Now everyone knows that a Facebook friend often isn’t a real friend, or at least it isn’t a pre-requisite.
But, for journalists, can an ill-advised Facebook encounter be injurious to your career or reputation?
I’m not talking tales of drunkeness or inappropiate profile pictures, but whether “friending” could lead to accusations of favouritism or influence.
It was a topic that Paul Bradshaw picked up last week when he asked the question, “can journalists be a fan of a politician?“ but was also brought home to me when a local politician attempted to friend me on Facebook recently.
This innoucous act threw me into a bit of a dilemma. I have nothing against this particular person, I know of their activity around Manchester and I know the request is a sincere one as a fellow enthusiast for social media.
But – I don’t actually know the person, have never even had a phone conversation never mind met in person. Then again, there are plenty of other people who I’ve only ever ’met’ online and who have become regular conversationalists across Fbook, Twitter et al.
So what to do?
I first contacted the person and asked them how they know me. I got a completely charming reply explaining interest in the Social Media Cafe and blogging activity I’m involved in and also expressing an understanding of the difficult position this request might have caused.
So am I being over-sensitive and a bit prissy about the whole thing?
After all, journalists and politicians have always been in close contact, we wouldn’t have any lobby reporting without it.
Why should the openness of an an online network with all its declared allegiances on display be more problematic than some shady old drinking den where (state-school educated female hacks like myself have a tendency to believe) men who used to “fag” hangout and entertain themselves with funny handshakes?
Now don’t get me wrong, it certainly isn’t the openness of the situation that’s giving me the problem, it’s the potential for the simple action of accepting the request being seen as a warts-and-all endorsement for the individual, the party they support, any causes they attach to etc. coming as part of the package.
It may well be that I do agree/support etc, it’s just that I feel it would impact on my impartiality as a journalist to give out such a blanket approval.
So for now it’s a ‘no’ to friending – although the conversation the request prompted between us may lead to a meeting offline at some point in the future.
What would you do, or have you done? I’d love to hear from any other journalists, or politicians, who’ve considered this issue.