I am Facebook friends with a lot of people that I work with. It’s a big company, but I still have pretty close relationships with a number of my coworkers. I consider them friends, even though most are really no more than “work friends.” Out of the office many of us have very different lives, and as much as I love my colleagues I’m not sure we would ever be friends if we didn’t work together.
Over the past year, I have noticed some of my coworkers that I am very close to, people I consider friends, are now sharing every single facet of their personal lives of on Facebook, and other forms of social media. Of course, I choose to be “friends” with these people on Facebook, so I don’t really feel entitled to criticize their postings. But still, much of what I see is so overtly narcissistic that it can feel like these people are trying to produce their own version of the Kardashians on their Facebook walls. Do they really think people care what they have to eat at every meal? I have now seen every guy I work with shirtless at his beach house floating in a pool. I woke up to “Happy Saturday” last week, from another friend (like we were all waiting to for that!). And now that we are in the heat of the election, some of my Facebook friends are posting incessantly about how one or the other candidate means utter catastrophe for the republic. My personal politics aside, this all just seems like too much!
My problem is that I am beginning to dislike some people who I used to love working with because of what they post on Facebook. A picture―or a meme―really does seem to be worth a thousand words, because in some cases my mind changes overnight! How can I un-see some of this? I still have to work on projects with them and collaborate. I manage some of these people and others manage me! I know that deleting my Facebook probably makes the most sense, but I use it to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away, and I can’t unfriend any of my work friends at this point because I’m scared they’ll notice. What choice do I have?
~Fed Up with Facebook
I get this question more than you might think. First, we need to acknowledge that all social media―Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, Peach, whatever else―in essence, has the same goal. Each is a way to share bits of our lives with people who show their interest by choosing to follow us. It seems like a fairly straightforward contract, but it can very easily get corrupted. You see, some of my colleagues are real bores or far worse on social media―as it sounds like many of yours are. They have nothing interesting to share and they either want to appear smarter or more interesting than they are by constantly posting their political views or they don’t even try to hide how boring they are and resort to throwing anodyne garbage into the limitless ether that is the internet. Reading these posts is a car wreck, yet I slow down to read them anyway. Without fail, I come away amazed by the breadth and depth of my coworkers’ (and friends, I must admit) stupidity—it’s not just the substance of the posts that are astonishing, but the very fact that they decide to post this nonsense in the first place. None of this is new, people for generations have slowly come to the realization that they don’t like people who they thought they knew, it is just that social media has brought it to us faster than ever before. One post on a Thursday evening is all it takes.
Now, my main piece of advice to everyone―although I know it’s not quite responsive to your question―is to be very careful about what you post if you’re friends with people from your work. I am very careful not to over-post or post things that will make people uncomfortable on my public Facebook page, and everyone needs to be careful about this too because everyone can see what you’re saying. As someone that makes a living on TV and has a public profile, I have two versions of all the social media that I use. My personal Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook profiles are private and only for my friends and family. Based on the number of questions I get on this topic, it is obvious to me that I don’t want my employees or coworkers to have access to my personal Facebook. I know that not everyone is willing to invest in having multiple social media accounts on multiple platforms, but it’s the only surefire way to ensure that people aren’t seeing what you don’t want them to see. Now, to directly answer your question: the easiest answer is to mute or unfriend your coworkers. If you’re worried that they’ll know you unfriended them, don’t be; they won’t find out. And worst case scenario you explain that you don’t know how it happened, that it was a mistake, then you friend them again, wait a couple of days and unfriend them. The best way to handle this situation, however, is to start up another Facebook account without friending any of your coworkers. This way they won’t see what you post either and truth be told, that’s for the best. None of us are as self-aware as we should be. For all you know your coworkers can’t stand your social media presence either.