How to Avoid Social Media Whiplash—and Keep Your Job

Updated on April 8, 2018

By Kim Bassett

Use of social media is a part of our everyday lives and is a widely accepted form of communication for the average American. With familiarity and frequency of use brings more opportunities for misuse. According to a study done by On Device Research, a market analyst firm, 1 in 10 young job seekers have lost a job opportunity because of their social media profiles.

The greatest faux pas or errors will happen when people grow too comfortable and/or confident in the social media environment. I’m seeing this happen more and more on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We are letting our guards down and have a false sense of security when posting.

Much of the time our posts are harmless, but occasionally something major can go awry if and when the one-off post is seen by the wrong person. Particularly if that post is not inline with your employer or prospective employer’s social media rules and guidelines.

Things to know to avoid social media whiplash:

  1. Know your organization’s stance on social media use. Many organizations have strict policies on social media use do’s and don’ts when it comes to representing the organization online. Note: you can be held accountable for a post even when you have not publicly stated on your profile that you are an employee of the organization.
  2. Don’t post anything that could reflect poorly on your workplace. I know we all have long days and want to vent, but I urge you to call a friend, Facebook is NOT the place to vent. Doing so is not only unprofessional, but leaves you vulnerable to more serious consequences should it be seen by your employer.
  3. Don’t use profanity or post photos of yourself doing keg-stands. You get the picture. Don’t post anything you’d be uncomfortable with your mom or grandmother seeing. While social media is your form of expression and your right, realize that people’s perceptions of you may be formed based on what you post. Do you really want your prospective or current employer looking at pictures of you guzzling beer and spouting profanity?
  4. Nothing is truly private online. You may be thinking that you have your privacy settings restricted enough so that only your close friends will see your posts. This is not necessarily true. How many times have you seen someone’s Facebook postings on the nightly news?  When you sign up for any social media platform, you give away all rights to the content posted. This is how law enforcement agencies access profiles under certain circumstances. Your friend(s) may not always remain good friends.   Ex-friends can report inappropriate posts to your employer.
  5. You never know what the future holds.  We never know what the future holds for us in terms of our professional lives.  Social media posts that are harmless now, may not be appropriate in the future.  Once it is posted, it is out there forever for someone to access. 

Social media is labeled “social” for a reason and it can be easy to forget how ubiquitous it truly is when you feel safe and loved in your social media bubble. Social media privacy is an illusion that can come crashing down very quickly and the consequence of one little post can be so much more than embarrassment and unemployment.  The best way to avoid social media whiplash is to apply this mantra each and every time you make a post: When in doubt, leave it out.

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