Lent Post #21: “You’re Fired!” Can Social Media Get You Fired?

Social media. The new forum for feelings, experiences, joys and concerns, and the expression of everything in between. The place to post selfies, your experiences from “last night,” and ultimately the place you can anonymously air your grievances against basically anyone without any fear of real retribution. Or is there any retribution? Are you really as anonymous as you think you are out there on the internets as George W. Bush deemed it during his second term?

The internet has become this great place to connect with people, and yet it has also become this random place, as I have previously stated, for people to state their opinions without concern and fear for the consequences their statements and actions have later. It has become a place where people bash their educational institutions for not giving their spouses jobs, enough financial aid, a “good enough grade,” a snow day, for giving them a snow day, for treating them a certain way, or for any reason in between. It is a place where people post their class and work cutting antics realizing that employers and professors sometimes DO check social media sites, let alone their classmates or fellow co-workers.

A few years ago, a medical resident from an unnamed hospital revealed HIPPA-protected patient information on multiple social media sites (Twitter, Facebook), and was summarily dismissed from his residency program for violating a federal patient privacy law; his response? He didn’t understand two things: why he had been dismissed from his program, and why what he had done was considered wrong since he had left out all identifying information (i.e. name, age, race, gender, etc.), but had left in location, condition, etc.

While the example of the medical resident is a VERY extreme example, and one of immaturity, social media can do horrible damage to one’s reputation, both in the present and future. What goes up on the internet doesn’t disappear once you delete it; once its up, it is always there. The best advice a counselor gave was to Google yourself and see what comes up, being prepared for the good, bad and everything in between. And when you find the things you are less than proud of, start working on damage control. Delete the photos of that wild party that may damage your image, or that status bashing your workplace.

The law is extremely murky behind whether someone can get fired for what they put up on social media, and it is done on a case by case basis; mostly, it is done for cases of slander and privacy violation (in cases of law and medical practices). But what you post on social media is also at times protected by the First Amendment to a point…This isn’t to say that what you say and do can’t irrevocably damage your reputation both in the present and the future, to the point of hurting your job desirability. Think about it this way: if you’re known as the ____ who posts revealing things on Facebook, will your employee necessarily want that kind of risk? Employers look at social media sites nearly as much as they look at resumes, even if you think your social media site is “protected.” Nothing is truly protected anymore, and many

Remember this motto: when you’re angry and heated about a particular situation, don’t jump right to tweeting about it or updating your Facebook status so that everyone can comment on your situation. Put your phone down and breathe for a bit; gain some perspective, talk to a friend whom you trust, your spouse, a sibling, a mentor, a parent or take a walk BUT DON’T POST THE SITUATION because you can’t get that negative moment back.

So consider your online presence in applying for a job; it may be a healthy thing today, but it may cause a bit of trouble going forward, and may inhibit or even prohibit the job search. Discern carefully the words you use, the photos you post, the people, things and circumstances you post about, however innocent they may be. Would your boss, your pastor, your grandma/grandpa/future child (if you desire to be a parent) to see or read that post? Does it glorify God (if that is important to you)?

Ruth Keefover, a social media expert and campaign organizer for national brands like TUMS and Breathe Right said, “If you are applying for jobs and not getting anywhere, you may want to take a look at your social media channels to see if you are posting any of these mentioned items [provocative/inappropriate photos/posts, content about drinking/drugs, bad-mouthing a previous employer/coworker, sharing confidential information about others, discriminatory comments about race/gender/religion, use of foul language]; it may be time to clean up your online presence.”

A great point, and something to think about. Go Google yourself! Be honest with what you see, and be prepared to do damage control if necessary. Your future should be bright and full of potential, and your youth on Social Media (age or otherwise) shouldn’t limit your job/call potential.

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