This week the issue of freedom of speech and social media presented itself in the media. A television presenter from the SBS tweeted disrespectful comments during Anzac day and was promptly fired for breaching the code of conduct of the SBS. In America a single mum was fired from her job even before she commenced it, because she posted that she hates working at childcare centres and that she hates working with children. Her ‘new’ job? You guessed it, at a childcare centre, working with kids. Then on a television show a college applicant was turned down because of disrespectful comments she made regarding one of her teachers. I thought that all of the consequences were very harsh. Especially seen in the light of the Bali 9 executions and every one calling for second chances and leniency.
Retracing my steps a bit – before all of this happened I learnt about a couple who divorced. This really gutted me. It surprised me that it impacted me so much, as I do not even know them that well. My conversation partner said that people who always say, “As long as I do not hurt any one else, I can do this,” do not really understand that whatever you do will impact someone somewhere along the line.
Never has this been truer than in the case of social media and job hunting or keeping your job, for that matter. When a barrister jumped on the bandwagon of the SBS journalist’s case and said that it was a violation of free speech, the chairperson of the human rights commission said that this was a matter of employment and that no one was guaranteed a job.
Social media has become a view into the lives of those around you. I try and be very careful about what I show to the outside world. Whenever I get a friend request on Facebook, I look at the person’s profile to gauge whether or not I want to be in contact with this person. I even do this on my Facebook pages. If I do accept a friend request and I do not know the person very well, I put them on a restricted list. I choose what I share and with whom I share it.
These days your resume is not the only access people have to your experience. There are certain qualities that employers are looking for, that may not be reflected in your resume, and they will visit your social media profiles to have a look. They look at provocative or inappropriate photos, they read the public information posted. They look at communication skills displayed on the profiles, whether or not previous employers were badmouthed, whether the person engaged in negative comments about race, gender or religion.
The advice out there is that you have to look at your social media profile as part of your resume. Know and understand the security and privacy settings of your accounts and use them.
This is such a delicate balance. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but at the same time I am entitled to my opinion about your opinion and to react to you and your opinion as I see fit at that time and space.
I would advise you as follows – in this time of keyboard warriors where anger is easily vented and opinions shared for thousands to see, the old proverb of “If you can not say anything kind, then rather keep quiet” has never been more relevant. Choose you audience wisely, your words even wiser and evaluate your posts with an eagle eye, you never know who is watching. One sentence can send you into lock down.