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My mother taught me a very important rule: "The left hand does not always have to know what the right hand is doing.
Facebook is intended to provide everyone with the 15-minutes of fame many desire but users must beware of real consequences that can result from virtual behavior. An unsavory Facebook post today CAN ruin chances for jobs in the future or ruin the one you already have. Not so sure? Take a look at these stories:
Police Officer loses job for Facebook post
25 Facebook Posts that Got Their Authors Fired
The Facebook Fired is a blog that keeps an ongoing tally of people who have been released from their positions due to Facebook posts and poor jugement.
Unfortunately, these lists are also peppered with examples of rather benign behavior, too. It is always best to use all social media for "grins and giggles" and appropriate ones, too.
Written messages leave impressions. Not unlike the discussion board in the online classroom, Facebook is a highly visible discussion board and, in order to navigate it successfully, users must be aware of certain guidelines that can keep social media years from ever spilling over into real life consquences.Here is a list of Facebook Netiquette rules that can help users steer clear of even a hint of impropriety that could one-day cause prospective employers to question a candidate's suitability for a position.
- PROFANITY/GROTESQUE PHOTOS -- Many say, "My Facebook page is my own personal property that I use on my time. No one can tell me I cannot speak in a manner in which I choose." Actually, read the User Guide. You own no part of Facebook or other social netowrking sites. In addition, Facebook leaves a documented record of your conversations. While this may seem like a way to comfortably express yourself among friends, long strings of profane and inappropriate words are striking to Facebook news feeds of friends who's pages also become littered with such words. Grotesque photos of mutilated body parts or Photoshopped graphics only for the iron stomach should also be avoided. Keep in mind, everyone does not express him or herself in such a manner and to represent oneself like this in such a public forum can be dangerous. Befriended former teachers, colleagues, employers and co-workers may see a new side of you that they may not consider appropriate for such a forum. Prospective employers may wonder if this is the type of language or conversation to be expected in the workplace if hired. Many people have little ones peering over their shoulders. If you pile profane words or photos into your status updates, they are clear for the world to view. Do you want your clients, customers, co-workers, and prospective employers to see this particular side of you? Leave these words to a conversation that cannot be documented and possibly used against you. As a matter of fact, these words should be left out of conversations altogether.
- COLORFUL EMAIL ADDRESSES AND USERNAMES -- there is absolutely nothing wrong with an email address or username of a creative nature such DemonSpawn@yahoo.com but is this the default email address you wish to use for prospective business contacts? It is still most appropriate and in a social network user's best interest to use a more professional moniker for such an open forum and reserve more colorful designations for personal friends. E-mail guidelines and etiquette in your job search
(and on the job, and in life generally) offers great tips and hints for email success!
- USE OF ALL CAPS -- This is still yelling, in every online discussion setting.
- EXCESSIVE COMMENTS RELATED TO ADDICTED BEHAVIOR -- Is it appropriate to express the idea that you needed that drink before you went to work? This is the BEST way to get fired.
- COMPLAINING ABOUT CO-WORKERS, FAMILY, ETC. -- Understand the technology and how it works. Comments are RARELY private in a status message. Do you think students feel comfortable reading their teachers complaints about the many "stupid" errors they make or how they make the life of a teacher miserable? This is extremely disturbing when it comes from educators and other workers who serve the public. Yes, everyone deserves the right to vent but is Facebook the place to actually talk about some of the struggles you have had with students and other employment clientele? This should be reserved for private groups or messages. Take a look at this true story of a woman who forgot she befriended her boss on Facebook and then complained about his sexual orientation. Yes, she was even fired through Facebook.
- REQUEST PERMISSION BEFORE POSTING OR TAGGING PHOTOS OF OTHERS -- This is only good friendship etiquette. I actually saw the photo of a former adult student lying next to a toilet after a long night of partying. The photo was not posted by the subject but by a friend who thought this would be funny. To this person's children, employer, and co-worker, this little joke could create serious repercussions for the subject. In addition, photos of children who may be friends with your children should never be posted without parental permission. This can lead to possible legal action.
- BODILY FUNCTIONS -- While this may not be language to get one removed from a job, is it that important to describe a rash that you have and where it is located? If the conversation seems inappropriate for face-to-face meetings, it is definitely inappropriate for written communications.
- Finally -- remember -- Facebook is doing much more for demonstrating the importance of good writing skills than any English teacher could possibly get students to understand. Even though using short phrases full of texting lingo or street slang appears to be hip and cool, however, this is still considered the language of ignorance in professional circles. Yes, my friends tease that I grade Facebook status updates. As an English teacher, it is hard to separate the reading from the grading, but I will always champion the importance of good written communication skills. And, if I happen to be the person on the other side of the table reviewing the resume from someone who can't put a sentence together in a Facebook status, chances are very great that resume will quickly move to the bottom of the pile.
Whether you agree or disagree with these guidelines, you must know that EVERYTHING written online is subject to be read by unintended audiences. Don't play with your future over the misguided idea that Facebook is your opportunity to fight in the revolution concerning freedom of speech.
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Marsha Kay Bass, ABD
"It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass
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