I am a newly established, sole-practitioner of public relations who just gained his first client, and this is a pretty big contract. The person who hired me is a Facebook
friend. Should I “unfriend” her on Facebook now that we are in a professional relationship? Would establishing a LinkedIn relationship make more sense now?
Bob in California
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want people to unfriend him. And there are people on Facebook you should never unfriend.
Unfriending on Facebook is a dastardly business. For those at the receiving end, it’s like the five stages of grief: Shock, befuddlement, anger and a brief period of cyberstalking before acceptance. The ugly truth about unfriending is that — as long as you’re not the one being unfriended and you’ve given it careful thought before hitting the “unfriend” button — it’s also great fun. It’s quite empowering to remove someone’s face from your life forever or free yourself from seeing their vacation photos, or hearing them on their soap box during political season.
The Facebook unfriending axe falls on some heads more than others, according to two studies published in 2014 by researchers at the University of Colorado. High school friends, “other” — I’m assuming that could be a past romantic acquaintance — friend of a friend, work friend. In an ironic twist, both studies used more than 1,000 people found on Twitter. People are vanquished most often for posting polarizing comments about religion or politics or for uninteresting posts.
Unfriending on Facebook is a dastardly business. For those at the receiving end, it’s like the five stages of grief: Shock, befuddlement, anger and a brief period of cyberstalking before acceptance.
I have some pet peeves when it comes to Facebook. And, if we’re honest (and we should always be honest) we probably annoy others from time to time. But my least favorite person is the one whose notifications make your blood run cold. With this person, you just know it’s going to be something wildly inappropriate, passive-aggressive or plain mean. I try to steer clear of saying negative things on Facebook and expect others to do the same. (Studies suggest lonely people over-share on Facebook, a reminder that we should perhaps reach out to them instead of hiding their posts.)
There are other annoying Facebook types: The fabulous lifer who takes inspiration from Martha Stewart, the vaguebooker (“I’m devastated”), the uber-tagger (hey, maybe I don’t want a photo of my chipped tooth all over the Internet), the Debbie Downer who doesn’t realize he or she is the one common denominator during all those hard luck stories. And let’s not forget the relentless liker: A 2012 California State University evaluated 800 active Facebook members and found those who most often “like” other people’s posts show symptoms of “mania” and “compulsivity.”
The last thing you want to do is offend a new client by culling them from your list of Facebook friends, but Facebook does allow you to wear different hats for different friends. You can restrict people from seeing anything but your public posts and you can create groups for others — close friends, acquaintances, professional contacts. There are many options to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Unfriending someone on Facebook is really a last resort, and best reserved for those with whom you share weak social ties. With this client, your ties just got stronger.
So don’t do it. In fact, this is the one person you should not unfriend on Facebook. (The other person being your mother.) People give contracts to those they like and trust and this is an opportunity for you to cement ties. LinkedIn can be very dry with people posting articles about things like the five most effective marketing strategies, but Facebookers can get on their soap box. Avoid both. This is a place where you can potentially shine and, at the very least, knowing this person is a Facebook friend might make you think carefully before posting.
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