Things to consider when posting online – Part 2: Who should you friend?

Sharing information on social media can be overwhelming. Take the time to consider who you may “friend.”

According the 2014 Pew Research, 87 percent of adults were online and 74 percent of those adults were using social media tools. With a large portion of the population using different social media tools, it is important to take some time and consider who you might “friend” on social media sites. When making decisions about social networking, there is a lot to consider. So, how do you decide who you want to connect with on social networking websites? Most of the social networking websites have the potential of displaying a lot of personal information, as well as personal photos and opinions. There are some things you can think about before friending someone on social networking sites. As you consider the appropriateness of becoming friends with someone, there are a variety pros and cons to consider and very few clear answers.

Consider this question: should volunteers be connected to youth on social networking sites? There is a power dynamic between young people and adults because the adults feel responsible for the well-being of the young person. Think about what one might see on someone’s profile page; are there questionable pictures, interests or comments?

It is very easy to see how social networking can blur who to friend. Questions arise regarding what needs to be reported to the program and to parents. Reporting on these things may cause youth to lose trust in the volunteer. Obviously, if an adult volunteer sees something on a youth’s page that leads them to think the youth is in danger of harming themselves or others, it should be reported to the proper authorities. However, there are areas of gray that exist – what is the volunteer’s role in reporting things like school absences, foul language or indication of sexual activity, particularly if these are things shared between the youth and his or her peers and not in the context of the program? If the volunteer shares concerns, how does this impact the relationship?

Given some of the difficulties, you may wonder as a volunteer why you would use social media to connect with others in the program. First, volunteers may feel more connected to the program if they are connected to other volunteers, staff or youth. Connected volunteers are more likely to remain with the program. Additionally, youth utilize social networking more than they use email. It may be easier to communicate with a young person if you are connected through social media. Finally, some volunteers friend young people to keep the lines of communication open.

When making decisions about who to friend, go back to your personal boundaries and what you’re comfortable sharing with people online. Then ask yourself if you’re comfortable with this person seeing everything you feel comfortable sharing online. If yes, they fit within your boundaries to add online. If the answer is no, you might reconsider your boundaries and what you share online, or just not add the person as a friend. To learn more about boundaries online, look at the first article in this series, “Things to consider when posting online – Part 1: Boundaries.”

To learn more about what you should consider before sharing information on social media, watch for the last article in this series on questions to consider

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