Friday, April 22, 2011

Social Networking

Social networking is obviously a big deal nowadays. I have 5th grade students who constantly ask me if I have a facebook account. Through the blessing of privacy settings I'm granted the luxury of having a personal life without the little ones infringing upon it. But I'm not here to talk about my students' and their relationship with technology. Today I want to focus on the separation of personal and professional life.

Two years ago I left a district where the teachers there (the same ones whose baby and wedding showers I'd hosted and planned) took my need to write professionally as a personal attack and affront. Since those bitter days I have chosen to hold my online hand much closer to my chest especially in regards to my coworkers.

Now, interpersonal relationships in the workplace are tricky. I have nothing but love and respect for the people that I work amongst on a daily basis. I have found people who have opened themselves up to working and collaborating directly with the new kid (me) to the extreme benefit of our respective students. I am nothing but blessed to have wound up in the district and school that I'm in.

That said, I recently received a friend request from a coworker on facebook who is simply legitimately not my friend. I have nothing again her or her character. She has offered me help and support on more than one occasion and shares vast knowledge and perspective from the different positions she has held as a teacher. We simply have no personal relationship.

My experience has made me wary of opening up my non-school life to people who are not a part of it. Because of the open personality I have, it feels mean to intentionally shield myself but, in truth, it is probably just good common sense at this point. On the other hand, there are coworkers who I have shared a great deal of camaraderie with during the past two years. I know about their friends and families, have spent time with them in a social setting, and enjoy sharing personal victories and sometimes defeats with them on a daily basis.

The whole worlds-colliding-debacle started slowly. I agreed to a friend request from a coworker who has never demonstrated anything but good intentions toward me. That coworker had other friends from work who then found me and sent similar requests. With each agreement I enjoyed finding out about their personal lives and opinions, sharing photos, and making the occasion joke. But then...the recent request from a coworker with whom I have had no social interaction left me wondering once again if the internet is the best place to connect with people whom you need to maintain professional composure amongst.

I made the fateful choice to un-friend everyone related with my current place of business today. With each rejection I felt an almost physical loss. Then, when it was all over, I just kind of felt relieved. I'm free to continue my interactions with family and old friends AND I can choose to share my personal information judiciously with select coworkers at will and in the appropriate situation and context.

In the end I think that each person needs to do what's right for them. For me, at this point in my life, there needs to be a little healthy separation.

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