To “Friend” people on Facebook or not? Public or Private?

On 22 May, 2016, I presented to a group of writers new to social media the joys of social media. (Wow… What a mouthful.) As part of that workshop, I discussed security, safety and quality of the follows and friends you gain through social media. So, of course, I have been thinking about the things that will make me follow someone on Twitter (or not) and my personal policy about friends on Facebook.

Last year, I wrote a post about the dangers of social media. In that article, I spoke about how social media has changed the face our world, introducing dangers that no generation before us has ever had to face before. Sharing our photos and snippets of our lives with strangers on the other side of the world, only seconds after the events, is not something that anyone could have dreamed of all of 15 years ago. If you had told me when I was a child that I would be writing about dangers of the internet, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I would have asked you, “What’s an internet?”

But here we are. Not only am I writing about social media dangers, but also finding myself defending my choices.

Recently, I posted about Twitter and the things that will attract me to an account as a follower, and the things that turn me off. As I mentioned in that post, I joined Twitter as the writer, just starting down this publication road, so that persona was easily managed.

But what about Facebook?

I have had a Facebook account for over 10 years. I learned very quickly that it was a great way to share the photos of my children as they grew up with my family and friends spread throughout the world. My husband is Dutch with family in Netherlands. I was born in the USA, and many of my family still live there, including my brother and two sisters. My husband and I have friends in Australia, and our parents live in the North Island of New Zealand while we reside in the South Island. Facebook seemed like a brilliant solution to a complicated issue.

Then I became a writer, looking to become published. I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to use a pen name. I was proud of my name, the name I was born with, and had scientific papers already published under that name. Why would I use anything else? I have changed my private account to my married name, helping to give some division between the writer and the mother/wife, but because of the way some of the features work on Facebook, there are some within the writing community that interact with me under my personal profile. Let’s face it, you can’t join a discussion group under the guise of a public page; it needs to be a personal profile. So I adopted a rule: if the group was public, such that anyone can see what content is listed there and doesn’t need to be a member… No go. I stay clear of them. And some groups, I might be a member, but I’m a silent member, just watching from the sidelines, getting information about submissions to writing contests and agents/publishers.

However, I also have an unwritten rule that I follow religiously: if I don’t know you personally, or I can’t trace exactly how we might be related, I won’t accept your friend request. I had set this rule for myself back in the days when I first signed up for Facebook, and not once broken it. This rule came about not because I’m trying to hide anything. It’s there to protect the privacy of my children. Let’s face it: I don’t think my 14-year-old son wants his nude baby photos going viral. So, as a matter of practice, anything that is writing related or something that I would love to share with the world at large, I post to my public author’s page, then share to my private personal timeline. Yes, it means double handling, but it gives me the peace of mind needed to feel assured that my children’s privacy is protected.

In the past week alone, I have had 5 friend requests from people whom I didn’t know anything about, except for the fact that they were fellow writers. Thankfully, when I explained the situation to them, they all understood, but I know one day there will be one person (likely an obsessed fan) who won’t. Well, tough. A writer is entitled to a certain amount of privacy.

At times, I do find it difficult to maintain the separation between my personal and professional personas, especially considering the flaw that Facebook has in that you can’t join groups as a public persona. However, to date, my practices have worked and I will keep going.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Posted in A Writer's Journey, Social Media, Writing and tagged , , .

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