Active Rain January 9, 2011

What You Post Online Can Make or Break You

Be careful what you post on social mediaLike many of us, I followed yesterday’s news of the shooting in Arizona with sorrow and revulsion at the events. Thus far, half a dozen people, including a 9-year old child and a federal judge have perished and congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is in critical condition after being shot in the head. 

I posted on Twitter last night that thanks to social media, I knew more in 20 minutes about the shooter, Jared Loughner, than I cared to the rest of my life. The cyber-world is still going bananas about this, and unfortunately many are politicizing this. She was on Sarah Palin’s “target list.” The shooter is a right wing gun nut. The shooter is a lefty anarchist lunatic. Very sad stuff. 

I also came across the Twitter account of Caitie Parker, who has already been on the news by the time you read this, and was a high school classmate of Jared’s. She was understandably distressed by the events and the attention that one tweet garnered her, especially from some kooky people who had time on their hands to antagonize her. One of the people interacting with her piqued my interest (if you can call it that). The guy has a relatively new Twitter account, and in the past 12 hours has posted dozens of things asserting what the Arizona shooter’s political background is. And no unsourced, nut job link is off limits.

Here’s where it gets ironic. Our Mad Tweeter, a recent college graduate, is in the job market. He went back to school later in life and just got his degree, and has posted, among other things, his graduate thesis and resume. I found all this stuff in 10 minutes. The earnest, thoughtful graduate seeking a job has a (literally) radically different voice online from the ranting political screecher on Twitter and Facebook. 

Employers see this. Prospective associates see this. Google indexes social media. The guy is shooting himself in the foot. When you are a married 40-something going for a job against 20-somethings who’ll work for less, one thing you have to your advantage is maturity and good judgement. But not this guy. 

It isn’t just the one dude in the tin foil hat who is sabotaging himself; legions of people – agents, job applicants, single people in the mate market, you name it- are harming their image with what they post online. I have passed on applicants to my company because their Facebook profiles were filled with drunken, unsavory pictures. I have passed on possible clients as well- it goes both ways! Often, it isn’t that what is posted that is so objectionable, but rather the judgement in posting it is questioned. For example, 23-year olds drink and party. But smart 23-year olds don’t post pictures. 43 year olds can harbor strong political or religious views. But smart 43 year olds don’t broadcast them when they are in the job market. 

“Judgement” is going to be a big buzzword as the online social world grows. If you participate in social media, make sure you use judgement of the good variety.