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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Social networks and business contacts.....

Interesting dilemma.

In the last few weeks, I've had several 'work' contacts add me as a friend on Facebook, either as individuals or in one case as a company. Some are people I've had a drink with after a conference, so they're not 100% 'professional' contacts I've met solely in a dry work context.

After thinking pretty hard about this, I've turned them down and directed them to LinkedIn.

Personally, I like to keep my social life & my work life pretty separate. I won't take business phone calls when I'm 'off duty', and often restrict my email access my business email/web device at home. I almost never talk mobile stuff with my friends (although my father is a huge Apple fan, so iPhone discussions are inevitable).

I'm trying to come up with a reasoned criterion for someone being 'Facebookable'. If you read this blog, you're probably on the wrong side of the line. Ditto if I met you when I was wearing a suit, or if you only have the email address on my business cards.

Once again, this comes back to my theme of multiplicity. I don't want to have one 'identity' or one message inbox. You might differ... but for me, divergence is much more important than convergence in maintaining my work-life balance.

EDIT I've realised that actually there is one place where I happily blend social & business contacts.... Skype, probably because you can keep everyone you know segregated. Maybe there's something in that for eBay to ponder....


vinnie said...

Dean, I wish there was an easy, non-rude way to turn FB - and even LinkedIn invites down. Of all the contacts I have accepted in LinkedIN may be 2 have wanted to talk to me. I was just another "scalp". I share my email and phone number on my blog. Call me old fashioned but if you need something approach me direct not through a site which emails me, forces me to log on, accept you, only to find you really did not want to talk to me...

Emir said...


I share the same dilemma, but check this:

It appears that one of Facebook's upcoming feature is the ability to sort your friends by different groups, with each group it's own privilege settings.

Wireless Geek said...


Your blog really shows your age. Facebook "is not your father's Oldsmobile". Linked-In is. I am on both sites, just as you are, but I notice a distinct division between the two sites that I think you are missing. I am 44 years old and fit in perfectly with the Linked-In demographic. On Facebook, I feel like I'm a dusty relic from some forgotten shelf in a museum. So why am I on Facebook? Because Linked-In is destined to travel down the same road as Oldsmobile. Why should a nationwide community of friends and neighbors (in a cyber sense) all get up and move to a different site for their professional contacts when their peers are already linked on the Facebook site? O.K., one reason would be to get away from the embarising posts and photos from that one weekend (or maybe several) they had freshman year. Yet, as the population of Facebook continues to mature, so will the culture of the site. Think of Facebook as one of Clayton Christensen's disruptive forces on the internet.

Another change the next generation is bringing into the business world is the idea of a blended life instead of a balanced one. If you can flip a switch at 5:00 pm and turn off your business life, then turn it on again at 8:00 am the next day, you are more disiplined and more deprived than I am, and many of my more successful peers. I know people who have never missed their kid's sporting events, even if they took place at 3:00 pm on a weekday. I cut out of work at 2:00 pm one day a week for 10 years to coach at my local high school. If we tried to keep our personal lives and business lives tucked neatly into their respective boxes, we would have missed those times. Likewise, I have met you at conferences in the states. I doubt you have restricted your flights across the pond to the 8 hour workday window. That means that you are already carving out time from your personal life to meet your career goals. So, you see, you are already starting to blend.

Lastly, isn't one of the staples of our industry convergence? Not just of technologies, but of the ability to communicate when and where we need to with whomever we want to.

Dean, the world is blending, and you are a major contributer to the cause (that is a compliment whether you like it or not). You may find the old ways more balanced and comfortable, but I think it is time to see that convergence is happening all around us, and the next generation is going to continue the trend of using our technologies to take control of their blended lives.

Dean Bubley said...


Thanks for your comments. I suspect this is going to be one of those things that comes down to personal preference and circumstance.

Age will certainly be a criterion here, but so will work background: I'm self-employed, so I don't have a crowd of semi-work-friends I chat to over the watercooler every day. I don't play golf or go to BBQs with the guy in the next cubicle. I'm also quite happy to blend work/life temporally (I'm writing this at the weekend), but very rarely in terms of mixing groups of people.

In fact, Facebook already makes me uneasy in that it forces me to blend groups of friends and acquaintances I'd rather keep separate.

I agree with the notion of a 'blended lifestyle' up to a point... but my point probably varies from other peoples'.

One sidenote that's definitely amusing.... when I've had a couple of discussions about QoS recently, I've mentioned how mashups and web services break the QoS concept. I can't see any operator guaranteeing 5-nines uptime for mobile access to my Facebook page's Vibrating Hamster plug-in....

Scot Grimmer said...

I personally prefer to have the distinction. Driven mainly by the beer inspired content friends will post on FB when connected via the pubs WiFi.

Linked in spares any professional contacts the embarrassment....

In summary one for work one for fun..... I share Vinnie's thoughts scaling is rife.

Scot Grimmer

David M said...

Wireless Geek: Blending is bad - real thin end of the wedge stuff. I'm glad you make it to your kid's games, but are you paying attention?

Dean: Good on you. I manage my social networking the same as you, much to the chagrin of some workmates who don't understand the importance of the work/life divide. But after those initial explanations, at least people don't expect me to be available 100 percent of the time. Work is just for paying the bills - and that doesn't mean I don't take it seriously.

Wireless Geek said...


You misread my post. I don't have kids, but have friends who do, and they do pay attention. You are assuming that blended means that the brain and attention are constantly divided. Blending personal and professional doesn't mean eliminating priorities. It means allowing personal life to be on the daytime priority list and doing the same for my professional life. You also missed the point that blending is going to be more and more common for the next generations because of the technologies that we are driving. We are evangelizing the tools that will give them the ability to manage both sets of priorities without having to keep them seperated by time or technological barriers.

At the end of the day, or maybe the middle if you blend, individuals will manage their time and priorities the way that works best for them. I didn't intend for my feedback to be judgemental, just a well educated forcast of what social networking and wireless technology will allow future generations to do better than we have been able to.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait 5 to 10 years to see if I'm right.

alantien said...

I'm the GM of Geni China. We at Geni obviously believe that there should be differentiation among the circles of people you care about in your life: friends (FB), co-workers (LinkedIn), and a circle you didn't mention - family (Geni).

However, in China, most of the social networkers here do not differentiate. They invite everybody they meet to their SNS of choice, and they accept invitations from everyone without distinguishing which circle.

I wish, like the Olympic "manners" campaigns where the Chinese government is trying to teach 1.2B people that spitting on the street isn't cool, Chinese bloggers could reiterate what you've said, and explain the value and purpose of differentiation. Not everyone can be your BFF.

Rupert said...


I agree with you and have a similsar "Linked In for "business", FB for friends"

While there is truth to "blended", there are differences.

I dress differently at work or at leisure (even with business casual), I behave differently, talk about different things...

The thing that surprises me is that people do not "get it" - or are offended with the idea of context

Dean Bubley said...

Just in case anyone drops into this thread after such a long time - I now have a concrete criterion for adding work people to FaceBook.

"You can be a friend on FB, if I've been in a bar with you at closing time."