I know many, many people have addressed this topic and I am not sure I am any better equipped to do so than those who already done so. However, last week I was asked by someone, who I group into the categories of friend, Facebook friend and professional colleague, about my approach to using Facebook.
This friend and professional colleague asked how I prevent or avoid getting engaged in an Augustana College debate/discussion on Facebook?
Prior to her question, I’d not really thought much about my approach.
I tried to capture my thoughts, which I am sharing with you below.
W. Kent Barnds a.k.a @bowtieadmission
Dear (friend, Facebook friend and professional college),
Your question is hitting a little closer to home than you might think because of recent and pending events and my own examination of my habits in social media, etc.
A lesson learned
First, a quick story… When I was a newcomer to Facebook, I made the mistake of sending a friend request to a journalist with whom I’d just completed a fairly lengthy story placement. This particular journalist, very politely responded to my friend request via email (rather than FB) and explained that she uses Facebook to maintain connections with high school and college friends, close colleagues and family members. She continued to say that she resists invitations for other professional acquaintances. She was cordial, yet direct. We’ve since collaborated on several things so at no time do I feel like the professional relationship was breached by my mistake.
This experience taught me a couple of important lessons.
1. It’s ok to seek a personal refuge in social media.
2. It’s possible to keep the two worlds separate if you are direct and disciplined and you want to do so. 3. You must choose your medium for professional discussions that begin to enter into you personal space and stick to that method (her response to me via email rather than FB told me that our method of communication was to be email and it sent a very clear message).
I learned much from this misstep and I know many people who really limit their connections on Facebook. In fact, a friend at church on Sunday who works at John Deere told me he does not friend or accept friend requests from John Deere employees. He told me, “My professional colleagues really don’t need to know all the nonsense about my middle and high school friends.” He continued, “Those two world should never meet.”
This is an approach that works for some and I suspect many in higher education, particularly in leadership positions, choose this approach.
My approach in my workplace: balance and all things in moderation
I’ve selected a different direction and intentionally comingle professional colleagues with middle school friends. I think it’s healthy and more authentically me than to try to sequester parts of my life off from other parts. For me, it just feels unnatural.
Now, what do I try to do? I try to be authentic and use Facebook to provide a glimpse into my life (family, friends, experiences and work). I also try to be careful and use the “mom rule,” which is based on me asking myself what my mom would think about what I post. It’s served as a pretty good governor, so far.
First, since you asked about interaction with my work community, I will start there. My friend list for Augustana colleagues is fairly limited and I’ve tried to set a tone to demonstrate how I use FB and social media as it relates to the college and me.
Here what I mean…
1. Because I have colleagues/friends from other colleges who are among my friends, I don’t shy away from professional issues entirely, but I do try to offer “thought” pieces or positive stories about Augustana College and Augustana College’s people. I do this to try to send a number of informal and formal messages.
2. I never engage in controversial banter about the college and won’t. If I feel like I need to address something, I choose my method of communication (sometimes ignoring it altogether and other times sending an e-mail to discuss the topic in a forum other than one as FB (and inappropriate as FB).
3. I don’t ignore my professional life on Facebook because it’s a huge part of me and I want to share with others who are Facebook friends and professional college. Facebook it’s a great support network and I think people are genuinely interested (or, at least I hope they are interested in my as a professional). As I’ve told one of my friends (jokingly), the people want to know! However, I do not use Facebook as a venting forum or a forum in which really valuable discussions will take place, particularly when it comes to Augustana College or issue directly related to the college.
4. I’ve never scolded anyone or deleted an inappropriate post, but I have ignored many to send a subtle or not-so-subtle message. Again, sometimes, I’ve engaged something that makes me uncomfortable over email in an effort to send the message that FB is the wrong forum. I can count the times I’ve done this or felt like I needed to do this on one hand.
5. I have among my Facebook friends two college presidents. They both push information more than engage in give and take. It’s effective, but does not show much personality
6. I have two trustees among my friends, too. I appreciate the glimpse into their life beyond being a trustee and they’ve told me they feel the same way.
***I should also note that there is a very good possibility that many in the Augustana community are not interested in my viewpoint are unlikely to engage me on Facebook or elsewhere!!!
My summary tips…
1. Don’t abandon Facebook, but figure out how to shape it.
2. Don’t abandon your raunchy friends, but figure out a way to ensure they respect the microscope you are under as a professional.
3. Use Facebook to shape your raunchy and non-raunchy friends. How do you want them to perceive your professional life and what you are doing? I try to show the following things: I am professional. I am a thought-leader. I am excited about my role and my colleague. I am excited about the place I work. I am fun to be around and have opinions, but not opinions about anything directly related to college business.
4. Choose your method of communication for professional dialog and stick to it. Don’t go back and forth and don’t treat all Facebook friends equally.
5. Don’t abandon Facebook. It has the very powerful potential to demonstrate attitude and personality. I think that’s important.
LinkedIn is my preferred professional social media network
I have a completely different group of contacts on LinkedIn and have been actively building LinkedIn as my professional presence in the world of social media. I suspect the crossover is less than 30% between Facebook and LinkedIn and that’s they way I want it. In fact, I’ve been really proactive in sending LinkedIn invites to Facebook friends who are really professional colleagues to cement the idea that I view them as professional colleagues, rather than friends. I think using LinkedIn invites sends a message. I also have resisted linking my accounts and try to keep everything on LinkedIn focused on my professional work, etc.
Facebook and me: An important reflection passions, people and places
I have 491 Facebook friends and they represent various stages of my life from childhood friends from Gering, Nebraska; campers from Camp Comeca church camp in Cozad, NE, high school friends, college friends, friends and colleagues from Elizabethtown College, friends and colleges from Augustana College, trustees, college presidents, and dear professional colleagues who were friends before becoming colleagues, and those who have become dear personal friends after being introduced as colleague. These are people who I respect and I hope respect me, too.
So far, my 491 friends and I have come up with a formula that works and I continue to feel pretty comfortable mixing personal and business.