Worlds Colliding: When Networking Groups Want You to Join a Facebook Group

Facebook networking groupCan you keep your Facebook account private from colleagues and professional friends? Can you grow your career by networking on Facebook and still have a semblance of a personal life? What is the polite way to respond when asked, as Reader E was, to join a Facebook Group for a committee she’s on?

I recently joined a committee for the local bar that organizes a fun run every year to support a local charity, which I’m excited about doing because I’m a runner myself and I really like what this charity does. Today we got an email about the first meeting, and the woman in charge asked us all to join the facebook group for this committee. I am really uncomfortable with this request. My facebook profile is almost completely locked down from my professional life. I’m not searchable, I’m not friends with any of my coworkers, and I don’t want people I work with reading it. Is her request that we join this facebook group unreasonable? Can I decline? I have a work email set up so people can communicate with me about work related things. I don’t want to use my facebook profile for it!

We haven’t talked about Facebook in a while — we talked about what to do when your boss wants to “friend” you, as well as looked at FB’s privacy settings (a long while ago — here’s a Lifehacker post on privacy settings that promises to be “always up to date”) — so I’m curious to see how much readers think the situation has changed.

For starters, I will say as someone who is a member of a few FB groups (as well as an administrator of a Page) that it isn’t as huge an encroachment on your privacy as it might be if you Friended the woman. Your news won’t show in her news feed, and the members won’t be able to see anything that isn’t already public. (I can only speak to what Page Administrators see (not Group Administrators), but even as the admin I can only see the public information for members who comment. Unless I’m missing it I can’t even see a LISTING of all the members — just that right now we have 5500+ users and that 24 personal friends of mine Like the page.) (Speaking of, ladies — please like the Facebook page!)

That said — you have to draw the line somewhere. Obviously once you join the group with people you know, you’ll get Friend requests from other members of the group. So I think you have a few options:

a) Acquiesce. Join the FB group, but let friend requests lie dormant.

b) Be direct.  Explain that you only use FB to keep up with old friends, and prefer to keep it completely separate from your professional life.  After all, some people don’t even HAVE a FB account, so there must be other options, right?

c) Change your approach — join the FB group, and accept/reject friend requests without regard to whether you know someone personally/professionally.  (But: get nice and familiar with your privacy settings.)

I suppose another option would be to create a completely new FB page for professional purposes like this.  The last time I tried to do that was when I was still anonymous and trying to start the Facebook/Corporette page — if memory serves it’s against FB’s terms and conditions, and it was a pain and a half to administer both accounts.

Finally, here’s a question to the group — have you started Friending networking friends and colleagues more so than you did a few years ago?  Do you think that’s a facet of FB being far more common, now — or do you equate it with adulthood/moving away from the wilder and crazier days of your youth?  (For my $.02, I still have a “I must actually know you and like you” requirement to be a Friend, but for me the wall between professional/personal came down a while ago.  I regularly see BigLaw partners in my FB newsfeed, commenting on different articles or sharing vacation photos, and it makes me happy in a really weird way — aww, so that’s what Bruce is up to now!  Even though I’ve changed careers (from law to blogging) it’s nice to keep in touch.)

Readers, what are your thoughts?

(Pictured above: Unfriend t-shirt, available on CafePress for $15.99.)



  1. Wildkitten :

    I’m not on facebook, so I ignore requests to join facebook groups all the time. I don’t lose sleep over it.

    • You and me both. It does irritate the hell out of me when a vendor I do business with rubs in my face that I am missing out on discounts, etc. because I am not on facebook. Quite a few vendors have lost my business because of this.

    • Fully agree. My response to this whole post: just say no. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You don’t need to say ‘oh I just use it for..’. None of their business. You don’t even have to respond- just don’t do it. I’ve been chased by people for not using a special do-gooder card, network sites, etc. If pressed, you can just tell them- no thank you.
      Kat’s response seems to be more conformist to this line of thinking that technology, marketing, etc. controls us. You have almost no control over that information and linkages once you accept. Settings please- they are opaque, time-consuming, confusing, don’t work, and fb changes them whenever they want without warning.
      My intern came to me very nervous this summer because her lead mentor kept pushing her to friend her on facebook. I said no you do not need to; just don’t do it. The mentor even shamed her in a staff meeting for not accepting her request, in front of me- to which I neutrally said “Linked In is a professional and appropriate way to stay in touch” without indicating I knew of the discomfort or calling her out.

  2. Statutesq :

    Interested to hear responses…. I think part of transitioning to professional life is giving up the right to a “fun-only” facebook page. I tried to keep facebook separate at the beginning from my co-workers’ etc., but I’m at the point now where every club I’m in has a group, clients send me friend requests, and bosses have created pages. I decided to just go with it. I purged a ton, changed my profile picture to my professional picture, and am basically treating it like a Linked In page. I think it’s ok to show some personality but I never post status updates, never post pictures, and limit what can happen on my wall. I really don’t see a way around it.

    I use instagram for sharing picture with close friends/family. I haven’t linked it to facebook and have been safe from unwanted friend requests so far.

    • Woa- but you can’t control what pictures your friends post of you at a party or what not. Different strokes for everyone, but I would not blend this way.

      • Yes you can. You can de-tag yourself, and you can set your privacy settings so that no one can tag you without your permission.

        You can also make sure you don’t put yourself in these positions. Don’t do keg stands. Don’t get drunk and sloppy. That’s part of growing up.

        I have a rule – there are no pictures to be taken of me holding alcohol. If someone says, “Get together, I want to take a picture of you three,” I set my drink down.

        (And, obviously, don’t do anything more incriminating than drinking alcohol.)

  3. I agree w/ point B. There’s no reason they should assume everyone has a facebook account, if you don’t want to join the group just to be a committee, you shouldn’t have to!

    I would just ignore it. Usually, the call to like or join something is more as a way to make the event/shop/etc more visible on social media, not an actual requirement.

    That said, unless your profile is full of crazy half naked pictures from college, I think meshing friends/work acquaintances is fine. I”m not friends w/ anyone I currently work with (because I’m not really friends with them IRL!), but friends w/ many I’ve worked with in the past and feel the same way as Kat- for most, it’s the only way I keep in touch, so I enjoy interacting with them on facebook.

  4. This really doesn’t seem that complicated. Have 2 Facebook accounts – one for life, one for work. Put the life one on lockdown – only friends of friends can friend request, unsearchable, all that stuff. Since I use my “real” name for work, my life FB account has my married name, plus a diminutive of my full, given name (ie, life Facebook is Ani Jones; work Facebook is Anastasia Beaverhausen.) Connect with all the networking groups through your work Facebook. Don’t give life Facebook access to anyone in your professional life. I have solid work friends who have given me crap about not being their “real” Facebook friend, but they understand. Until you have a relationship with a work friend that involves leisure travel together, no FB>

  5. Diana Barry :

    My FB account is completely personal – if I get a request from a work-related page, I ignore. All of my posts are friends only, and I don’t friend anyone from work.

  6. It is against FB policy to have two accounts for one person, so if you do create a second one, do so at your own risk. I don’t typically friend business contacts that I’ve met only once or twice (I don’t friend anyone I’ve met once or twice), but I’ll accept if they friend me. I don’t post much on FB anyway, and certainly nothing that I wouldn’t want business colleagues to see. (I’m also 37, so none of my friends are tagging me in kegstand pictures or anything dubious.) I typically avoid “liking” or joining any groups, just because I don’t need more clutter in my profile/newsfeed. That said, I belong to two FB groups that are very useful to my job and career, and I’m happy to have been invited to be a part of them. I think the letter writer should just suck it up and take part; she can block the members from seeing anything on her profile, and hide them so she doesn’t have to see theirs. Who’s to say she won’t become friends with the other members anyway? They already have two things in common – liking the bar and the charity – so maybe a more open-minded approach would be good here.

    • LOL, there really isn’t a Facebook police so there’s no “risk” of having more than one Facebook account unless there’s something nefarious like complaints of porn, impersonation, etc. I wish people would be more open-minded when they hear people not wanting to mix personal and professional connections. The automatic assumption seems to be that Reader E has something to hide like “keg stand pictures” from her professional connections which is silly.

      Reader E (or someone with a similar question) may not want her posts in said Facebook group showing up in the newsfeed of her friends and family. I’m part of a book club type of group on Facebook, which thankfully is a private group. But if it was public, anything I post would show up in the newsfeed of my Facebook friends. I obviously have nothing to be ashamed of, but I don’t want my posts showing up in my friends’ newsfeed. And this is something I can’t control regardless of my own privacy settings other than just not participating in the group or asking the mod to change the settings (which may or may not be possible depending on the group).

    • Oops sorry! Meant to reply but hit report first! My bad!

      What I wanted to say was even if you’re not posting keg stand pics, I still like my private life to be private. Any opinion you express might piss off a work colleague, and then its a work issue.

  7. Gail the Goldfish :

    It would probably annoy me and I would suggest they make a group on LinkedIn instead. In my view, facebook=personal, LinkedIn=work/professional. I refuse to friend anyone from work or join any work-related groups.

  8. I have to manage Pages for organizations as part of my work. So, people I work with on many levels can see that my personal page exists. I friended a couple of colleagues that I am actually friends with now, but whenever someone from work that I don’t ‘like’ friends me, if I actually work with them a lot, I friend them. But I have created a special ‘list’ for work people and immediately put those work people in that list. Then all of my privacy settings are set up to specifically exempt that group from seeing anything I post/photos that are tagged with me, etc. And then I proceed with my normal social self on my page, jokes, dumb tv references, pictures, expressing political opinions, etc. All of that said, if someone I vaguely know from work but have never really talked to tries to friend me, I ignore their request.

  9. Learn how to use privacy settings. It’s really not rocket science, and it’s a skill that will serve you well. And if you don’t post that much, it’s even easier.

    I’m 35. I’ll admit, I find people who have this very paranoid aversion to Facebook to be somewhat strange – just as strange as the people who overshare everything on Facebook without any filters whatsoever.

    I think part of being a professional in today’s society is finding a way to use social media effectively. While LinkedIn is great, it does have its limitations. It does not surprise me that something relating to a charity would be on Facebook, where those interested in the project may not be people limited to a small, professional circle of LinkedIn users, but also those who are just in the general public.

    There are also a lot of people out there who prefer to keep their job or employer secret, but are less concerned about some aspect of their personal life being public. In other words, not everyone’s foremost concern when using social media is their coworkers finding out that they wore a bikini and drank an umbrella drink in Hawaii. Sometimes it is the other way around – I could see someone being concerned that their new volunteer group might judge them if they knew they worked for Philip Morris in the past. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. And Facebook gives people a lot more flexibility in privacy than LinkedIn does.

    I think it would serve most people well to adapt instead of trying to fight it. Social media is not going away.

    • I have no paranoia about facebook at all. I have utter contempt for the wholesale use of my personal information for facebook gain, however. That is the facebook business model; the privacy settings are a joke. Therefore a eschew facebook. Period.

    • Yeah, I was just coming here to say that. FB privacy settings are very customizable. Learn to use them. It’s not that hard.

    • Privacy settings (that you can control) only go so far. For instance, if you join a Facebook group that is global, any posts you like or comments you post will show up in the newsfeed of your friends.

    • +1

  10. I am a member of some secret groups on Facebook. (this sounds ways sketchier than my moms group really is) You only have to be friends with one person to get an invite and the amount of information that other members of the group can see in your profile can be severly curtailed with privacy settings. My membership does not appear on my profile, in my public timeline, etc. I don’t generally friend people from work, don’t link to my workplace, etc. But honestly, it’s pretty easy to find me professionally online.

  11. In my neck of the woods LinkedIn is for professional relationships, & FB is for personal & anyone suggesting connecting professionally on Facebook would be laughed out of the room.

    • Good for you that your professional world is so much more insular than many people’s.

      For many of us in professional jobs, the lines are not so clear. I’m a consumer class action attorney. Sometimes regular people who are not attorneys create facebook pages to complain about product or service at issue in my lawsuit. [__ store sucks!!!! A page for everyone who hates ___ store!]. If my lawsuit involves an issue for which there’s a facebook page, you bet I need to keep an eye on that discussion. That often means I have to join the page to see what is going on, and sometimes I use it to provide updates to people (class members) about a lawsuit that is ongoing. You know, because people who are harassed by debt collectors don’t all have linkedin pages, and I’m sure as hell not going to tell them to grow up and get on LinkedIn.

      Is it hilarious to you that I have to use Facebook for a professional purpose?

      If you don’t need to use Facebook for work, that’s YOUR profession. But you are ignorant if you can’t understand why for some professions, it is actually a superior took for LinkedIn. For people whose job involves interacting with the public and diverse groups of people, often Facebook is a better service than LinkedIn for a million reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that they work with teenagers.

      So if you don’t need Facebook for work, and like to make fun of people who do, I don’t see what relevance this discussion has to you.

      The person in Kat’s post might want to believe she works in a field where Facebook isn’t necessary. So she has two choices – dismiss the person who does use it as a unprofessional rube, or think about whether Facebook might be a better forum for this professional activity and decide whether to adapt.

      In my opinion, for many people, Facebook actually will be a useful professional tool, and people who find themselves presented with a situation like the poster’s would be better served by actually adapting, rather than just dismiss outright its usefulness.

  12. Once upon a time, I did try to keep my FB friends separate from my professional friends. But then my friends became friends with my professional friends and now it’s all a mess because we are technically “friends of friends”.

    So now I limit my posts on FB to things I wouldn’t mind if my professional friends know. Vacation pictures: OK, but no swimsuit shots or party-time pics. I never did “micro-updates” (woke up this morning; had cereal for breakfast; my coffee is cold) but now I’m extra careful. I haven’t made my boyfriend “facebook official” (well, he’s not on FB, so it’s kind of impossible anyway but I’m not sure I would even if he were on FB). I post pictures of my cats every month or so and have an occasional status update or share a particularly good article. But that’s about it.

  13. Calibrachoa :

    I originally started Facebook so I could play games with my teammates at work. *facepalm* This was many many moons ago. End result is that I just have everything on the same account and I judiciously control who sees what and keep it tightly locked to the outside world.

  14. I have 2 Facebook accounts. One to use for personal family and friends and one to use for other things like joining groups (spam). If you could always say you don’t have a Facebook account since you said you’re not searchable. But if you feel like it’s a good idea to join the group, make another account. It’s not a big deal having a second one.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I hate when blog giveaways force me to like a Facebook fan page or global post. I mainly read fashion blogs and do not want these posts showing up in the newsfeeds of my friends or family. So my separate account is solely for giveaways and anything else I don’t want to use my real account for.

  15. I admit it. I am one of those with a paranoid aversion to Facebook and have (at times, smugly) never had an account. I think, however, that s’s point above is well taken. Learning to use social media as a tool for our benefit is worth our time and attention as its influence will only grow in the future.

    It appears that I am just lazy and pathologically introverted.

  16. Sort of related threadjack – what do you do when someone you don’t know well (or at all) or only know tangentially hits you up on LinkedIn? I get requests from people who work at other branches of my organization who I have never crossed paths with and probably never will; potential clients who have not used my org for their business; and people who are in my industry but who I have never met. I find this happens a lot with young, college-age people the most. It’s weird – what do you guys do? With the prospective clients I kind of feel like, “why would you link to me when you didn’t want to use my org,” but then I think maybe we can connect later. Weird.

    • Wannabe Runner :

      Sometimes I friend them, and then unfriend them later. I do this on fb too.

  17. Anonymama :

    Am I the only one who pictured an actual alcohol-serving bar at first and wondered what the question had to do with work colleagues?

  18. I was in a similar situation when I volunteered to take over the social media platforms for my employer. I signed up for Facebook in 2005 my freshman year of college. At the time you had to have a @edu email to join. I had no idea Facebook would grow to be what it is today and so I was very careless about what I posted — me and my roommates were in our bath towels chasing each other with toy knives in one pic. Eh. We had fun. Anyway, I decided it was too much to comb through my old statuses and pictures and so I opted to create an entirely new account specifically designated for professional connections.

  19. I’m coming to this thread late but I don’t think anyone has said this yeat (I skim read most of the thread though so don’t shoot me if I missed it above)

    Facebook = SOCIAL network (i.e. for friends)
    LinkedIn = PROFESSIONAL network (i.e. for work and work-related things)

    So – I use Facebook for personal and LinkedIn for work. I would not request to “friend” colleagues or work acquaintances on Facebook but I would add them on LinkedIn. Likewise I don’t search for my friends and add them to my LinkedIn network.

    If I were going to start a group for a work related committee I would do it on Linked In but not on Facebook. The only exception may be something I was doing in my own time , such as the work I do with a charity. I’d be comfortable with that being on Facebook because it’s not connected to my job, it’s in my personal life, and I would want to encourage my friends to get involved in it and spread the word by liking the Facebook page. If the charity was having an event or running a specific fundraising initiative that I wanted to tell colleagues at work about I would probably just email them rather than invite them to a Facebook group. As for “friending” people involved with my charity work – I would consider people who work with in this way “personal” friends so I wouldn’t have a problem friending them on Facebook with access to my limited profile (not everything though!).

    I f I were doing charitable work that was related to my day job then I would not join a Facebook group, I would communicate with them through my work email account. If I made “friends” I would keep in touch with them through Linked In.

    Final word _ I have got 2 Twitter accounts. One for personal (which is not linked to my real name); and one under my name where things that are a bit more censored! That way if a professional contact googles me I’m not “invisible” online but I manage my online presence carefully.

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