Social media is here to stay, there’s no doubt about that. It’s made a profound difference in everything from marketing, to family updates, school communication, and reconnecting with old friends. In fact, many old friendships and new ones are cultivated through social media. But social media isn’t without it’s problems. As easy as it’s made many useful things, it’s also made it much easier to flirt, and even cheat, on your partner. And flirting on Facebook can be dangerous, not only personally but also professionally.
Every week I hear from women, and men, whose partners are flirting on Facebook and the significant relationship problems it's causing. Facebook relationship problems have become common issues in my counseling services. And unfortunately it’s not uncommon for the person doing the flirting to believe they haven’t done anything wrong. After all, they’re not actually physically doing anything wrong, right?
Professional Problems With Facebook Flirting
Connecting with an old flame through social media presents many problems. But flirting on Facebook with the connections made through the workplace is getting people into trouble, too. Unfortunately, flirting in this forum can be an easy thing to do, sometimes without even meaning to. Facebook profiles and pages provide a window into someone’s personal life, providing information that could otherwise take weeks of interaction to learn. Personal posts about someone’s daily activities make it easy to offer a comment here or a comment there and before you know it you can find yourself bantering in an overly familiar and even flirtatious way.
Take a look at these excerpts from the New York Post article Teachers Fired for Flirting on Facebook with Students.
- At least three educators from city public high schools have been fired in the past six months for having inappropriate dealings with students on Facebook -- one of which culminated in a sexual relationship, The Post has learned.
- One of the booted employees is former Bronx teacher Chadwin Reynolds, who friended about a half-dozen female students and wrote creepy comments like, "This is sexy", under some of their Facebook photos, school investigators found.
- In Manhattan, substitute teacher Stephen D'Andrilli also friended several female students at Essex Street Academy on Facebook and sent inappropriate messages, according to schools investigators.
- As part of a wider probe into inappropriate teacher conduct, a fourth employee -- a male teacher at La Guardia High School -- was found to be giving extra credit to students who friended him.
- "Socializing on Facebook can cross over into areas that are potentially dangerous."
How to Avoid the Dangers of Facebook Flirting
Social media has a permanent place in our world today, there’s no escaping that. And it can be a great tool for many things, including staying socially active and connected. But if you're connecting with co-workers, or trying to further professional relationships through social media, it’s wise to be very, very careful about those interactions. Try using the following tips as a guide.
- If you wouldn’t say it to them in-person, don’t say it online. We all know that texts and emails don’t always convey the emotion or intent that an actual conversation can have. The same can be true for social media posts and comments.
- Be careful of being too friendly. It can be easy to feel like you have a personal connection with someone when you’re commenting on social media. Often this is a misperception and comments can be misconstrued.
- Remember – MANY other people can see your comments. You may not mean to flirt, seem flirty, or misrepresent your relationship, but that doesn’t mean others – many others – will not read it that way.
- Watch what you post. Many of us like to share our adventures, frustrations, or exciting moments on social media. But be careful about posting anything that could be compromising. Provocative pictures, or pictures of yourself in situations that you prefer your co-workers not to see, are best kept private.
- Consider having a professional or work only profile. If you’re connecting with co-workers or other professionals having professional social media presence is a good idea. It can also help to keep professional and personal in the right place, whether it’s through your own posts or responding to others.
If you're on Facebook – and who isn't – be very careful. It's easy to create relationship problems. So don't let friending on Facebook turn into flirting on Facebook.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published Oct 18, 2010. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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