Bite your tongue online

So we’re always told to watch what we put on any and all of our social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) because of the potential consequences. In fact, the last discussion we had in Business & Future of Journalism covered this specifically. Opinions flew all over the board as this is a pretty touchy subject, and rightfully so.

A little over two weeks ago, an example of basically a worst case scenario occurred. Some of you are probably familiar with this story. Six years after die-hard Philadelphia Eagles‘ fan Dan Leone was hired as the security chief for the team’s west gate, he was fired over a Facebook status.

The Eagles were unable to sign safety Brian Dawkins, who then signed with the Denver Broncos. Leone’s status soon after read, “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . .Dam Eagles R Retarted!!” Okay, so this status is a little over the top if it’s about your current employer. Yet on the other hand, it really is freedom of speech as a loyal fan.

I’m not taking one side over the other but I do think it was pretty heavy to fire a guy that’s been working six years for you without at least telling him to take it down first. ESPN featured a live chat with Leone where users were able to ask him questions about the matter…and one, in particular, stood out to me the most:

Farhan (Milpitas, CA): Has Brian Dawkins contacted you? He should offer you a job. You clearly got his back.

Dan Leone: Actually, I did here for one of his representatives and he said that once he gets back in the Philadelphia area in April, he would like to sit down and talk to me. Maybe help me out with some things.

This doesn’t mean Leone is going to get a better job with his favorite player, but it does mean that someone of significance didn’t think it was a justified action/reaction.

Nowadays, not landing an interview or job offer (or getting fired, I suppose) over something of this nature is becoming more and more of a reality. We’re told to watch what we say and do for a reason, but honestly, where do you draw the line? I know we all have our personal barriers, some extending WAY past others, but do you make everything of yours professional and private? How do these sites maintain the personal life appeal? In Leone’s case, the choice of language wasn’t too smart. However, if you would have explained the story to me and not the outcome, I wouldn’t have guessed that he was fired.

I’m more curious than anything as to what you all do with your personal accounts. Do you have separate personal and work accounts? Do you make everything private? Do you refrain from allowing any potentially risky content go up? Personally, my Facebook is ‘private’ to those I’m not friends with and my pictures are ‘hidden’. Yes, I know that doesn’t mean things can’t be accessed and I do allow my ‘wall’ to be viewed by friends. Also, how do your boss or professional colleagues think your sites should be maintained?

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8 Responses to Bite your tongue online

  1. mjcavaleri says:

    I don’t really have separate private and person accounts just because it gets to a point where it is too much for me. I just make sure to monitor what I put out there about me and make sure to keep my profile private and my pictures hidden like you.

    I think the pictures think is kind of weird to have public. It’d be like having some acquaintance come over your house and go through photo albums while no one is looking. If I want someone to see a picture, I will show it to them.

    And I agree with you that the firing was a little harsh. I think requesting him to take it down and then if he refused, then take action, would be sufficient.

  2. allund says:

    I also do not have seperate accounts….I feel that it would almost be like living two seperate lives. I do feel that you have to seperate work and your personal life but why can’t you seperate your social media sites as well. For example Facebook because it has very nice privacy settings can be your personal social media site and Twitter can be your proffessional type site. I think if you monitor what you have and use the benefits of privacy settings you should be fine. However I thank you for sharing this example it is important to know the consequences of your decisons even if they don’t seem fair.

  3. kparma says:

    I think people need to just keep in mind that anything they put on the Internet is never “completely” private. I think the important thing is that if you are going to participate in social media sites then just be careful about what you post. I understand that when you get a job with a company, that company wants to be represented positively. However, I think going on the Internet to your Facebook account to see if you party is a little extreme. I mean, before Facebook and the Internet, drinking and partying was still going on. Now, employers just have a way to potentially see if you do so. I think it’s dumb that I’m 21 years old and that someone might not hire me because they saw a picture of me in a bar with a beer in my hand, which is perfectly legal. I think people should just keep everything private and don’t post anything you don’t want an employer or potential employer to see.

    The company I work for is pretty cool about social media sites. The understanding is that sites like Facebook and MySpace are for your friends and family and sites like LinkedIn are for professional networking and shouldn’t contain any information that would make others look negatively on our company.

  4. gbohulan says:

    I think it is good to be cognocent of the content you put on your social media profiles. I was in a situation where I almost lost my job because I was in a picture with a red cup, and someone e-mailed it to my superviser. I had to explain the picture and tell her it was not alcohol.

    I learned a valuable lesson. It does not matter what you’re doing in the picture. All that matters is what it looks like what you’re doing in the picture. In this case, text is text. You can only go so far to defend what you write.

  5. kmmorten says:

    I struggle with this problem as well. Its hard to balance your personal and professional lives when social media is in the picture. I actually just wrote a blog on this as well. (Twitter vs. Facebook) I, personally, use my Facebook for more personal reasons and use my Twitter account for more professional reasons. However, once its on the internet, there’s no turning back. I understand that employers want to find you on Facebook or Twitter to find out more information about a potential employee but is it really necessary to search through all your pictures and point a finger at you if you have a beer in your hand?! I’m 22 years old. I am in college. I drink. I don’t see what a fuss is all about. It’s not like I’m breaking the law, and I don’t feel like having some drinks every once in a while affects my ability in the workplace. My advice is to just be careful what stuff you put out there.

  6. plepkows says:

    When joining any online conversation, one assumes the risks involved. It is important to remember that things that are published online are permanent and anyone can find them. Especially as young professionals, I think many people are naive and may post things they may someday regret.

    In an ideal situation, one would have two different profiles – personal and professional – that could be equally maintained, yet entirely separate. That is, both Web pages would be equally exciting and engaging, yet one would never have the issue of getting in trouble with an employer. However, two profiles with no crossover is nearly impossible. Even if one creates two Twitter accounts, for example, he or she still runs the risk that a boss will find the other page.

    I understand this impossibility to have a truly personal, yet public, social media Web site, which is why I maintain all of my social media Web sites as professional pages. Photos of kegs stands and Jell-o shots are nice, but obtaining and maintaining a job is even nicer. But, hey, that’s just me.

  7. cafuller says:

    It’s really interesting to think that as our society gets more and more open with the increased technology, we’re becoming more and more critical of each other. It seems like a lot of us think it’s pretty ridiculous to not hire or to fire someone over what his or her Facebook is like, but at the same time, is it really that different of a concept? Facebook and all other social media networks are simply social environments in cyberspace. Would you really expect a potential employer to hire you after seeing you doing a chugging contest at a bar somewhere? The same type of thing goes for this Dan Leone. He didn’t stand outside of the stadium yelling outraged comments like the one he posted on Facebook for a certain reason. I really think he should have considered that before posting it to the world. Businesses have to act in a way that will protect their own reputation.

  8. mlmyers says:

    This subject has interest/frightened me since I first heard of employers checking potential employees online. Like most people, I have all of my accounts set to private. I have always wondered what employers think when your accounts are set to private? Do they think you are hiding something and does that influence their decision to hire you?

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