Daily I will admit shock at the posts I see on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media. This doesn’t even include blogs, articles (posted remarks after those blogs and articles), and comment sites (like “who called me” for 1-800 #’s). Somehow the Internet has become a cacophony of voices wanting to list each and every complaint they have publicly, and doing so with inappropriate and vulgar language, verbal bullying, racist slurs, misspellings, misused words, truly uniformed statements, and just overall nastiness. I regularly tell my clients, social media connections and seminar/workshop participants the following: Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to share it, particularly online.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly cussed, misspelled a word here and there, and have been unhappy about something on occasion resulting in a complaint, but I avoid the sharing of all that information online. If there is an issue, I try to go direct to the source, offline, and if, when you get right down to it the subject isn’t that important, or really isn’t going to make a difference to talk about it, I rarely say anything. I haven’t always been this way. As a police officer’s daughter who was taught you don’t have to put up with everything that comes your way, a staunch believer in right and wrong, and a Type A personality, I can easily walk all over someone verbally. But to what end? In my early 20’s I started to realize, as most do, I wasn’t the center of the universe and people’s feelings, how I acted, and what I said really did matter.
Before the Internet allowed the quick and public exchange of insults, slurs, videos, feelings, and every personal detail anyone wanted to read, individuals would often avoid excessive inflammatory statements and extreme amounts of complaint. Typically only family and friends received these opinions and complaints, or a person submitted a letter to the editor, and there was often a governor as to what was and wasn’t appropriate! The over-sharing environment of the Internet has unfortunately created a culture that whatever you want to say is okay. This simply isn’t true, especially when it comes to your job search and career.
What you say matters!!! You are not anonymous on the computer, ever. Put that comment or video on the Internet, and it never goes away. 20 years from now search results could find a salacious comment you made or that video from when you were so drunk at the party you passed out, and so could a potential or current employer. I get it, sometimes you are looking at a remark a person made and you think – wow, you’re an idiot, but do you really need to say it, particularly online? Does cussing, using racial slurs or arguing empower you or feed your ego? Does complaining about everything that upsets you or sharing every aspect of your personal life online offer a cathartic release or help you to avoid confronting the issues in your life?
No! It only provides embarrassment years later when read and can keep you or your family and friend connections from getting a job. Indeed your inappropriate diatribes can actually prevent others you are connected to on social media (or that link to you that somehow comes up in a Google or Bing search by an HR Manager) from getting a job. Still think it’s all harmless?
Clients frequently ask me if they should unfriend a family or friend connection on social media who makes occasional (or regular) overly-personal, racist, outlandish, profanity-laced remarks, which my client doesn’t agree with, but they are linked to that person out of a feeling of obligation and don’t know what to do. I say emphatically yes, and do it immediately. I am not trying to start a family or friend fight, I am trying to preserve your job search and career. This person has no understanding or concern about what their comments might do to others they are connected to, they just want to comment.
Yes, you could say that this blog post is a complaint. Notice the difference though in intent – I am “cautioning” job seekers about how the online culture of complaint can ruin their job search and career, with examples and specifics, not judging you because of a post online I disagree with personally. A recent study cited nearly 10% of recent college graduates lost a potential job because of a social media post. Those are only the people who were informed of this fact. Think about the people that weren’t considered for a job that never knew it was due to their social media or online behavior. Most companies will not tell you the reason you were not hired or considered for a position these days, so could the number be more like 40-50%. What about 30, 40, and 50+ year olds, are they feeling these same affects though perhaps in lower numbers.
Remember, it’s not just what you say and do online it’s what your connections say and do. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility whether you are 15 or 55 years old, and breeches of restraint can result in loss of a job (yours or a network connections’), or even a lawsuit. I advise my clients to think of the Golden Rule when posting anything in an online environment. So to quote the movie Bambi – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all (particularly online)!