The short answer is it all depends. Most people have a presence on Facebook, for example, as well as on other social media. No one in our modern society should be surprised that, by having a public presence, you’ve chosen to abrogate a measure of your privacy. But deep down we already know this, and recent events have only validated the rumors, and the conspiracy theorists many ridiculed in the past were correct all along.
Although I am writing with everyone in mind I am aiming more specifically at young people, who are trying to establish and launch their careers. Clearly, among many there is a shortsighted and naïve perception that it’s no big deal, that everyone posts stuff. Nobody considers whether it can haunt them later. I recall doing some really stupid stuff when I was young but, fortunately, there is no online evidence of it! So, let’s talk about how this can affect you.
In addition to asking you for employment references, as a part of most reference-checking processes companies conduct, an online search of your name and a short review of your presence on social media is a fast and easy way to gain a perception of who you are. For example, I was recently asked to consider a person for a position. My first act was to look up their profile and presence online. After reviewing a few photos they had posted, I was able to save myself time in considering them any further. Put as plainly as I can say it, there are people who, without a second thought, are sabotaging themselves. In this particular case, the individual had easily and decisively disqualified themselves. I’ll admit I had a good laugh and what they posted was funny, in a Jackass (the film series) manner. I suppose everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but I can’t imagine they will gain the confidence of a serious employer. It always surprises me when people post photos of themselves at their workplace, while clowning around. Some may think it unfair to so easily judge a person in this way, but there are a lot of people competing for fewer jobs, so it is easy to find others who are more serious. Too often perception is reality; so what kind of vibe are you putting out there for the world to see? Like it or not this is the world we live in and you should heed my warning; as should anyone else who is now or may soon be searching for a job. Or, if you’re up for a promotion, is there anything out there that can negatively impact you? The process of reference / background checking people, through their online activities, is here and most companies are already utilizing it.
Who knows, someday the government may provide corporations with direct access to their vast databases to check you out, but I am sure that would never happen. At least for now, you can still somewhat control what people see; most social media sites have privacy settings. Take some time to consider what you choose to show the world and how you may be perceived, fairly or unfairly, and take the precautions necessary. You never know who’s watching.
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