I am not sure about you, but when I first joined LinkedIn in 2003 I had a strict linking/friending policy.  I would only link to people who I worked with… people who I could recommend with at least one story or professional experience to back up my opinion.

I did the same for Facebook in 2005.  I would only become a friend of someone who I actually considered to be a friend outside of one context (professional, social, sports/athletics, school, etc.)

Same goes for Twitter in 2008.  I would only friend someone whom I'd feel comfortable sharing any number of life's details — professional, social, etc.  But then Twitter was used more and more for sharing interesting links, a combination of professional observations and the mundane details of life.

Something interesting happened along the way.  The networks evolved.  I got repeated friend requests from people who didn't *quite* fit my intended way of using each social network.  I was put in the lose-lose position of either rejecting the request & risk offending them or accepting the request & diluting my intended use of social media.  Not being eager to burn any bridges, I started accepting requests that didn't fall into the policy I had charted for myself.

And now all my social networks are a mess.

On LinkedIn, the slippery slope began with work contacts who I didn't interact with on a regular basis.  Then I started adding work contacts who I didn't know well (just folks who worked at the same place at the same time).  Then I started adding people I knew, but not in a professional context.  Then I started adding a few fellow alums from schools I'd attended.  Then finally I started adding people I actually didn't know at all.  All because my lines blurred to the point that I couldn't justify rejecting a friend request on the off chance that it might come back to haunt me.

Facebook went exactly the same way.  It started with close friends, then work contacts (many duplicated with LinkedIn), then other folks I knew, then other folks I used to know… and so on.  I see similar things happening with Twitter now and I don't like it.

More and more, I hear stories of people pruning their friends lists.  I think this is a great move and possibly indicative of what I'd term "Social Media 2.0"… the next evolution.  People have talked ad nauseum about the importance of filtering through the nonsense/clutter and making social networks more useful in coming months/years.  But I wonder if the first step isn't the widespread adoption of "friend policies".  I have seen particularly famous people in our industry post on blogs or their LinkedIn pages about the rules they use to filter contacts.  I can see us all employing something like that as our worlds collide more and more.

Right now, my LinkedIn contact list and my Facebook friend list is about 80% duplicated.  This seriously needs to change, and it will.  So if you're currently a friend of mine and you aren't in a few weeks, please don't be offended.  Work is work.  Play is play.  I'm just trying to get better control of my worlds and I'd really like to keep them separate as much as I can.  Occasionally, I'd like to communicate in a professional context with my professional contacts.  I'd like to share pictures, stories, and good times with my close friends outside of work.  My blended professional and social life isn't working for me, and I quite frankly can't and don't want to be on my toes all the time.  :-)