhaps but current bosses I think not. A lot hinges on the social dynamic between people I think. I work my job because that is my job and I perhaps like my job but that doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to be friends with the people that I work with. Do I go out socially with them? Do I even eat lunch with them? Do I have after work cocktails with them. All of these dictate just how social my relationship is with them. FOr the most part, my FB social network is a social one, it is people I am related to, people I grew up with, perhaps people I worked with. Most of my list building is around my photo albums and the ability of those in my wider network to expose stuff about me to their friends who are not my  friends, these may have been colleagues or bosses that were friends with them but not with me, and I don’t care to even be remembered by them, much less remember them myself! Almost none of my FB friends are people I have never met before. Those on my limited lists are generally people who I am not sure about, in other words, they can keep contact with me and perhaps see my mobile posts but that’s about it. If they want to talk to me, they can start with a message that says, hey I wanted to post something on your wall! As with all things, it needs maintenance and probably housekeeping. There are no people on my limited list who I ‘friended’, they all friend requested me…

    LinkedIn on the other hand is a different animal it is more business oriented, I consider it the face book for grown-ups though I will say that there are people on there who could do with a bit more growing up! I will connect with people who I have worked with, work with and who I meet at trade shows or in business meetings, there are almost no holds barred on this. My business related twitter account is connected to this social networking tool but not my personal twitter account.

    In the end it is different strokes for different folks but for me at least I don’t really want to mix business with leisure. When I leave the office, that’s me time and I don’t want to have to be wondering who is psycho-analyzing me from work!

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      I so sometimes feel that way. Where do we draw the line between work and private life? The only way I know is to compartementalize, or I could be on social media non-stop.

      Remember the days when you were sick at home and had no remote access or PDA? Sometimes I dream back to that day.

      Well, I have sold my soul to the social media devil but that does not make me oblivious to the fact that it can be a time sink and is not for everybody. Afterall, all I do all day and get paid for his Tweeting and posting on FB…I wish!

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  9. Jarret Pazahanick
    I may be unique in this regard but I have always had pretty clear lines drawn where by Facebook was for family and old friends and Linkedin and Twitter were more geared towards work and things SAP related.

    There is no way my Facebook friends want to hear anything about SAP as 95% have no idea what SAP is (including my parents) 🙂 and I doubt my twitter followers want to see pictures of my kids (though I do very occasionally post something non SAP related on twitter). I think it is clear to have a strategy regarding social media and although mine wont work for everyone it works for me.

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    1. Gregory Misiorek
      Jarret,

      i like how you differentiate between personal (FB) and work (LinkedIn) with Twitter being somewhere in between. i have tried unsuccessfully to remove myself from FB, so i ended up locking it up. i’m more impressed by people who don’t have a FB page than those who do, especially if some of them “befriend” everything that moves on line. i also respect other people’s refusal to accept connections from people they don’t really know in non-digital life. that’s why i keep blocking some of my twitter followers or don’t accept LinkedIn invites from total strangers and i’m very happy that my family stays out of it entirely.

      http://twitter.com/#!/greg_not_so/status/58291578279694336

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        1. Gregory Misiorek
          yes,

          i have tweeted about my failure (“transcript” below).
          first, i got a warning and then simply a denial.


          greg_not_so
          FB: Warning: Name changes are limited. Please use your real name or you may be blocked from making more changes in the future.>BLOCKED?
          greg_not_so
          Too late, future is here: “You must provide your full name.”
          greg_not_so
          Your name change request has been denied by our systems. Please check that you filled out both a first and a last name and try again>court?
          greg_not_so
          it feels like i’m back into the future: 1984

          is it because the movie flopped?

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    2. Tom Cenens
      Hello Jarret

      I also keep facebook seperated from my SAP related content. Most of my friends and family don’t have any intrest in SAP so I don’t want to create noise there.

      If I would become active on facebook in terms of posting pictures of SAP events or pictures with fellow community members for example I would create a seperate account for that purpose.

      I would do the same on twitter, to me it makes sense to keep business and non-business content seperated.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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      1. Natascha Thomson Post author
        I don’t know. Work is a huge part of our lives. As long as my “friends” on FB don’t discuss how they write their code, I can handel a few links about topics they are interested in…just to see what makes them tick. As I said, I like looking into other people’s lives and what they do at work is part of it. Of course, I’d never start to market SAP stuff on my page but, admittedly, I do that on Twitter and sometimes LI. (even though I have to state that “opinions are mine, not SAP’s).
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        1. Tom Cenens
          Hello Natascha

          Somehow I keep them seperated but the friends/family who are interested in my business are connected to me in linkedin and follow what I’m doing in there.

          So not posting business stuff on facebook doesn’t actually mean I never talk about SAP to family and friends. They all know I’m into it (sometimes a bit too much perhaps).

          Kind regards

          Tom

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    3. Natascha Thomson Post author
      I have this illusion that my friends on FB must be into social media (as they are on FB in the first place) so I publish stuff about security settings and other stories…maybe I should do a survey if they hate it> LOL
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  10. Michelle Crapo
    I loved this blog.  It is straight and direct.  I do not use my Facebook account.  Basically because I just don’t have the time.

    BUT…

    I heard a great story a person – nameless – posted some very negative things on FB about her job, and how everyone else was doing a bad job.  Her boss in her words was horrible.

    Well her friend list extended to her co-workers.  Friends of friends of…  Her co-workers were talking about her, and eventually her comments made it to her boss. 

    Well she came into work very made with the comment “I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIENDS”.  I agree anything you write privately can eventually be broadcast publically.

    So accept as friends?  Why not?  I would say be careful what you put out on the net.  It’s not as private as you would like to think it is.

    Michelle

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      So true!!! “Online” does not equal “in private”.

      Peoople always feel so safe with email these days (as opposed to FB etc.) but remember Enron…all emails were eventually published on the web and it wasn’t pretty 🙂

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  11. jinesh kumar
    Hi Natascha,

    Thanks for the wonderful blog..

    Just a thought..Why should we share our professional and personal stuffs in a single place..I understand professional relationships are always important.But why can’t we keep it different..You have LinkedIn for Professional networking.

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      Jinesh,

      separating work and private life is definitely a choice and everybody has to make that call for themselves. While I often hear that social media is organized so differently from real life, I disagree. I think we recreate how we like to relate.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Natascha

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  12. federico blarasin
    To be honest, I think that security function is quite useful.
    Consider the following situation: your boss asks friendship on facebook, all your workmates are already friend with him. If you say no, you would be the only one in the office to refuse, if you say yes, your boss will lurk at the pictures posted by your mates on Monday morning.
    With this security setting you can keep him in a sandbox, away from your personal area. 
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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      LOL. You obviously did not read my whole blog as I commented on this topic. Again, it comes back to personal and cultural preferences :-).

      Happy Friday, Federico,

      Natascha

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  13. Chris Kernaghan
    I personally have mixed my mayonnaise of my personal life and the ketchup of my professional life, but am missing the secret tobasco to make it feel completely right. Jaret’s point of Linkdin, Twitter and FB and how they relate to his life is good. For me, my intention was to keep this relationship, although I probably lacked the social media awareness to spot the difference. As a side note, the url is a study which highlights some pitfalls of tight segregation of platforms  http://bit.ly/gJ4Iat. Although the 3 platforms we talk about do allow cross posting using API integration, so perhaps this is a good solution to allowing public visibility and partitioning information.

    Chris

    Chris

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      Chris:

      great article.

      This quote made me think in particular: “The notion of ‘pretending to be personal’ is important, and not just for Twitter.” and “I can ‘pretend to be personal,’ without really expending too much emotional energy, or risking my family’s privacy”. Is that who we are on social media? Is it the smart way?

      I have to agree with “the older” students that I would not want all that personal information about my professor but cut to the chase. Enlightening that this seems to be a generational view.

      One quote in the article is: “If it were me, and I were a teacher, I’d say just don’t do it. Don’t engage in social networking with students at all. The name says it all. It’s about social networking. Social. Those are not the kinds of relationships that teachers are supposed to have with students.”

      We could have a whole new discussion on this article. Anybody game? 🙂

      Cheers, love social media,

      Natascha

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  14. Julius von dem Bussche
    Interesting is that SCN’s own ponits system also casts people into categories and makes folks without them feel somehow inferior; and does not even do it in a discrete way. With dependence on ponits behaviour people are upgraded to wiki editors and senior bloggers. There are also a few “settings” for those who dont play fair which can blow their user ID clean off the platform without any warning and then the person has no further access to their content which everyone else can still see.

    Additionally I have not seen anything on FB which encourages rivalry amongst the online community there, nor publishing the results of “contests” which it sponsors with some monopoly money of sorts… 😉

    Cheers,
    Julius

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    1. Natascha Thomson Post author
      Interesting point that you might want to discuss with the SCN team. From all I know about community building and keeping it engaged, a system like points works very well. I think that a professonal network like SCN is different from FB and even LI, as SCN is more technical. Would be a great discussion to have…are you at SAPPHIRE?
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