January 2, 2012
“The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, a… look of anxiety,… muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face…; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime…” – says the protagonist of the fictional forecast made by George Orwell for ‘1984’! Social Media makes it possible for ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Boss’ and the whole wide world to watch us, on the web, where we unwittingly leave behind the traces of stuff equivalent to ‘thoughtcrime’, with or without our volition! At the level of marketing and optimizing net searches for our products across the world – the Internet has really helped to shrink international borders and to make Amazon, eBay and organic quinoa and kombucha culture a part of individual lives across the globe.
The time has really come for us to beware the watching eyes! The mind is boggled by the magnitude of what the World Wide Web has brought into our lives in terms of the exposure it provides and the longevity it offers to some of our activities on the Net. In this New Year, let us make a collective resolution to beware our footprints in the virtual sands of time and vow to project valid social media personae! Whether you are a job seeker, employee or employer – your activities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other places can legally be accessed and used to create ‘your public profile’ – which goes a long way to leave an impression on people who wish to employ you, work with you or collaborate with you. Recently a friend was shocked to find various anonymous remarks about the mean bunch of managers as well as the horrid work culture at a company, from enough people at different locations. She looked this up because she was to interview with the very next day – and she actually stayed away after agonizing for a few hours over the acceptability and veracity of the comments and deciding that giving them the benefit of doubt is far better than ignoring them and taking a leap of faith!
At this juncture, the picture is yet to emerge on how an entity’s social media presence is going to affect its prospects, but it is important to focus on presenting an active web presence rather than a passive one, and to avoid making any goof-ups like using communication skills or presenting a negative image of any sort. Remember that a badly written piece could muddle up the message and result in conveying varied inferences. Bad-mouthing an ex-employer may be a strict no-no, but how is anyone to contest comments made by Ms. Blue-eyes or Mr. Ninja? While consultants and third party verifiers get together to gauge the potential of the market and start evolving theories about deciphering the content of online posts and develop methods and means to filter the chaff out and present a clean picture for a fat enough fee, let us call a halt – evaluate all our options – and move ahead confidently in the matter of our social media activities!
At this point in time, we can safely expect anyone checking up on us to corroborate the details of our education, work experience and other information without requiring any written references or personal calls. We can use the set of questions below to see how someone may build identikits based off our social media personae:
- Inappropriate, as an epithet to describe language, activities or behavior, is an extremely subject affair. Having said that, do you revile or back-bite anyone (especially a former employer) and exhibit shabby language skills or have a circle of inappropriate friends?
- Does your contact list lead anyone to your company’s top rivals, or does it display too many other interests?
- Does it show you posting comments and pictures actively on Twitter and Facebook during office hours?
- Does your profile showcase enough of your skills – to confirm the veracity of your claims on your resume?
- Does it also attract jobs to you without any active efforts on your part and if yes, are they relevant?
- Do your skills and experience make you a member of a niche, and if yes, do you take an active part in the activities of your forum?
- Do you make misrepresent facts and make tall claims about yourself which cannot withstand even perfunctory verification?
A hundred clichés come to mind here – but, I will stay with ‘Forewarned is forearmed’. Try not to get burned by something that has entrenched itself in our lives, never tweet when you are on an emotional or any other high, and never post inaccurate and unverified information, whether positive or negative. Laws may surely follow close on the heels of the proliferating use of social media to ensure that it is not misused to aid and abet discrimination. Having said that, remember that some responsibility lies on us to ensure that our social personae hold up a mirror to form a true and verifiable image of what we represent – then we can always let the world take it or leave it!
The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.