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As part of a new tech segment, we're starting a social media advice column in which we'll ask experts your questions about how to behave online. This week's experts are Baratunde Thurston, former digital director of The Onion and author of How To Be Black, and Deanna Zandt, author of Share This! How You Will Change The World With Social Networking.
While we wait for your questions to come in (you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or put them in the comments below) we're kicking things off with a question of our own:
Should you friend or accept a friend request from your boss on Facebook?
Deanna Zandt: "There [are] two sides of this. One is that it's interesting to see the different overlaps of parts of our lives intersecting with one another, but, for the most part, friending the boss is a sticky, dangerous kind of situation and I don't advocate for it."
Baratunde Thurston: "I would say do it, but just quarantine that boss into the safe zone on Facebook."
Thurston: "I think it actually does depend on who the person is. That boss might take your Facebook friend diss as a diss on their overall corporate leadership skills, as a vote of no confidence, as a signal that you're not a member of the team. And if you're in one of those superteamy-type work environments, you don't want to stick out. You know what I'm saying? So put them in a place so they'll only see the baby pictures and the cat photos."
Zandt: "The other thing to think about is what you're going to actually see of your boss. Chip Conley from Joie de Vivre Hotels in California has a whole ... post about how his employees basically sat him down and said, 'We don't want to see pictures of you running around Burning Man half-naked.' "
Thurston: "I think what we're both agreeing with is that there are some boundaries here. And the fact is Facebook has destroyed the meaning of the word 'friend.' 'Friend' used to mean ... I'll take a bullet for you, I'll take care of your kid or, you know, things with meaning — and now it just means 'connected to.' It's already awkward enough in an office culture to be 'friends' with people who you're actually not. So Facebook formalizes that awkwardness through this button."
Zandt: "Bottom line for me — have a chat. Talk to them about it. You know, like, in person."
Thurston: "Maybe not through Facebook?"
Zandt: "No, no. Maybe just, you know, you and me."
Thurston: "The social network called life."