Or is it? I’ve been hearing a lot of questions lately from people in leadership positions about the appropriateness of “friending” community members on social networks like Facebook. These questions are coming from clergy, youth leaders, teachers, etc. – basically, people in authority or mentoring roles, and often people who interact with minors. Many community organizations, youth groups, and classes use Facebook regularly to engage, connect, share, and plan events.
In the absence of organizational guidelines, people are establishing their own social policy based on their comfort levels. I have heard a number of responses to this issue, including:
- “I won’t friend anyone I work with”
- “I will only respond to friendship requests but not initiate them”
- “I will friend someone but use privacy settings and encourage them to do the same”
- “I will friend someone but with the caveat that if I see something inappropriate that they are doing, I will confront them (or their parents in the case of minors)”
- “Happy to friend and be friends – I’m an equal opportunity friender”
I’ve started to do some investigating on this topic and would love to hear how you or your community approaches this issue. There are a whole lot of other people out there interested as well!
I also wonder about the implications for community stewardship. How do we determine, develop, and facilitate social norms that are appropriate for our communities? Is this something that organizations are addressing explicitly, or is it left to individual members? What are questions we should be asking?
*lyric from “Friendship” composed by Cole Porter.
image: flickr, “friendship arch detail” (Chinatown – Philly) by Bitter Girl