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June 4, 2009

How to handle Facebook requests from unknown people?

Question: My husband is a physician and has several offices around the area. One is in a small town and has two women who work there. One is the office manager and the other is his medical assistant. I have known the office manager for years, but only in a “Christmas Party” capacity. She is an older woman and is very nice. The other is a woman in her mid twenties who was hired less than a year ago. I have only met her one time at this past year’s Christmas party. I just met her, we didn’t have a conversation or anything. I didn’t even remember her name.

A little while ago, I received an email with a facebook request. I asked him who it was and he said it was the younger office assistant. I don’t want to add her, because I don’t want her to know what goes on in my life. Is this rude? I thought it was very unprofessional. How should I handle this situation?

Answer: I’ll admit, I’m a Facebook junkie. Working from home allows me to spend way too much time on Facebook, checking out photos, responding to emails, taking quizzes and so forth. Facebook is a great way to stay caught up with friends and family (especially for me, with family in Europe and South America!) and reconnect with people from the old days. It’s also a great way to network professionally, all without leaving the comfort of your home office.

HOWEVER – some people have trouble remembering the boundaries of Facebook, and get a little add-happy from time to time. Facebook, for some, is a new phenomenon, and not all the etiquette has been worked out yet. To answer your question, YES it was quite unprofessional of your boss’ assistant to try to add you to her Facebook, especially since you don’t even know her. Is it possible she has some sort of crush your husband? Maybe she thinks by adding you she’ll get a glimpse into his personal life! It’s awkward and creepy, so good for you for not caving to the request, and clicking “ignore” instead. Her request crosses the professional boundary, and I hope your husband does not let this go silently; he should speak to her about the inappropriateness of her actions.

Regarding Facebook etiquette, here are a few things I wish people would remember:

• Don’t leave personal messages on the Facebook Wall: everyone sees the wall.
• Don’t add me simply because I met you one time at someone’s party/wedding/baby shower.
• Don’t add me simply because we have friends in common. It doesn’t mean I have any idea who you are!
• Parents: don’t add your adult children! And if you do, don’t leave embarrassing messages on their Walls. Bad enough you’re busy tagging humiliating photos from childhood.
• Don’t add your boss, coworkers, clients, or anyone else with whom you work, unless you are actually friends outside the cubicle farm.
• Don’t post photos of yourself that might be humiliating later: once they’re out in cyberspace, they’re there for good. Think before you click “upload.”

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