“Did I Post That?”: Being Professional on Social Media
What’s the Problem?
Posting on Facebook is important. Really. It helps us to keep up with distant friends and family, as well as to network and pursue opportunities in our professional lives. However, there is a difference between how we should DM our friends and how we should connect with our bosses and coworkers. Staying professional online can be a challenge, and deciding what is appropriate to share with which people is often a grey area. And, when we do accidentally post something inappropriate for the workplace, it can have a very negative impact on the way we are viewed by important business connections, recruiters, and employers. It has cost some the respect of their coworkers, and others their jobs. As daunting as it may seem, using social media should not be a tense and frightening activity, but should be fun and beneficial to our personal and professional relationships. Only common sense and a little caution are necessary.
Knowing the reality of making an unfortunate or ill-informed post on our social media accounts can help us understand the gravity of our words and actions online. What we say really does matter, especially to our employers and supervisors. One cringe-inciting example of making a major mistake on social media is that of a recent grad in 2009, Connor Riley. Riley, shortly after accepting a job at Cisco, a major technology company based in California, posted on Twitter that she would now have to “weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work” (Sun). This sentiment was not only seen by her friends and family, but by an associate at Cisco, who informed her that they would be making a visit to HR about her comment. Riley’s offer was most likely withdrawn, thereafter.
Posting something off-color or offensive is never appropriate and can have ramifications that extend far beyond workplace reputation. Gilbert Goddfried, the ex-voice of the Aflac duck (as seen in their numerous TV commercials), once tweeted some insensitive statements regarding a recent tsunami in Japan, in 2011. He joked, “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them” (Sun). The lack of sympathy and respect he showed for the Japanese people, who were struggling with a major catastrophe, was evident even to Goddried’s employers, who quickly relieved him of his position. Not everyone’s sense of humor is the same. It is crucial to consider if what we may think is funny, may actually be offensive or hurtful to others, and would be better left unsaid.
What Do We Do?
Deciding what is ok to post and say in front of our employers and coworkers can be tricky. What should they be able to see and know about in regards to our personal lives, hobbies, and interests? Here is a guide to help distinguish what to do and what not to do on our social media accounts in order to maintain a clean and professional appearance online:
1. Pay Attention to Privacy Configure privacy settings, so it is easy to monitor who requests to follow your account. This way you can control who sees what you post and say. Address any accounts that do not seem familiar or that write unwanted comments on your posts. Similarly, pay attention to pictures others tag you in. People can tag you in pictures without your permi