Social Media: Why You Want to Keep It Clean

Are you on Facebook?

If you’re like most people, the answer is yes. 

A majority of the entire United States adult population — 58 percent — now uses Facebook, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

If that number isn’t mind-blowing enough, consider these stats: 71 percent of Internet-using adults are on Facebook, and 70 percent of those users engage with the site daily.

And Facebook isn’t the only place people are getting social.

A majority of online adults ­— 52 percent — uses two or more social media sites. These sites include LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

What we’re doing there

Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate.

At Facebook, you can post photos and videos, share successes and disappointments, offer opinions, seek advice, and rant about the guy who cut you off on the Alaska Highway.

Because you’re connected to “friends,” everybody knows your name. This is your online posse — your select group of amigos to whom you can tell anything. And the beauty of it is your virtual hangout never closes. Awake at 3 a.m.? Likely someone is on Facebook, or there are earlier posts you’ve missed that you can comment on.

Facebook and other social sites allow for instant communication and instant validation. Who could ask for more? 

Well, for starters, how about a little more privacy? And then there is the matter of discretion.

Keeping it private

Facebook privacy settings allow you to control who sees your posts. By selecting “Friends,” only those people to whom you’re connected will have access to your posts. At least that’s the system.

However, like most systems, there’s a flaw — and it’s a big one: Anything you post can be shared by any one of your friends.

This means your photos can get passed along, and friends of your friends might see them. Not a big deal, you say?

If one of your friends doesn’t have his Facebook privacy set to “Friends” and instead posts as “Public,” anyone on or off Facebook has access to your post. Put another way, your private information is now available to anyone on the Internet.

It’s a connected world

What does all this have to do with your career and a job search?

Like it or not, your online reputation is your reputation.

Recruiters, hiring managers, and colleagues who are considering you for job openings are all checking you out on social media. They may enjoy the photos of you and your friends at Red Dog Saloon, sharing the good times with Jose Cuervo and Jack Daniels, but they’ll probably pass on sharing employment opportunities with you.

So, how can you enjoy all the positive aspects of social media without jeopardizing your career?

Think twice about any comments you make in response to friends’ open posts, those that are set to “Public.” These posts are visible to anyone on the Internet.

Make sure you take full advantage of privacy settings. Restrict who gets to see what you post. Meanwhile, don’t forget: Mistakes happen. There are countless stories of private postings that unintentionally went public and, horror of horrors, even viral.

How do you make sure it doesn’t happen to you?

Melyssa Bernstein, client strategist for recruitment advertising and communications firm AIA Worldwide, offers this advice: “Before posting a comment, a tweet or pics, think about what your grandmother or boss would say; that’s usually a good tool for measuring appropriateness.”

Paula Santonocito, a business journalist specializing in employment issues, holds a Workforce Career Coach Facilitator (WCCF) certificate and has been awarded the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) designation.

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