To friend, or not Facebook friend your boss?


What would you do if you received a Facebook request to become a “friend” from your boss?

Online harassment complaints linked to social-networking services, known as “social media harassment,” have recently been on the rise.

A young company employee in his 20s who lives in Tokyo contacted Tokyo-based Japan Online Counseling Association, which provides training for online counselors, saying his problem started when he had received a “friend” request on Facebook from his immediate boss.

He left the request pending for a while as he was concerned that adding his boss to his “friends” would allow the boss to access his messages posted on Facebook, including exchanges with his old-time friends or other information he wanted to keep private.

When he received a reminder to approve his request, the man accepted it, but with reluctance.

After receiving a series of “like” from his boss and a comment such as “you went to a party last weekend,” the man decided to stop posting information about his private life. However, the boss even went on to remind the man: “you haven’t posted anything recently.”

“Now I feel like someone is watching over me all the time,” the man said.

Social media harassment surfaced as an issue about two years ago, according to JOCA.

Many SNS users complain that they are often forced into writing comments or opinions about postings by their bosses while feeling that they can’t protect their privacy. Some are increasingly feeling difficulties in communicating with people via SNS.

On the other hand, JOCA officials pointed out that people in managerial positions also face problems on social-networking sites and come to seek their advice.

An IT company employee in his 40s working in Tokyo said that trying to communicate online with his team members as a newly assigned manager of the team has soured their relations.

All the “friend” requests the man had sent to his five subordinates have been left pending.

“I only wanted to have good relations with my team,” he said. The man claimed he has lost confidence, and it has made it difficult for him to instruct his team members.

Although they were sent or written in a casual way, some people may feel “friend” requests or posts are threatening their privacy, said JOCA officials.

“People should draw a line between business and personal relations when using SNS,” said a JOCA official, adding that users should change the privacy settings of their SNS account to limit their bosses’ access to private posts.

Translated by The Japan Times

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