Sharing your thoughts and experiences with your friends on social networking sites has become a customary way of communication. But not all the personal two-pence you put out on the webscape is safe with employers now keeping an eye on your online antics. In an age where blogs, micro-blogs and social networking sites are blurring the line between private and professional lives, you could do well to wise up and work on your manners to ‘block’ yourself from risking your job.
To share anything and everything on your Facebook (FB), Twitter or blog is not as good an idea as being judicious is. Whatever enters the web world seldom gets erased completely and software is designed to fish out ‘deleted’ information even after years. If your luck is star-crossed, an offensive ‘comment’ you made and ‘deleted’ can also be retrieved and used against you.
Shishir Dave, a seasoned HR (Human Resources) consultant, says, “In a flourishing metro, Facebook-Twitter usage is very high among the working class. The trend of online surveillance is catching up and there are agencies to do background checks. We get many requests from employers to check up online profiles of prospective employees to find out whether (s)he is a job-hopper, party animal, alcoholic, has criminal antecedents, etc. You never know which post or remark may boomerang on you. If you are already down and your boss needs to hammer a final nail in, even an abusive tweet or a post could be it.”
Ask yourself : What impression does my online paraphernalia give to an employer?
Think before you upload
An employer discovering unflattering or inappropriate photos can be disastrous to your image. Uploading intimate, obscene, wasted-looking or drunken party pictures are obviously a strict nono. Un-tagging yourself from friends’ indecent pictures may also save blushes. Dave says, “We usually warn out-of-hand employers to behave themselves. It is better to give them the benefit of doubt once. If the employee persists with his loose-talks or improper behaviour online, we issue him/her a notice and eventually decide to sack them. But in most instances, a warning has always sufficed.”
Ask yourself: Do I want colleagues to see this?
Choose ‘friends’ wisely
In US and UK, tons of employees have been given the boot for wisecracks online. A Massachusetts teacher, Dr June Talvitie was shown the door for calling her students ‘germ bags’ and their parents ‘snobby, arrogant’ on Facebook. An IT teacher in the UK was shown the door for posting a ‘jesting’ comment on her rowdy teenage students. In both instances, a school staffer had squealed on the professors.
So think twice before adding someone who you haven’t met or before posting an off-hand comment. “You never know how and via which friend your post can land up in the newsfeed of higherups,” Dave adds.
HR assistant in a British bank, Stephanie Bon, got fired for her post: “Our new CEO gets 4,000 pounds an hour. I get 7. That’s fair.” Again, it was Bon’s colleague who reported her. Dave explains, “The work ethics in America and Europe is very strong and hence employees run into trouble if they make inappropriate comments. Calling your boss an ass in the US may fetch you a libel suit and pink slip, but in India, you get away saying a lot of things online as a proper system is not in place to deal with these instances.”
Ask yourself: Will this get me fired?
To keep your networking profile secure, up your privacy settings to the hilt. But then, nothing actually is private as the internal security walls are not too difficult to break open with the correct software. “HR can easily crack open private information of an employee if it receives a tip-off on his misbehaviour,” says Dave. “But even if the top boss wants, it is logistically impossible for the HR of big companies to track employees’ online lives. So unless a staffer complains against a particular post, we don’t keep a watch on him.”
Ask yourself: Would I say this aloud at work?
Overdoing the updates
Status updates can get really immediate, with dense minute-byminute account, especially with the on-the-move Tweeple sorts. But it may not always be a grand idea to let the world know which mall you are shopping in or which coffee shop you are chilling out at. This cautionary goes especially for girls, who could be enlightening their potential stalker with dangerous details. Let us not even get in to how your boss and colleagues will think of you as somebody who does nothing except fool around on FB or Twitter.
Ask yourself: Does anyone care if I’m buying toilet paper?
Being overcautious online spoils the sole purpose of its carefree existence. Just go easy on excesses. The safest bet for cribbing and ranting about your depressing job would be at that good old haunt – the nearest bar!
10 Things that give you away
1 References to drug abuse
2 Extremist or intolerant views
3 Criminal record
4 Proof of excessive alcohol consumption
5 Indecent pictures
6 Foul language
7 Links to unsuitable websites
8 Lewd jokes
9 Silly e-mail addresses
10 Silly groups