Monday, May 21, 2007

Anything You Say Can (and Will) Be Used Against You

Update: Read the latest story on the Wal-Mart worker who got fired for posting a joke on MySpace

With the latest explosion of social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, and Friendster, loads of people are publishing lots of information about themselves for the entire world to see. Social networking sites have shrunk the size of the world because the information is visible to anyone that has access to the Internet. The positive is it introduces the person to people that one would never have the chance to meet otherwise. The negative is that anything that is posted on that page can haunt that person. It can affect the person's ability to get the job that they want, or worse, it can attract the wrong kind of person.

We can talk about the dangers of posting inappropriate material on a social networking site, but I think that the majority understand those dangers. However, many people don't understand how this can affect a future career. The focus of this post is going to be on how what you have posted on the Internet can affect your future career.

When you apply for a job, nearly all companies have you sign a release that permits the company to do a background check on you. While they are mainly performing criminal background checks on you, they are also scanning the Internet to find out about you as well. As many people are discovering, what they are publishing about themselves on the Internet may cost them a dream career or a spot in a prestigious school. Recently, there was a case where a young teacher who just finished her studies for her Master's degree was looking for a dream job in education. When the education board found a racy photo of her in a pirate's costume published on MySpace, the education board rejected her as someone who was "not appropriate" for the school environment. So, while the picture of you doing something silly while you're drunk or high may be funny to your peers, some person who makes decisions on who will work for a company may think that you are "irresponsible" and "not a good fit to the company".

It's not just social networking sites that people are searching - they are also searching blogs, viral video sites (like YouTube), and review sites to see what you are like. For example, a person who interviewed me about a year ago struck up a conversation about Doctor Who with me. I was puzzled - how did he know that I liked Doctor Who? Simple - he did a little research on me on the Internet and found that I wrote a review for a particular Doctor Who DVD that was published on numerous sites on the Internet!

Because of the power of the Internet, people need to be careful with what they say and do. You may be careful with what you publish on the Internet about yourself, but what about what others publish about you? For example, a tape or photos featuring you in a compromising position may find its way on YouTube or another web site. Don't believe me that someone can post things about you? Just ask former American Idol contestant Antonella Barba. Granted, it got her publicity, but I don't she really appreciated someone posting a picture of her sitting on a toilet bowl looking like she is "doing her business".

The bottom line - you need to be aware of what you say and do. If you don't want the world to see it or hear it, don't do it. If you don't publish it, someone else will. Just ask Antonella Barba or the kid who made a film of himself pretending to be a Jedi Knight.

1 comment:

Pondering Prissy said...

Yes, you are absolutely right! Infact, we even had a 16 yr old boy's murder case in Mumbai, India recently which was plotted through social net-working. Since then, I'm very careful.. thanks for the post..