The rise of social media has changed how we relate to the world – how we see things around us and even how we interact with our coworkers. At some point, coworkers stopped just being friends to hang out with at happy hour or over lunch breaks. Now they get to be our social media friends who see family pictures, dinner plans, and political thoughts. Discussions you’d never had at work are suddenly broadcast to those you work with.

Perhaps coworkers get ‘friended’ because of a desire for cohesiveness in our lives – to not have it so segmented. Or maybe professional networking sites are just not cutting it for us when it comes to networking with current and former coworkers. Others have weighed in on whether or not it is a good idea to be social media friends with your coworkers. Unless you have completely sworn off social media, it is almost impossible to avoid, and can make a polite business relationship more awkward should you decide to decline a coworker’s request.

Making coworkers social media friends can be a really good thing. Instead of losing contact with someone, you see what is happening with each other and easily pick up the relationship when you are face to face again. Social media can make coworkers feel more connected with each other and help them work better together. But you should assume that you will have different opinions from your coworkers on how to live your life outside of work, including who should be the next president of the United States of America. How do you stay professional while at work and never talk about the political rant that your coworker (or you!) felt the need to post last night?

Politics in the past few years has changed social media for many of us. Some of us aren’t too worried about America being great again. We just want to make Facebook great again. When will our feeds be solely comprised of kids, food, and pet pictures, interspersed with nonpolitical memes and random videos? Social media may now be forever worse, I mean changed, after the last two election cycles. But you can make it better with just some minor tweaks to your account.

Privacy – Ever Heard of It?

Social media sites have things called privacy settings. These settings are your real friends in the professional world. By simply setting up lists in sites like Facebook, you can control who sees your kids, who sees your political posts and who sees those boring videos of your remote control airplane hobby. It is really okay to be friends with past, current, and future coworkers on social media. Unless you have a secret after work life that could seriously affect your clearance or your job, social media will not damage your career. But the wrong post, seen by the wrong person, at the wrong time, could dampen relationships in a way that takes weeks to recover. You can prevent that by simply controlling what or how much people see of you online.

We can be authentic with others but not let everyone see every little detail of our lives. Do yourself a favor and either adjust your privacy settings or keep your mouth closed on social media. Online political thoughts rarely change people’s minds on how or what to think. Usually, it only changes their opinion of you, which is important to carefully consider when it comes to your career.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.