Today’s Internet serves many functions, operating as a public forum for self-expression, an intimate support group among friends, and even a platform for professional development. As your use of social networks such as Facebook grows in the professional context, the key is to not succumb to censoring yourself. Your peers, bosses, or prospective employers may deem it appropriate to tailor your online voice to a more conservative public, but won’t your friends wonder why you got so lame all of a sudden? Filter your audience instead.
After a little bit of groundwork, audience filtering becomes second nature — and even includes a few failsafe mechanisms for those “less discerning” times:
Worried about what your boss or prospective employer might think about your 2 a.m. “posts of honesty” if you accept their friend requests? Encourage them to subscribe to you instead. Facebook introduced the subscribe functionality last fall as a natural counter to Twitter. Content marked for “everyone” is visible to anyone who subscribes to your feed, just as it is available to your Facebook friends. Facebook is trying to bolster awareness of this service, and it even introduced a Twitter/Pinterest-esque interest list functionality in March.
Organize Your Friends
Unfortunately, we don’t think of Facebook as we do Twitter. There is an unspoken expectation to accept friend requests. If you open the floodgates to friending professional connections, then you must go through an extra step of audience filtering. For quite some time, the Facebook desktop app has had the ability to hide updates from specific people and groups. This level of granularity hadn’t been available on the mobile apps. With more than 500 million active mobile users, Facebook needed a clean way to filter.
Another one of the Facebook privacy updates last fall included a default friend group called “acquaintances.” Facebook subsequently created an option in the drop-down menu for mobile sharing called “friends except acquaintances.” Whether you assign someone a “bestie,” “frenemy,” or “acquaintance,” group designation is private and, therefore, worry-free.
For those of us who sometimes have “external factors” impairing our judgment, there are a couple of simple ways to further protect ourselves from social media self-mutilation. In your Facebook privacy settings, change the default publishing option to friends and then exclude acquaintances. This will protect all of your future posts from your professional network — not something you’re likely to remember at 2 a.m. You can also limit the audience for past posts, which means those pictures of you doing a keg stand freshman year are safe from the eyes of prospective employers.
And finally, beat your idiot friends at their own game: Set a recurring reminder for 5 a.m. Monday to untag photos from the weekend. You’ll thank yourself later.