Category Archives: Social Media

The ethics of social media cyber-peeking

peek-a-boo cat

“Peek-a-boo! I see you!” Cat image courtesy of Jann, Pixabay.

It’s funny how the advent of social media created new ethical dilemmas we’ve never faced before in our society. On LinkedIn, for example, I receive occasional invitations from people around the world that I’ve never met or am likely to meet. So then I have to consider: Do I accept this person and take the risk that he or she will be okay? LinkedIn advises that you only connect with people you know. Do I turn down the invitation to connect and hurt their feelings with my rejection?

It’s a similar situation with Twitter. Do I allow someone to follow me without reservations or do I check their profile to gain a sense of their beliefs?

In regard to LinkedIn, I prefer to have had some prior communication with that person, whether it’s been a networking event, a Twitter conversation, a phone call or email. I’d rather have some sense of that person’s character before accepting the invite. It mystifies me sometimes when people want to connect with me when their profile clearly shows that we don’t have anything in common and they have made no attempt to personalize their connection request to me.

Certain sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are designed for the world to see, unless you’ve deliberately put restraints on them for whatever reason you have. Facebook, however, feels more personal (unless it’s a business site or a mix of that person’s professional/personal life).

So here’s my current dilemma and I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter. I recently looked at the Facebook profile of someone who is not a direct connection with me on Facebook. That person (I’ll use the name “Person 2”) is a friend of my Facebook friend. P2 and I both commented on my friend’s post. I saw that P2 had a picture with a background that looked familiar and clicked on P2’s profile to see if it was a place I recognized.

P2 is someone I know and have talked with quite a bit, but it still felt somewhat strange looking at the profile. With LinkedIn, you can tell when someone’s looked at your profile. Facebook doesn’t have that courtesy, to my knowledge. I’m not sure if P2 knows that the Facebook profile can be set to a private setting (P2 probably knows this) or has chosen to keep the Facebook profile at a public setting (much more likely). And after seeing the profile, do I mention any news I read from that profile in conversation in the event I see P2 at any time in the future?

I know, I know. (*rueful smile*) I’m probably over-thinking this situation. But I’m curious to know if anyone else feels the same and what they’ve done about it. It’s not cyberstalking — to my mind, that’s done with the intent to be malicious and to hassle someone. Absolutely none of that here.

Like I said, I know P2 personally. I don’t believe P2’s going to care much, one way or the other. But I’m trying to puzzle out why it still feels weird. Readers, your thoughts?

Side note to my American readers: I hope everyone had a fun Labor Day!

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