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A reader recently asked about an issue on the minds of many professionals: Should you become “friends” with your colleagues on social media?

In my job as a digital marketer, I’ve used social media as a tool to connect with colleagues. And while today’s workforce is more casual and open than in the past, I believe that interactions on social media should be limited to family and loved ones. If a colleague is close enough, then perhaps they should be considered. But beyond that, work should be separate.

There are many things in life that are best kept separate from work, whether it’s politics, finances or love. Your social media life is also something you should keep separate. You may be sharing photos and political opinions with your friends and family that you may not want to share with work colleagues. The last thing you want is for your weekend activities to potentially affect your relationship with coworkers. You never know if someone may treat you differently based on what they see on your social media. And they’re not going to tell you.

Keeping your social media presence separate from your work life can also help to increase your perceived level of professionalism. I’m often asked to speak about “executive presence,” which is related to how people perceive you at work. This presence can influence whether you’re promoted or considered for more advanced work.

As tempting as it is to want to be friends with your colleagues on social media, think twice before doing it. There are many pitfalls to this that you may not see now.

You may even want to take it a step further. You may want to make a universal policy that you don’t become friends with anyone on social media who you currently work with. That way, no one will get their feelings hurt when they realize that you’ve friended someone else, but not them. The one exception to all of this is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an excellent way to maintain and grow your professional network.

— Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching. She can be reached at