Can social media affect your job?

Graphic by Seth Walker

A lot of us are on Facebook every day commenting, messaging, liking and following. Many of us also have Twitter accounts on which we post random (or not so random) tweets for everyone to see. Others have LinkedIn accounts with their resumes uploaded online for professional networking and possibly for future employers to find. But do we ever stop to wonder if what we’re posting on all these websites can do us more harm than good?

You’ve probably heard this one before, but people have gotten fired because of their Facebook or Twitter activities. Your boss sees your status about how “annoying this job is getting” and next thing you know, you’re being handed a severance check. The worst part is that you may not even have accepted your boss on Facebook in the first place.

Online privacy is a huge issue these days, Facebook, for example, has been sued several times, which prompted it to put in place very complex privacy settings for its users. But even those settings can falter. “Facebook is not a diary or a letter to your friend – it is open to everyone,” said Michael Korolenko, Professor at the Communications department of Bellevue College, “and even should you ‘lock’ your page from anyone other than friends, there are ways to get around that.”

There are indeed ways to get around that. You may have not paid much attention to the details when you access an app on Facebook, but most of the time it will ask to “access your information” before it lets you use it. This means that you’re giving the people behind this application access to certain elements on your profile along with the possibility to do whatever they please with that information.

“You’re putting yourself out there,” said Joan LeBeau, a Bellevue College student pursuing a Business major, “so it’s your responsibility to monitor how you represent yourself to the public. Because that’s what it is: It’s a public site.”

Yes. You do want to pay attention to your online image, especially if you’re a community college student looking to transfer to a four-year university or trying to get a job. “Both schools and businesses check up on people through Facebook,” says Korolenko,  “In fact, it’s been my experience that, if people are being considered for a job, the people doing the hiring go to Facebook and check out the person.” And the same goes for Twitter.

And it gets worse! Did you know that some employers have asked for their employee’s Facebook passwords? That’s right. Passwords. This issue made a lot of noise this year. Newspapers like The Guardian and The Huffington Post were discussing it. Eventually, Erin Egan, chief privacy officer of Facebook, declared in a blog post on the website on March 23, that it was made “a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

Eunka Ayad, a Chemistry major student at BC, said asking for that is an invasion of privacy. “Asking for a password is another way of saying ‘Can I hack your Facebook please?”

But social media networks are not all bad. Some websites are made particularly for the purpose of publicizing your image, and Facebook and Twitter can sometimes actually help you improve it.

LinkedIn is a website that allows you to create an online, publicly accessible resume. The purpose is to make it easier for professional business partners to look you up. You can also control the amount of details made public; things like your phone number and address can be set accessible only to your “network,” in other words, to approved friends.

Sometimes LinkedIn also helps you connect with prospective employers. “I’ve used it more as a way to network with other peers rather than using it for potential employers,” said Thomas Hyatt, a student at BC. However, he added that if employers tried to get around asking for a Facebook password by sending him a friend request, he would rather just refer them to his LinkedIn page instead.

One way LinkedIn can help get you a job is through its Job Seekers tool. According to a recent survey by Jobvite, 36 percent of people looking for jobs used Linkedin in 2011, and eight million people said it helped them find one.

Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are more than just your everyday pastimes. Advertisers and investors make a lot of money off of them, politicians use them to fuel their campaigns by reaching out to the young population and colleges and employers use them to spy on you. So next time you’re about to write a status: Stop and think. You can never be too careful.