online network
Illustration: Phil Couzens

Blogger Beware

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - the social media options are ever expanding and the convenience is undeniable, particularly when living overseas or working long hours while still trying to keep up with friends and family. Nevertheless, it is important to know the risks and how to avoid them.

Everyone has come across an embarrassing photo or update from a friend – some have experienced it personally. Among friends – these are generally no problem. BUT, is it a good idea for the boss or a client to see you tagged in photos from Friday’s night out? Do co-workers need to see the updates from family posted to your wall?

These questions are all the more important in Japan – the standards and perceptions are not always the same. Here, the basic rule is to keep business and private life separate and this includes in social networking online. And, it is also essential to be particularly conscious of the need to respect the privacy of local friends and contacts in making material public.

As a general guideline in approaching social media, following are some tricky Facebook situations commonly encountered and tips on how to handle them:

  • You are tagged in an embarrassing photo. Un-tag yourself and change your privacy settings so photos are viewable only by your close friends.
  • You are ‘friended’ by someone you do not want to connect with. It might be best to accept friend requests from colleagues to avoid slighting them, but add them to a work list and adjust your privacy settings so you can effectively separate your job from your personal life.
  • You are considering ‘friending’ your boss. It may seem like a natural extension of amiable office small talk, but think twice before proactively ‘friending’ your boss. It could become awkward for both of you.
  • You want to join various groups. You should join groups that interest you. But if you have colleagues in your network and do not want them to see the groups you join, remember to adjust your application settings.
  • You would like to be a fan of certain pages. Becoming a fan of pages on Facebook is visible to anyone who can view your profile, so you should avoid becoming a fan of any page you are uncomfortable sharing with colleagues or business contacts in your network.
  • You love quizzes. Stop and think for a moment before taking online quizzes and posting the results to your Facebook page, unless you want professional contacts to find out which ‘Lost’ character you most resemble or personal traits you would rather them not know.

These guidelines do apply most everywhere. However, it is important to remember that they are all the more important in Japan, where there is a more distinct line drawn between personal and private life on the web (and elsewhere) than in many western nations. Individuals for themselves and employers for their organization should develop a code of conduct, with guidelines on social media use in order to avoid misunderstanding or situations that could affect working relationships.

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