By Gaoli Moua
Social media are fun and convenient. They reunite us with people from the past and help us forge new connections effortlessly. They amplify the extroverts in us with its allure of easy updating and commenting. They allow us to share anything and everything with disregard to our overall viewers⎯and that is where the danger lies.
Social media are still in the developing stages, but they should not be treated like pages of a personal diary or the stage on which life’s drama plays out. Instead, they should be treated like extensions of our professional personas, because over sharing has the potential to stunt career advancement.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, employers will rely more heavily on social media to discover talent. In a 2011 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, 89 percent of respondents said they used social media in their recruiting efforts. 64 percent of respondents had previously hired people through social networks and 55 percent planned to increase their budgets for social recruiting in 2012.
Most employers are looking for the fastest way to sort out the rejects when recruiting. Part of sorting through resumes is researching candidates via the Internet for a first impression. A 2010 study conducted by Execunet, a membership organization dedicated to helping executives, found that 70 percent of business managers had rejected job applicants based on information found online.
“You never want to give people a reason to say ‘no,’” said University of Georgia, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications Professor Barry Hollander. “Too much information is a bad thing because you’re not really controlling the information. You aren’t emphasizing the right things.”
Cynics might say social media activity won’t affect the careers of people who are not actively job hunting or seeking promotion. However, employers can use it as a tool to check employee performance through monitoring online behavior during work hours and checking employees who might play hooky on the job.
The significance of social media can vary depending on an individual’s industry and job title, but that doesn’t negate its effects. An opinion writer has more leeway to publically critique politicians than a doctor who could offend his or her patients. In addition, some companies, like CBS, have social media policies in their employee handbooks.
One could argue that specific social networks have certain appeals and rules governing their usage. Facebook is thought of as more personal and private, while other networks like LinkedIn are considered to be more professional. However, Facebook remains one of the predominant sites employers are tempted to check when sourcing candidates because, not only does it show up in a search, it is the most popular social networking site.
Despite privacy settings that have been implemented for the popular site, there is always a way to get around them⎯not to mention users who don’t know how to use them. In a 2012 survey, Consumer Reports found that almost 13 million users did not know about or had never used any of Facebook’s privacy tools.
Facebook’s privacy tools does not protect the other social networking accounts synced to it, whereby users can simultaneously update a string of social networking sites. Viewers can see Facebook updates regardless of whether or not they are subscribed to it if it is available on another site.
Many social media users have a false sense of privacy that enables them to share intimate, and sometimes inappropriate, details of their lives. Sharing too much could put off a “friend” and could get you “unfriended.” So why couldn’t sharing also put off an employer.
Should users censor themselves? No. But they should be more cautious in what they choose to publish online.
“It’s okay to use social media to make yourself seem like a real person to your customers, your clients, followers, readers, or whatever it may be,” Hollander said.
In this day and age, employees and job applicants are expected to stay on trend. We are expected to know how to leverage social media while we interact with each other and brand ourselves by showing off our personalities and latest projects. Understanding how sharing can impact your job, or the job you want, is essential to success.
It is inevitable that technology will become more sophisticated while our lives become more transparent. Your social media profiles and activity should reflect who you are and who you want to be. Don’t be the candidate who gets passed over for an opportunity that could have transformed your life.
This Op-Ed piece was originally written as an assignment for Pulitzer prize winner and Commentator Cynthia Tucker’s editorial/opinion writing class at the University of Georgia. (Fall 2012)