Most of us are now aware that employers vet potential employees through Google. They look at our Facebook and Twitter pages, and scour the net for any indications of our character and skills. 70% of US business managers admitted that they decided not to hire someone because of a Google search1, and countless online articles remind us that we need to fix our social media profiles before making any college or job applications.
But this is only half the story. We cannot relax our internet standards even once we have aced that interview and been offered the contract as some bosses may continue to monitor our social media presence.
There are also some cases where individuals have unthinkingly posted evidence against themselves to their social media profiles and gotten themselves arrested.
Here we list some classic examples of photo-posting gone wrong before offering you some good tips to protect yourself.
The drinking teacher
24 year old English teacher, Ashley Payne, was asked to resign after a parent supposedly complained about a Facebook picture of her drinking. Ms Payne had uploaded the picture to her private Facebook page. The picture in question shows the teacher grinning and holding both a glass of wine and a pint of beer whilst on vacation.2
Despite having ‘high’ privacy settings, which should have ensured that only her closest friends had permission to view her photos, Ms Payne was accused of publicly promoting alcohol use and using “profanity” on her Facebook page.3
Ms Payne resigned and has been in a legal battle to get her job back ever since.4
The risqué pose
Another teacher, Lorraine Cook, was fired from a high school after posting a “racy” picture on Facebook. Both individuals are wearing bathing suits, but the picture shows Lorraine Cook’s fiancé (the same high school’s football coach) touching her clothed breast.5
Whilst her fiancé was let off with a reprimand, Lorraine Cook was dismissed.
In 2012, a group of 14 lifeguards were dismissed after uploading a Gangnam Style spoof video to YouTube. The video showed them dancing around the city swimming pool in their uniforms after hours. Although the video was made when they were off-duty and with no customers on the premises, the college students were accused of making “unauthorized use of city resources for their own personal benefit.”6
Fortunately, the lifeguards were later rehired after the firings sparked international uproar.
The genuinely bad employee
One college intern, Kevin Colvin, was infamously Facebook-fired after requesting time off from work to attend to a family emergency. Foolishly, Mr Colvin posted pictures of himself partying when he should have been with his family.7 Kevin Colvin’s boss found the pictures and replied, “Thanks for letting us know – hope everything is OK in New York. (cool wand)”.8
The sociable artist
Last month, an eager traveller proudly posted pictures of her “artwork” on Tumblr and Instagram.
Except that the artwork in question was serious vandalism of various American national parks. An avid hiker, Casey Nocket loved the outdoors so much that she drew brightly-coloured acrylic paintings all over various cliff-faces and rocks.9
Fortunately, Casey Nocket Instagrammed the whole thing and the National Park Services were able to track her down. Ms Nocket has since become a named suspect.10
How can you have a social life and maintain your privacy?
What is clear from these examples is that whilst some of these individuals deserved to be caught, employers do not always distinguish between being a bad employee and simply having a private life.
Our social media platforms are a means of expressing ourselves and of communicating with friends and family. The idea of reducing them to artificial online personas can seem unnecessarily restrictive.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can protect your privacy:
- Think before you post. Pictures of you downing drinks or posing half-naked are probably not the best things to upload. Even if your privacy settings are set to ‘high’, all it takes is for one person to forward that image or to post it on their own social media platforms.
- “Review posts that friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline. ”Worried about being tagged in unsavoury pictures without your consent? Facebook allows you to review everything that you are tagged in before it goes public.
- List your social media accounts under a different name. Changing the name of your accounts is a good way to throw off any strangers such as employers off the trail. Anyone searching for your name will not find you. It also ensures that the only people who add you are those that you want to in your social media circle.
- Raise your privacy settings. This ensures that the only people who can view your account are people listed as “friends”.
- Make sure that your profile picture is work-friendly. Even if your privacy settingsa are strong, everyone can see your profile picture so make sure that it is something that even your grandmother would approve of!
- Don’t add your boss and all of your work colleagues. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but when somebody tags you in a picture of a drunken night out, it becomes apparent that keeping your work separate from your social life isn’t always such a bad thing. Keep your work colleagues on your work-friendly Linkedin page and away from your private online world.