Blurring the Lines Between Work and Personal Life on Facebook

A new study shows Gen-Y  Facebook users may be blurring the lines between their personal and professional lives on the social media platform.

It’s no surprise that this age group—often referred to as Millennials (ages 18-29)—is using Facebook more often for personal reasons than professional, but they are increasingly ‘friending’ their co-workers.

The study, conducted by Millennial Branding and, examined profiles of nearly one million Facebook users, and points to an interesting trend toward entrepreneurialism.

Some facts about Gen-Y workforce:

The Personal-Professional Blur:  Only 36% of the nearly four million profiles in the database list a job entry. The average number of friends for Gen-Y users is 696, while the average number of “work friends” is 16. Nearly 40% are connected to more than 10 work friends.

While the number of work friends seems small, it could have a big impact on future employment. “When you are connected to nearly 700 friends you tend to forget about those 16 coworkers… they become out of sight and out of mind” explained Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of the best-selling book Me 2.0. This can be a serious problem when it comes to the separation of work and play, which is critical to keeping a balance in life.

However, the nature of this balance has changed significantly in this wired age; we are all in constant contact with both friends and coworkers, and it’s easy to mix the two. But no matter what your career field, it’s important to always think twice before making a post.

Who Employs Gen-Y? According to the survey, the largest single employer of Millenniels is the U.S. Military. In conjunction with this, “Government/Military” is the third most popular industry listed on Facebook pages.

Just behind the military sit corporate giants Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Starbucks (NYSE:SBUX), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Best Buy (BYSE:BBY). What’s interesting is that these companies all have a significant online presence, which helps make them attractive to Millenniels.

Approximately 7% of those surveyed currently work for Fortune 500 companies. What makes this interesting is that some projections have Millennials making up 75% of the workforce by 2025. As the military continues to slim down, more Millennialls will be entering the private sector sooner than expected, which means that Fortune 500 companies are going to need to understand how to cater to and mange this new crop of front-line operators. Focusing on their on-line brand will be a significant part of this.

What are the Most Popular Gen-Y Jobs? The study found that the most popular industry for Millenniels is “Travel and Hospitality” (7.2%) and the most popular job title listed is “server.” The fifth most popular job title for this group is “Owner” which seems to reflect the realities of our current economic situation-- many who are not able get a job are attempting to strike out on their own by either starting businesses or freelancing. This may reflect an entrepreneurial trend for this group and a well needed spark to revive the American tradition of entrepreneurialism.

The five most popular job titles listed in the study:

  1. Server
  2. Manager
  3. Intern
  4. Sales Associate
  5. Owner

Recognizing and understanding the role of social media and the increasing blur between work and life in this generation is going to be critical to the success of American businesses over the next decade. We live in a wired age where boundaries are continuing to be blurred and at times even eliminated. Schawbel cautions that these days “we are always connected to work whether we realize it or not” and thus we need to be mindful of what we say and who is listening.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook