There are apparently times when Emily Post can no longer advise.
So, let’s suppose that you are a young urban professional (pardon me while I laugh until I cry while I consider this picture of myself) who is a member of an online “social networking” site that we’ll, for the sake of argument, call CountenanceTome, or CT for short (if you’re still confused, leave a comment and I’ll try to clear this up.) Let’s say that you’re not insane, so your uses of this social networking site are usually limited to non-stalking purposes, such as staying connected with friends scattered across the globe, sending quick notes to your siblings and their spouses and occasionally organizing get-togethers with old coworkers. Regardless, there are bound to be some random posts on your page from drunk students from your grad school days, uncontrolled comments on your pictures, or even pictures posted of you as an awkward kid, or, in some cases, an awkward college student, by well-meaning friends. Essentially, you can’t control everything that gets attached to you, but you don’t really mind, because you are generally only cyber-friends with people who have hung out with you enough in real life to take that picture of you in a red lacy apron and koala mask with a grain of salt (this has never happened to me.)
With that being established, what is the proper protocol when CT friended by a superior at work?
Personally, when in grad school and in a position of fake authority, I had a hard time understanding why my undergrad minions used to friend me right away. Because of my confusion, the first semester I taught, I didn’t accept any friend requests until grades were submitted. The second semester I found it was really just an easy way for them to ask me questions while studying and accepted all requests, but I still felt a little weird. I no longer could post anything funny that had happened in class on a friend’s page, or put up a status about grading without eight immediate “u looked at mine? did i pass? plz tell me!!!” notes, which bugged the sweet patience out of me. But see, it was my choice to accept their friend requests, and the fact that I ignored all of them for a whole semester never raised any eyebrows.
But what do you do when the situation is reversed, as a friend of mine had the discomfort of encountering last week? What is the proper response when someone very high in your company’s management sends you a CT friend request? When you log in one morning and are confronted with a VP of Administrative Mumbo-Jumbo’s profile photo of themselves chilling with their family in Aspen over the holidays, asking you to be a vital part of their online social network, is rejecting their request really even an option? Maybe this is making a mountain out of a molehill, but don’t you think that this creates a situation where the people who are lower on the totem pole feel obligated to allow someone higher up on the totem pole to invade their personal space?
In grad school, I never friended students before they friended me, because I thought that put them in an awkward position if their favorite MTWTh status was “JoeSchmoe is currently bored out of his own face in dumb TA taught Latin class.” That way, the fact that I had seen that they had posted photos of themselves drunk at 4:30am and so knew that the flu was probably not the malady causing them to miss class was really their own choice.
Granted, I know that CountenanceTome has some pretty fancy doohickies to monitor privacy, allowing you to hide yourself from all friend searches and other fancy pants development. This doesn’t stop one of your coworkers whom you are legitimately friends with getting a friend invite from a big boss who then sees a note you left on the coworker’s page and…
Surely you get my point. Wouldn’t Emily Post agree with me and conclude that it’s tacky for a boss to ask for an invite to your weekend barbeque? Isn’t this kind of the same concept in today’s technology? Someone in a position of authority should have the common decency to allow the underling to make the first move in online social networking.
**To clear up any confusion, I am not suggesting that I, or the majority of my yuppie friends have anything like that we wish to hide from our superiors. I, for one, wouldn’t really even have a problem with my immediate supervisors seeing that I occasionally update my status mid-day, or send my sister a note before I leave for home. Maybe this is because I am a salaried position, and I get more than my share of work done, but my point is simply that it’s not that I’m ashamed of anything. I am not asking this because of my concerns about drunken photos or anything of that nature, since that’s not a part of my lifestyle. I am asking this question on a more basic level.