Many people working for trade associations, lobby groups and NGOs have asked for my opinion on handling social networking friend requests from politicians and others with openly partisan views. It was a question came up during the Q&A portion of the panel I sat on, yesterday.

This presents a real struggle for some people. They don’t want to appear aligned to a particular political view whether or not they are. These are their personal views, views which their professional role is meant to transcend. To them I suggest if it makes them uncomfortable, they should neither accept nor initiate friend requests involving politicians. Alternatively, they could accept and initiate requests involving all of them (hoping they all accept the invitation to keep up the optics of non-partisanship).

On the other hand, nowhere else does the word friend have as loose a definition as it does in social media. Those in the know understand this and recognize that being Facebook friends does not necessarily represent a declaration of political support.