Photo composition by the author
derived from public domain images and others CC BY-SA 2.0/3.0
Shal Farley, Joella Marano, Gage Skidmore and Stand-Up Sucks, LLC
To use Facebook as an example, there are myriad tools made available to users to determine not only who sees what they post but also to effectively filter what they see from "friends"—and those "friends" have no way of directly knowing about it.
We all have a friend—or more—who's incurably addicted to Facebook and posts about every mundane event in their life? If you don't want to see their posts anymore, you don't have to "unfriend" them, just "Unfollow" them and you won't have to see their posts about their latest meal or check-in at the gym. You'll still be "friends," but they will have no idea that you aren't seeing their posts, and if someone did it to you, you wouldn't know it either.
In extreme cases, you can add a person to your "Restricted" list which would limit what they see to your "Public" posts.
A member of my family once posted a picture on their profile apropos to this essay. It simply said,
"Face your life,
don't Facebook your life."People tend to overestimate just how interesting their life is to other people, hence the hypothetical example above. As a business owner (e.g. independent contractor, freelancer, etc.) you need to remember that if you're going to use social networks to grow our business and/or create awareness of yourself or your brand then you can't make the mistake of wasting the time of clients and potential clients with posts that are mundane or potentially offensive. Just because someone is your "friend" on Facebook doesn't mean that they want to know every little detail of your life or even your opinion on divisive issues like politics or religion. Such posts can result in not only losing a Facebook friend but alienating potential clients and employers.
This doesn't mean that you have to censor yourself, just take advantage of the tools social networks offer to tailor your posts to specific audiences.
When I see something online or in another news feed that I want to share, I don't just hit that "Share" link and let the chips fall where they may. I take a moment to consider the following question:
"How will posting this make me look to potential clients?"If I feel that the post is interesting but absent of any type of divisive message or personality, I'll make it public or visible to "Friends and Acquaintances." If I want to share something a little more personal, perhaps a remark on my availability for work due to an illness, I'll make that visible to friends only.
Another useful tool is Facebook's "Lists" feature, with which I can create specific lists of people who I know would be okay with me posting certain types of content. For example, I like to share things of a spiritual nature from time to time, so I made a "Spiritchal" list which includes people among my friends who I know would appreciate seeing those sorts of posts while other friends—particularly those who don't care for spiritual content or those who I'm just not sure of in that regard—will never see it. I also adhere to a strict "Friend Request" vetting policy.
When it comes to political content, I'll admit that I have "Unfollowed"—without "Unfriending"—several people who I consider friends and colleagues because I don't care for their politics. And it's precisely that reason that I rarely post anything smacking of political content on my personal Facebook profile. I don't want potential clients to be offended or annoyed by anything I might want to share to the point that they unfriend or unfollow me and not only forget that I exist but effectively forget that I might be able to provide some service for them down the road. Does this mean that I have no interest in politics and don't care to engage people in such discussions? Of course not. Heck, I ran for US Congress in 2010. As such, I have a separate Facebook page reserved specifically for political postings. It's not a list, nor is it a group—two Facebook features that would allow me to add specific people to it. It's a Page that people are welcome to "Like" or "Unlike" as they so choose.
The closest I get to posting anything political is an occasional plug for this page—usually tied to an infrequent blog post—in which I tell my friends and acquaintances that if they want to engage me in a discussion about politics or socioeconomic issues, they are welcome to do so there but not on my personal Facebook profile.
So, remember, when using social networks for business networking, put careful thought into the things that you post and consider how it might be interpreted by potential clients and customers. You don't want to alienate anyone.
Latest Revision: October 1, 2019
Revision (image added): June 19, 2018
Revision: August, 24, 2017
Revision: September 14, 2016;;)