Since I had trouble a few years ago, I have always tried to keep work and social media separate. I think that social media sometimes gives us a window on colleagues’ private lives that is unwanted, unnecessary and occasionally inappropriate. Against my better judgment though, I accepted a ‘friend’ request from a person I know through work and found myself wishing I hadn’t. After months of ‘inspirational quotes’ and photographs of cake in my Facebook timeline, I really wanted to go back to not knowing this person. I wanted to revert to the professional distance we’d held briefly at the beginning but was worried that ‘unfriending’ the person might cause awkwardness in our work relationship – this was becoming almost as bad as sleeping with a colleague after the Christmas party (yes, I have a sad history of fluid boundaries that I’m still paying for).
So, the person posted a status that included a highly derogatory word. I was deeply shocked by this as my virtual ‘friend’ had frequently railed against discriminatory language, stereotypes and name-calling and had threatened to unfriend people who shared statuses linked to racist and supremacist organisations. After sitting on my shock for more than a day, and seeing no-one else call the person on The Word, I decided to send a direct message stating how unhappy I was to see this in the post. The person agreed graciously that it shouldn’t be used and offered to delete the post but felt it necessary to announce the reason in another post. The saddest thing was that more people commented on this announcement (‘Let he who has committed no sin cast the first stone’ was a classic comment) than on the original post containing The Word.
I learned a lot from this small event. 1) I should trust my experience on mixing work and social media: I never need to see pictures of my colleague’s cakes. Ever. 2) Facebook is theatre – loved by people who love an audience and if a FB ‘actor’ has more than 500 in the Audience, all life is open and will be viewed. Berne (1970) talked about human’s Hunger for Incident, long before social media was even a twinkle in a computer grad’s eye. Facebook is a perfect theatre for Incidents. 3) Honest, direct challenges are grist for the mill for an actor intent on incident (I need to remember this in therapy) and can be used to garner bouquets from a sympathetic audience. 4) If I had been honest at the beginning by unfriending when I got fed up with the cake, I would never have known that my colleague used The Word. I have to work at preventing myself losing respect for the person – a real test for UPR. 5) I am manipulative – I used this as the reason for coming off the person’s friends list but I need to make sure I maintain clear boundaries from now on. 6) I can’t ever accept a client’s ‘Friend’ request – I can’t risk seeing a client use The Word or similar and I can’t risk becoming bored with their cake.