If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest, as of January 2010 – that is quite a testament to its nearly universal cultural significance, and the nearly unimaginable power it has, including ways Facebook can harm a career.
Considering the prevalence of employees with profiles on Facebook.com, it only follows that since a majority of workers may be using the website for personal interaction, it can be a fair judge of their off-hours character. Many businesses now screen virtual personal profiles, and the topic will only gain momentum as social networking gains a firm foothold as a societal touchstone.
While these sites can certainly be used as valuable assets for newly networked connections, whether personal or business-related, they can also undeniably harm a career in a few certain ways.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Although the point of this quote is that appearances can be deceiving and when it comes to people you should not initially judge them based on appearances alone, it is still an adage revealed to be somewhat shortsighted when applied with literal precision. After all, you absolutely can make judgments, even accurate ones, based on a book’s cover. If it is dusty and ragged, you can probably assume that it is used and somewhat old, or has not been moved in a while. If the artwork is terrible and not laid evenly across the cover, then you know it was not published professionally or at a high quality. In addition, you can often guess the genre and type of book it is by its title, author, cover art, and other information offered on the cover.
A Facebook profile is a like a book cover for a person. No, it does not offer every single life detail, nor does it provide the capacity alone to know the person on a deep level. Yet, yes, it does offer a glimpse into basic information that can be detrimental to their reputation of an employer finds out. Under the Occupation field, for instance, if a profile says “yeah this job sucks” under their current position, would their boss be happy to read such a line? Or if a man’s Favorite Quotes section seem to mock his immediate supervisor, or if his Activities include “hitting on Linda the secretary,” will this content reflect positively on their professional career? It is not likely.
Headlines have been made and articles have been written concerning the effects of Facebook photos.
Although the majority of these controversial findings deal with the alarming proclivity of teens to post images of their own underage drinking, the concept can still apply to employees. If a large corporation is scouting for a top-level executive position, and among their applicants are considering a certain hotshot up-and-comer in the field, her chances will probably be ruined if her pictures reveal her to be an ignorant, image-obsessed, immature, irresponsible brat of a person. That example may be writ large, but it can definitely apply in a smaller context toward other people and positions.
The best and worst thing about the internet is the inherent lack of control; though there are laws against specific types of content, by and large the World Wide Web is a spectacular bastion of expressive freedom, where nearly any sort of material or information can be found.
Facebook is a microcosm of the expressive freedom potential of the internet, where various kinds of media are freely shared, people often express their views and opinions through text and image mediums, and personal pages are subject to comments from outside observers. To this end, there is a risk at any time, if one has an open profile, of someone else posting potentially reputably harmful content. For instance, if an employee recently blabbered industry secrets to a friend, what happens when the friend inadvertently refers to this confidential information in a wall post on a profile page? This may seem like an outlandish event, but the risk exists and corporations are able to take a hard look to see what second-party perspectives of a person can be garnered, whether positive or negative.
Overall, the ways Facebook can harm a user all boil down to the wrong information ending up with the wrong people at the inopportune time. With responsible, moderate internet use, appropriately tweaked security levels, and a bit of common sense, users can avoid career consequences that result from their Facebook page.