Social media -- friend or foe?

13 December 2013

It’s that time of year again! Christmas parties, festive drinks, sports club socials, long lunches, extended post-work cocktails  . . .  the list is nearly endless.

Whilst we’ve all done things we’d rather not let be seen in the light of day, the Internet age means that these events are no longer consigned to fading and increasingly hazy memories of those who were actually there.  Rather, they are captured for eternity by 20 mega-pixel camera phones or even hi-def video  . . .  and then posted on Facebook.  Remember that tweet you thought was highly amusing when you got in from the nightclub in the early hours of the morning?  Not so funny when the firm to which you have just applied does a quick Internet search of your name and finds that now-embarrassing message.

This is not just my imagination running wild!  Articles appear nearly every day about social media and its potential to wreak havoc on a person's professional career.  As just two recent examples, have a look at this article in "The New York Times" (Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle) or read through this very interesting discussion in the same newspaper.  These alone should be a wake-up call.

I’m lucky.  If you search my name you get three pages about the lead singer for “The Beautiful South” (a UK band from the 90s) and not -- fortunately for me! -- my university rugby club initiation photos!  But you may not be quite so lucky.

So what are we saying?  That you should be a prude, stay at home, become a hermit?  Certainly not!

Are we saying that you should hunt down every embarrassing photo?  Avoid social media entirely?  No!  Nonetheless, a modicum of discretion is certainly called for.  All social networking websites have privacy settings. USE THEM!

Is all social media bad?  No, not at all, but you must be in control of your online presence.  I have seen some very good and positive examples recently, my current favourite being a blog highlighting and discussing recent competition cases.  Done correctly, social media can be a powerful and welcome addition to your career; done wrong, they can torpedo your career.

So our Christmas tip is this:  make sure that your private life remains private.  Take advantage and make use of the privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and so forth.  You simply do not know who will be “Googling” you next, and it would be terrible to lose out on a job because of an unfortunate posting that reflects badly on you and your professionalism.

– Dave

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