With Facebook recently celebrating its 10th birthday and Twitter coming up on its eighth, it’s about time we stop considering social media a novelty. It’s here to stay.
So you’d think by now people would understand the dangers of social media, whether it be jobseekers, university applicants, employees, or celebrities, but it seems as though stories of social media mishaps are still as common as ever.
There’s the recent MacLean’s story about a high school student that took to Twitter to complain about the application process to the University of Western Ontario, going so far as to say it made her want to “vomit into the head of admission’s mouth.”
A recruiting manager for the school was looking through tweets for questions about the application process when she saw the tweet and responded, “Duly noted.”
We’ve heard the stories of employees losing their jobs for similar reasons, and celebrities continue having to issue public apologies after offensive social media postings.
If you haven’t learned how to control what you put out into the Twittersphere yet you should really start, as it’s becoming popular amongst police services to use social media scanning software to assist with investigations. A recent CBC News story about Halifax police looking to adopt the scanning sofware quotes Lauri Stevens, a social media strategist, saying, “It’s remarkable, actually, how much people put out there about what their activities are.”
These scanners only monitor information that is already publicly available, so tidbits that people choose to release into the online universe. Sometimes this might mean witnesses and passersby providing assistance, but other times it can mean that there are people serving themselves up to police on their own social media platter.
Knowing that employers, police, and university recruiters are using social media to further their goals should be enough to motivate users to think hard about how they are choosing to represent themselves online. The number of times I’ve typed out my tweet and then chosen not to hit send would probably surprise you. But guess what? I can go back through my Twitter feed with no regrets. Same with Facebook.
Another friend of mine has multiple Twitter accounts. One is public, and attached to his real name. The other has privacy settings up the wazoo and his name is nowhere in sight. Guess which one he uses for his academic and professional tweets and which one he uses for his deepest emotional feelings?
But the rules of social media professionalism don’t always hold true. Sometimes you should stand up for something you’ve said in a public forum, whether it can get you in trouble or not, and sometimes, it’s not the jobseeker that ends up in the hot seat.
Last spring, a school bus driver in Georgia took to Facebook after a young student boarded the bus hungry after school due to a 40-cent shortage on his lunch account. Yahoo reported that the bus driver, Johnny Cook, expressed outrage about school lunch policies in his status and was later told he could apologize or be terminated. Thankfully, Cook stood by his words, and last week it was reported that he is taking legal action against the school district.
The tables also turned on Kelly Blazek, a high-ranking member of the marketing communications community in Cleveland and the head of a popular local job bank, after she sent an incredibly rude message to a young jobseeker that was trying to connect with her on LinkedIn. Excerpts from the message include: “Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky. Wow, I cannot wait to let every 25-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job. Love the sense of entitlement in your generation,” and, “About your request to actually receive my job bank along with the 7,300 other subscribers to my service? That’s denied, too. I suggest you join the other job bank in town. Oh wait — there isn’t one. Don’t ever write me again.”
The recipient of this awful message posted it to Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook, causing outrage on social media and eventually ending up on Buzzfeed and the local radio station. Blazek has since minimized her online presence and issued an apology, showing it’s not only always those looking for employment that need to pay attention to what they put online.
So, while there are standard guidelines to living a successful life online, there are also exceptions. The only method that will do you right (and this applies to everything you do, ever) is simple: good judgment. There are some people out there who should try it some time.