Recently, a teacher was in the line of fire for posting Facebook status updates about her students being a bunch of dolts. On top of that, there are countless stories of employees who have gotten into trouble over bitching about a boss, a co-worker, customers or their job in general on a social networking site.
Like it or not, that’s the reality we all deal with. If you choose to point out that your employer is a raging doucherocket online, you may very well get called to the carpet.
Even if you don’t get yanked up by your current employer, you still might pay the piper. More and more employers are scouting Facebook and MySpace as part of the process of researching current applicants. For the most part, I don’t really like this.
But you know what? A part of me says that if you’re dumb enough to leave your status updates completely public AND write about how you and your buddies are gonna hit the crack pipe or you had to bitchslap your baby momma again, you deserve it if you don’t make it to a potential employer’s shortlist.
On the flip side, I don’t like the potential problems this whole thing opens up. There’s a reason regulations steer employers away from asking questions about race, religion, marital status and other personal topics in the application stage. You can’t tell me that there’s not someone out there who has overlooked a potential applicant because they browsed their Facebook page and had personal issues with their religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or political views.
Or worse yet, just looked at their profile picture and said “I don’t think so. S/he is butt ugly.”
The thing is, like it or hate it, we now have to take these things in account when we set up our social networking accounts and update our statuses. That’s not going to change. You can choose not to say your employer is a rectal orifice or write about how you got drunk and woke up in Vegas, married to a dude with no job who smells like feta cheese. You can make your profile private and accessible to friends only, so that only they know just how rectal your workday is or that your new spouse goes by “Bubba Joe” and eats peanut butter and Spam sandwiches.
So as much as the whole concept of employers Facebook stalking you may suck, you at least have some control.
But lately, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of scuttlebutt about employers actually asking staff or potential hires for their Facebook login information. To me, this crosses over into the realm of the ridiculously, absurdly WRONG.
Think about this scenario. You made the mistake of dating a totally obsessive wacknut a few years ago. When you first got a Facebook account, s/he found you and friend requested you. Remembering how he sat outside your house all night or she tried to beat up your new girlfriend, you denied the request and blocked him or her. You don’t want your psycho-ex to know where you live, where you hang out, or where you work. Just to be sure, you also set your privacy setting to “friends only” so that only those you choose to let into your online life can read your updates and personal information.
Thinking all is right with the world, you just go on about your business. You have no clue that Wacknut is at this very moment catching up on all your personal details. See, a high school acquaintance is one of the folks on your friends list. He works for a company that recently requested his login information, and because he has 4 kids and an out-of-work wife and is terrified of losing his job, he gave it to them. Unfortunately, your ex only shows their psycho side to the person they are obsessed with. To the outside world, he or she is the poster child for professionalism and success. Therefore, your own personal wacknut has worked their way into a position at the same employer as your downtrodden high school friend, as the assistant to the boss who is requesting login checkups.
So Wacknut logs into your friend’s account, intending to just do whatever it is they’re supposed to do. But then they see YOU on his friends list. Your privacy settings don’t mean shit anymore, because Wacknut is actually signed on as one of your “allowed’ friends.
That’s just bullshit. No one should have to compromise the privacy settings of their family and friends to please an employer or land a new job. And that’s what happens when you get employers asking for information that allows them to not just VIEW someones account, but actually log into it. And none of us should have to be so paranoid and careful.
The scenario I just invented is extreme, sure. But not out of the realm of possibility. And there are a million other possible awful little indiscretions that, while not as threatening, suck. If I send a friend a private message in Facebook, it is a communication between she and I, just like an email. But if one of our employers has our login info, others are privy to it too. I might want to vent to a friend in a private message about how my skinny jeans just popped a button, but I don’t necessarily want her boss to know about it.
Allowing that kind of crap could ruin social networking sites. After all, one of the whole points of sites like Facebook is to reconnect with old friends, right? If anyone concerned about their personal information getting in the wrong hands has to make their profiles completely vague and generic to avoid potential discovery even WITH privacy settings, how are the folks we’d genuinely like to find us supposed to figure out where we are?
Stop this suckage. Employers, don’t cross that line. If you’re in a position to make these decisions, think about how such practices could impact YOUR family and friends. What if the person Wacknut found in the scenario above was your son or daughter?