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Avoiding twits on Twitter

This week I got a netiquette question from a West Coast reader regarding Twitter and what to do if you are uncomfortable with someone who is "following" your updates.

We'll call our reader "Jane." Jane's ex started following Jane's best friend's Twitter account after the break up. Jane's best friend was uncomfortable with the ex "following" her posts, but since she knew the ex, she thought it to be a bit brutal to just block him.

Before I answer, he's a little background in case you don't use Twitter: Basically, the idea of Twitter is that you want people to "follow" your 140 character blurbs (like a Facebook status update). Facebook is a place where you tend to connect with people you met in the real world, but Twitter is a place where it's more acceptable and encouraged to meet and "follow" complete strangers around the world that have your same interests. Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool, and if you haven't used it before, I encourage you to set up an account. Play around with it if you have time during your holiday vacation.

But back to the question. The friend has two choices. She can set her posts to private (which kind of goes against the idea of Twitter, so no one really likes doing that). Or the friend can block the guy. My take is this: If Jane's friend is uncomfortable, then just block the guy. No one should have to feel uncomfortable just for the sake of not looking rude. That's what I would do in that situation. It's not like Jane's friend is going to hang out with the ex (or so Jane hopes). To be nice, Jane's friend could send a private message saying something like, "Sorry, but my friendship to Jane comes first, and she's uncomfortable with you following me." Just put the blame on Jane!

But if Jane's friend is still friendly with Jane's ex, then I say just deal with it. That's the risk that goes into being on any social media. The world is going to find you. Nothing is really secret when you engage in social networks. So either block the guy, or get over it.

Niala and I will be taking a break from Poked for the holiday, but you can follow me on Twitter @BridgetCarey (In Twitter speak, that means my account name is BridgetCarey.) Feel free to ask me any of your social network etiquette questions or shoot us an e-mail at poked@MiamiHerald.com.

Happy Holidays and Happy Twittering...

Posted by Bridget Carey at 08:28 PM on December 19, 2008 in Privacy settings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rejecting a Facebook friend takes tact

In today's Poked column, which I posted below for your reading convenience, we address the question that comes to us from an evil Facebook-using genius:


A colleague and avid Poked reader sent us this inquiry recently about how to say ''no'' politely online. Here's the question: "I just rejected a friend request yesterday. Today, what's in my in-box but a friend request from the same person. What's a polite yet firm way to say, "Thanks but no thanks?"

After some follow-up correspondence, we learned two important things. First, the potential friend was someone our co-worker is familiar with professionally, not personally. Second, an interesting strategy: Our co-worker was Poking the person, but then declining the friend invitation. (Poking is a virtual way of getting someone's attention or just a silly way to say hello.) This created the illusion of friending because Poking someone allows temporary access to people's profiles.

Our co-worker said this is a way to fool people into not realizing they're rejected.

Bridget thought this was a good gambit, especially if you don't mind taking risks and you tend to deal with not-so-savvy Facebook friends. Someone who sends you two friend requests in two days probably qualifies.

But be careful. What if they want to contact you later on and realize they have no access to your profile? They might think you've defriended them.

Awkward . . .

If you want to be sneaky, the Poking strategy might work. But clearly this is neither a polite nor a firm way to reject someone.

We suggest honesty. A tactfully worded e-mail saying that you prefer to keep professional contacts on LinkedIn, and a follow-up invitation you initiate to join on that network, should suffice.

HELPFUL HINT: Bridget recently received an amazing friend request from a public relations professional who works for a company she writes about. He said something like this: ''Hey, I know I'm in PR, but if you accept PR people on Facebook I'd be honored!''. How great is a potential friend who understands people have boundaries on social networks? We love it.

Does anyone out there actually have a polite method of rejection? E-mail what you do, or any another questions of netiquette to poked@MiamiHerald.com.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:41 PM on December 16, 2008 in Facebook , Friending , Poking | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Those pesky time stamps

We got a response from a previous post about removing time stamps while Facebooking at work. One upset employer sent a note to our boss saying this was a way for us to show workers how to "steal" from the company.

Spending time on Facebook at work is tricky, I think, but you have to know the culture of your company. If you're in a cubicle/office environment with constant web access (that allows access to sites like Gmail, Hotmail and Facebook) I think it's a given that people will also be on Facebook at work. Walk around our office and you can see that screen up on most computers.

If you work in an environment like this, I don't see anything wrong with occasional visits to Facebook during work. Does this same employer go around and limit personal conversations at a water cooler because they are also "stealing time" from the company? I view Facebook posts as the present-day equivalent to such chatter -- it certainly is at my office. Are smokers not allowed to take breaks because they are also on the clock?

A broader point: I've written about workplace and employment issues for years, and firmly believe that breaks make more productive workers. Granted, I work in an industry that is knowledge-based and values creativity.  But taking breaks makes you less stressed. It makes you happy. You work harder. That should make your boss happy, too.


Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 04:22 PM on December 10, 2008 in Facebook | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Did a drunken MySpace photo cost student her degree?

Yet another tale of caution when it comes to mixing social networking with the professional world. A student-teacher at Millersville University sued her school, saying she was denied a degree because of a photo on her MySpace page where she was a "drunken pirate," the Washington Post reports. She said it was free speech, but a Pennsylvania court said no because she was a public employee, and ruled in favor of the school.

It seems there were other factors involved here than just one photo. And no matter if you agree or not with the court's decision, it's just another reason to make us all paranoid about the photos we put on social networking sites.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:06 PM on December 5, 2008 in MySpace , Pictures , Privacy settings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Watch out for the Koobface Worm on Facebook

This problem isn't new, but a number of my Facebook friends have been attacked this week with the Koobface worm and have been sending me malicious links without knowing it.

In light of this, I just wanted make a post about it for all of you that may not be aware how it works... because it seems several of my older Facebook friends are spreading the virus because they may not know any better...

DO NOT click on any strange link sent to you via a Facebook message or wall post. On two I got today, the subject lines were "Sexy video with u." and "You're very sexy on this vid. i envy you." and the message had a long link in it. You can also tell it's not real because it was sent to tons of people, so obviously it wasn't a video of me... unless 100 people were in the same sexy video with me. And I think I would remember a video like that.

When you click on the link, it prompts you to download software to watch a video and then it spams all your Facebook friends with the malicious link. This type of worm is also found on MySpace.

If you think you clicked on a link like this, visit the Facebook Security Center, scan your computer for viruses and reset your password.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 11:51 AM on December 4, 2008 in Facebook , MySpace , Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Can time stamps get you in trouble at work?

Facebook_putzImagine, if you will, that you updated your Facebook status during work. There is a time stamp next to your status. Your boss can see that you were on Facebook during work hours. Do you worry?

Someone brought this up to me in conversation and asked if there was a way to remove the time stamp.

Facebook will always show a time stamp for your status. There's no way to remove it. It's not a worry for me, but I can see how it might be for some people. It will also always show a time stamp when you post on someone's wall. However, you can take off the time stamp on your news feed and wall for all other Facebook actions.

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Click on "manage" next to Privacy
  3. Click on "News Feed and Wall"
  4. On the bottom of the left-hand column there is a check box you can un-check that says "Show times in my Wall"

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:46 PM on December 3, 2008 in Facebook , Privacy settings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Long lost cousin or cybercriminal?

Hey, here's a question we answered in our newspaper column, published today, about how to tell the difference between a friend request from someone you can't remember versus someone who is pretending they know you. (Bridget is already regretting using herself as an example; judging by our co-workers' comments about Googling her):

Use care with new `friends'                                                

Q: Someone sent me a Facebook friend request that said, ''Hey cousin, how's it going?'' I have no idea who this is even after looking at her profile, and we have no friends in common. How do I politely find out who this is?

A: The first step to avoiding awkwardness is to do some cyber-sleuthing. Google them. Check their profile for schools, organizations and cities you have in common. You might find clues on other sites this person shows up in. If that doesn't pull much up, do a search with their name and an organization or business they are a part of (i.e. ''Bridget Carey'' and ``Miami Herald'').

In this case, they gave you a clue: cousin. Call a family member and ask if they recognize the name. Of course, this might just be another dead end if the person is using cousin as slang.

If nothing jogs your memory, then it's time to send a reply. Don't be embarrassed. You obviously weren't close with this person, and you've confirmed whether or not they are actual family, so they shouldn't be too offended. We like to use self-deprecating humor to ease the awkwardness, such as making light of it by saying you are too old or lost brain cells from drinking. (Example: ''I'm sorry, I'm having a senior moment. When was the last time we saw each other?'') That's clearly better than just coming out and asking who they are.

Of course, there's also another possibility: This person may not know you at all. Be careful. This could be a cyber-criminal, such as a spammer, who has built a fake profile to befriend strangers. In a worst-case scenario, the links on their profile are malicious and could harm your computer. And be careful about sending back messages. On Facebook, that could give them access to your information. Here are some tell-tale signs: You have no friends in common, and their profile page isn't personal, but full of links to some site they want to promote. Finally, check out their wall: Does it have messages from people asking ''Hey where do I know you from?'' with no response?

If you challenge these people, typically they will not respond because they were banking on the fact that you were too embarrassed to challenge them and/or that you feel too guilty to admit it. And that works: It's amazing how many people accept friend requests from unknown people because they don't want to seem rude.

Which begs the question: why do people blindly accept random friends?

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2008 in Facebook , Friending , LinkedIn | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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