Mum’s the Word

Be careful what you’re posting online; it may come back to haunt you

 

Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook or other online social-networking sites, you should be aware that your private ramblings may become very public. This is true whether you’re looking for a job or already have a job. If you’re not careful, the results could be costly.

I’m amazed at the volume of personal information people post online. Social networks in particular irk me. What a business model and neat racket Facebook has going. Users trip over themselves to post the most intimate details of their personal lives and families.

Facebook doesn’t pay them a dime for their valuable content, then sells the information in aggregate to advertisers who target the users for their products and services. The value of their network goes up the more people use the service. So they want to preserve the value of their network to their customers by making it very difficult for users to hide their information. It’s even harder to delete your information and accounts. Facebook is renowned for their complex and constantly changing privacy settings.

Companies love all this private information. But so do other organizations. Schools have fired teachers who ranted about students online. A sheriff’s department required access to prospective law officer candidates Facebook profiles to review them for inappropriate behavior. Employers run credit reports and check driving records for evidence of candidate reliability and judgment.

Once posted, negative information can follow someone for years. It used to be discretions committed when one was young and naïve would be forgotten. Now mistakes follow people for a lifetime.

Taking Chances

Even so-called private groups aren’t truly private. I’m a member of a professional association with a mail list. Only paid members using their primary registered email address can post and read messages. Yet a vendor dropped a member because he wrote a candid negative post about the vendor. Another member contacted the vendor with the information. So the posting wasn’t truly private.

So why take the chance? Why post everything about your life for everyone to see?

You may have no choice. It’s expected today. If you don’t participate, you’re considered a Luddite. Your peers and friends use the networks, so you feel left out if you don’t contribute. It may be convenient to share information online with your friends and family. You may have to use Facebook to be considered for a job or college application. If you have nothing online, they feel they don’t know much about you, so they’ll review another candidate they can glean more information about.