Why did I not get that job? I was the top recruit for the team, how could the coach just drop me like that? If you have ever asked yourself that, you might want to take a look at your social media profiles. Have you posted any inappropriate comments or pictures? If so, that might just be the reason why your bright future has just been dimmed. It might come as a shock to people that employers and schools look at websites like Facebook and Twitter to collect more information about applicants. Although the information may be irrelevant or misinterpreted, employers and coaches will do anything to see and continuously monitor these profiles. This invasion of privacy is a result of inadequate privacy settings and over sharing. The only way you can insure your future is protected is to clean up your profile and make sure you think before you post.
Companies and Schools Crossing the Line of What is Right and Wrong
Many employers used to ask for passwords of social media sites on an application or during an interview. This is definitely crossing the line because asking for a password is an invasion of privacy. Some States, like Utah, are proposing a bill that would permit the fining of and employer or school if they demand for your password. It is even against Facebook’s Policy to share your account password. So good news, you have the right to refuse!
Moreover, some employers will ask the individual to open their Facebook page during an interview. This enables the employer to get around asking for the site’s password while still being able to get all the information on the profile from pictures to messages. As for University sports teams, athletes are sometimes required to “friend” their coach for constant monitoring of the players. I believe this also crosses the line.
I do not completely disagree with schools and employers wanting to look at our Twitter and Facebook profiles. There is a benefit to social media checks for companies and schools, as they can find out important information about the person they are considering hiring or giving a scholarship to. Employers want to make sure that the person they hire will not embarrass the company or cause any problems whether it is stealing or putting other employees in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Schools want their students (especially student athletes) to be respectable people because they represent the school.
Where I think companies and schools go too far, is when they look at your friends to determine what kind of person you are, and usually they get the wrong idea. Lots of your Facebook “friends” are not even people you hang out with; they might even be acquaintances you met once. For this reason, looking at your “friends” to get information about you is very inaccurate.
Unrelated and Misleading Information
Facebook was created to be a website for social interaction between university students. Its user group has greatly expanded, but Facebook still serves the same purpose. Facebook profiles are meant for causal and informal interactions with friends. It is not meant to be used as a professional resume. Most of the information has nothing to do with employable skills, and almost everything to do with personal beliefs and lifestyles. This could cause discrimination by an employer or admissions officer which is unethical.
Also, as humans we all make mistakes and bad choices. We all go out with friends for drinks, we all do crazy things when we are under the influence of alcohol and we all post pictures of our nights on Facebook. I am most definitely guilty of having pictures on my Timeline that employers would not approve of and I think most people are. Another point to make is that most people use Facebook to create a façade such as the “party animal” even though they are smart, hardworking and responsible because they want to fit in and seem more exciting. Of course schools and employers only see the irresponsible, alcohol drinking, immature individual and not the person that would be great for the school’s reputation or for the job. When looking for jobs, potential employees have to go through police background checks and blood tests as well as provide a resume which contains education and professional history. What more will Facebook provide? I really do not think that an employer needs to know who you are dating or what is your bar of choice. If an employer saw my Facebook profile they would see that I am a typical University student that likes to go out and have fun with my friend. What they would not see is that I am a very successful and smart student athlete with a considerable amount of employment history and positive references.
In the end, I believe companies and schools need to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. They need to have better judgement about what is unacceptable and what is just a small lack of judgement. They need to remember that the way people appear on social media sites might not be the way they are in a professional setting.
Facebook Is Partially at Fault for this Invasion of Privacy
Although employers and schools cannot legally ask for a social media account password, there are other ways they can get private information about the applicant. Simply searching for the individual’s name on Google will bring up Facebook, Twitter and other pages. If the person has very private profiles, he or she simply needs to be “befriended” and all the information on the profiles will be available to the employer or admissions officer. It easier when the profile has minimal privacy settings and most information can be seen by anyone. Unfortunately Facebook defaults to a public setting, so many people may not know that pictures or post they are tagged in could be seen by anyone. Facebook should default to a private setting and allow people to change certain aspects to public if they want, since there are a greater number of people wanting a private profile.
Many people are unaware of just how open Facebook profiles are even when they thought they had adopted all the privacy settings possible. We do not realize how easily personal can be found on Facebook. I highly recommend reading this article, as it gives tips on how to protect your privacy on Facebook depending on how private you want to be.
But Who Is Really to Blame?
Yes, companies and schools might cross the line between important information and private irrelevant information, and privacy settings are less than satisfactory, but the true culprits are those that post the private information. So yes, the reason why you lost a job or schooling opportunity is YOU! You were the one that posted the inappropriate comment or picture. You were the one who allowed your friends to tag you in a revealing picture. And you were the one who did not ensure your privacy settings protected you. We all have total control over our personal profiles on social media sites. So why do we post things that we do not want people to see? Because we all know that if it is posted on the Internet, it will be seen. We need to be more careful with what we release on social media sites which means we have to put thought into what we are doing. Ask yourself what does this photo show, what does this comment say about me, what will people think when they see what I have posted, and who will see the post? We need to predict the consequences of our actions (in this case, this would be clicking the “post” icon or the enter key on the keyboard). It sounds dramatic and cliché to say that a push of a button could change your life, but it is unfortunately true.
Furthermore, out in public, people would never say the things they can type and post on their social media sites. It is like people lose all common sense and manners when it comes to Facebook or Twitter. I do not understand why people think that saying something for people to hear and posting that same comment on Facebook for people to read are completely different. They are exactly the same; no matter what, others are going to know what you think whether they hear the comment or read it. I think this privacy issue truly comes down to the individual need to be cautious and selective of what he or she puts on social media sites.
Better Safe than Sorry – How to Protect Your Future
School and Sports
Most athletes have the goal of playing in the NCAA at a University in the US. It is highly competitive to make the team not to mention get a sports scholarship. Coaches monitor the social media profiles of their potential recruits and a soon as they see a red flag, the coach will no longer show interest in the athlete. Because student athletes tend to represent the school, and are watched and judged by the public, the coaches need to ensure that no athlete will shine a negative spotlight on the team.
I can relate to this because I play soccer at a very competitive level, and I always had the possibility of getting a scholarship to a University in the US. So I did not get a Facebook profile until the beginning of University because I did not want to risk having a wall post or picture that would ruin my chances of playing soccer in the US.
My solution is a possibility for athletes but if you do wish to participate in social media, there are some points to keep in mind to insure you stay on the recruit list. Here are some social media mistakes that can cost you a sport scholarship:
- Inappropriate pictures – please no nudity. Try to think about what your grandmother would say if she saw the picture.
- Profanities (anything from an angry F-bomb after losing the game to quoting song lyrics)
- Violating NCAA or Specific Team Rules (ex: drinking, drugs, discriminatory comments)
- Forgetting to Update Privacy Settings
- Be careful who you “friend” and “follow” as well as what you “like”.
If you do not want to get fired from your job, follow these tips (if you do want to get fired may I suggest quitting, it is much easier). On social media sites, do not complain about customers, coworkers or your boss, release company secrets, post pictures of you doing inappropriate acts at your workplace and do not post any discriminating posts.
New and Helpful Technologies
Are you still worried that those tips were not enough to clean up your profiles and ensure that they are work and school appropriate? No need to worry anymore! Tools have been created to scan through Facebook or Twitter accounts and find inappropriate words or comments that you would not want an employer or admissions officer to see. If you would like to give these tools a try because my blog has scared you and you are now worrying about your future, here are two possibilities: SimpleWash and Socioclean.
Social Media Can Ruin Bright Futures: The Proof
A very successful and highly recruited high school football player from New Jersey was set to play at the University of Michigan on scholarship. He was rated the number 1 high school football player on “USA Today’s Super 25”. Due to some racist and sexually inappropriate tweets (some shown above and below), he got expelled from high school and his football scholarship was revoked.
Here are some true stories of people losing their jobs because of what they posted on their social media profiles:
- A woman called in sick with a migraine claiming she could work at a computer as she needed the dark. The company found out that she was on Facebook that day and got fired.
- A New England Patriots cheerleader got fired for a picture on Facebook of her leaning over a passed out friend with both phallic and racist symbols drawn on his face.
- A juror dismissed from the court case because he was caught holding a poll on his Facebook asking his friends to help him decide what side of the case to choose.
- Employees of Virgin Air were fired for criticizing the company’s safety regulations and passengers on Facebook.
Hopefully, by now you are no longer surprised when I say “Ruining your future is just a click away”. When we post carelessly and inappropriately online, we all are risking the chance of losing job opportunities, getting fired from our job or losing an expensive scholarship to our “dream schools”. We will never stop companies and schools from looking at social media networks because they benefit from the information they find. So we need to learn to protect ourselves from negative posts and pictures. I would not go as far as to say never get Facebook or Twitter, but instead learn to think before you click post.