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Though many people elect to keep their professional and personal lives separate, the advent of social media is making this less and less common. As traditional notions of privacy are becoming somewhat antiquated or, at the very least, more fluid, the way people who work together connect online is also evolving.

Should you connect with co-workers on social media?

There are many good reasons for developing personal relationships with your colleagues, and social networking has only made forming such bonds simpler. Naturally, some separation between work and home is still necessary, and not everyone can (or might want to) be your friend; regardless, forging strong relationships with the people you work with can be highly beneficial to both your professional and social life. One of the benefits of friendships at work is that you feel more invested in the people you work with, as well as your place of business. Social networking makes this investment easier because most people portray themselves honestly (even if they engage in some conscious editing), listing their likes, dislikes, and the sort of things they care about, like movies, music, video games, and political interests. Naturally, knowing this information could lead to some friction if you disagree or dislike things your co-workers like — however, this information could also provide the basis for developing a strong friendship if the information they list overlaps with yours. There should be a limit to how much you engage with your co-workers on this level, though what that limit is will depend on a variety of factors, such as the line of work you are in and what the policies are for out-of-office fraternizing. More conservative places of business, such as offices of law, medicine and politics, may require less sharing. One should always be mindful of their privacy settings and know how to use them. Each service, from Twitter to Facebook, has its own way of enabling you to edit the content you put out to the world and who gets to see that content. Learn how each works, and err on the side of caution. It’s important to know what’s appropriate to share. Innocuous items like your favorite song, a movie you’re excited to see or even the birth of a child generally fall well within acceptable material. Anything having to do with sex, religion or politics, on the other hand, is likely to prove uncomfortable for some people in your workplace, if not downright divisive. Facebook allows you to set privacy settings for individual people on your friends list. Be sure to make use of that. Google+ uses a similar feature of friendship “circles”; when you post content on Google+, you can select which of your circles (such as “friends,” “family” or, in this case, “co-workers”) get to see the post. Friends in the office can be useful, whether you’re having a good day or a bad one. They can and will support you if they feel invested in your output and general well-being, and will be there with added understanding when you’re frustrated by something in the office. Engaging in social media networking to make friends is a good idea in virtually any workplace, so long as you’re responsible about the way you interact and treat people, and as long as you don’t allow your online social life to become a distraction at work or completely replace your in-person interactions with your colleagues.
Logan Harper is the community manager for Online MPA Degrees - a great resource for information on online MPA programs. He also loves everything about television, travel, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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