"Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work," tweeted a Twitterer known as "theconnor," a San Francisco Bay Area job seeker.

"Who is the hiring manager? I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web," responded a Twitterer known as "timmylevad," a.k.a. Tim Levad, a business development manager at Cisco.

D'oh.

Web 2.0 - social networking, in particular - is changing the way we communicate. Now we can share our inner monologs with the world. For good or ill, each of us can give in to the fantasy that someone actually cares what mood we're in or that we just woke up from a nap. Unfortunately for people like "theconnor" who use the popular social network Twitter, it turns out inner monologues are inner for a reason: Just because we have thoughts rattling around in our brains doesn't mean all information is suitable for mass consumption.

In addition to making the 1970s "Me Decade" seem like the height of altruism, social networking is transforming the Web 2.0 experience into a bizarre, hybridized journal of our personal and professional lives. As corporations and organizations commandeer Twitter and Facebook to suit their own purposes, these oases of personal expression are now fraught with potential for making career-ending gaffes. This peculiar circumstance has spawned intriguing questions. One among many: What happens when your boss wants to be your Facebook friend?

 

The Rise of Facebook

There was a time when Facebook was a little-known Web site exclusive to those with an e-mail address that ended in .edu. It was 2004, John Kerry was running an impotent campaign to unseat an unpopular president, Montreal still had a Major League Baseball team, and SpaceShipOne seemed poised to launch the private spaceflight industry.

In those halcyon days, social networking began and ended with MySpace. Facebook toiled in obscurity and Twitter's concept of expressing oneself in 140 characters or fewer wasn't born. Five years later, the world is a different place. MySpace and its quirky user-created pages have been usurped by Facebook's slick, corporate-friendly format. Consequently some 200 million of us today are feigning interest in what our grade-school classmates are eating for lunch. About a quarter of those same people are coupling with Facebook's rigmarole the ability to share with the planet their most compelling thoughts via Twitter, e.g., "I'm writing an article about Facebook and Twitter."

Snark aside, there is legitimacy as worthwhile communication tools to Facebook and to a lesser extent, Twitter. These applications reconnect old friends, keep new ones in touch and serve as a hub for far-flung siblings.

But a curious trend is emerging: These and other Web 2.0 tools, which were designed to be outlets for personal expression, increasingly are being used by corporate and public-sector entities for marketing and other unintended purposes. Furthermore, people who once adored Facebook as their private online paradise now find themselves in the awkward position of either declining a "friend" request from a workplace superior or willfully exposing to company bigwigs their personal and unflattering photos from years or weekends past.

This convergence of work life and private life seems destined to become the way society functions, said social media observer and World Wide Rave author David Meerman Scott.

"I think what is happening today is our work worlds, social worlds and family worlds are all converging," he said. "They always have been interlinked, but I think social networking interlinks them even

Chad Vander Veen  |  Associate Editor