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Monday, June 17, 2013

Your Grandma (And Your Boss) May Be Looking, So Think Before Oversharing

I still remember my first time on social media.  My kids were tweens, and they were both on MySpace - remember MySpace?  As a parent, I thought I should at least take a look at what they were doing online - there were so many scary stories about online predators - so I filled out a profile and became the oldest person on MySpace.  Ok, maybe not the oldest, but certainly not part of MySpace's usual demographic.  I checked in a few times so I could see what the kids were up to, and when I was satisfied with their conduct, I stopped checking. 
Fast forward 10 years, and now my kids are in their early twenties.  They are still social networking, but have moved on to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.  And, so have I.  I no longer monitor their activities.  They are adults, after all.  They no longer need parental supervision.  They know how to conduct themselves on social media.  Right?
My kids are part of the generation I like to call the  "overshare" generation. This group broadcasts everything they do, like, want, and feel online.  Their audience is made up of their friends, family, and fellow students.  It is also made up of co-workers, bosses, and future bosses, but I'm not sure this generation always remembers that.  
Consider a few real-life examples of social media posts that recently made the news that make me scratch my head and wonder "what were they thinking?":
  • A young woman posted that some days she wished she would be fired so she could just stay at home.  (She was fired the very next day - see, wishes really do come true).
  • A 911 operator posted a copy of a computer screen containing information about a 911 caller's complaint about a medical emergency, along with the caller's name, address, and phone number, along with the caption "Can't make this up."  (His boss fired him for violating company policy, and a court upheld his dismissal).
  • A police chief responded to a woman's post on Facebook about a woman's right to choose by calling the woman a "piece of sh*t scum sucking baby killing b***h," among other names. (He is facing disciplinary action).
  • A few days ago, I posted a story about the fast food restaurant employee who posted a picture of himself in uniform licking the food served to customers.  (ick).
  • A number of hospital workers posted pictures to Facebook of a dying patient who had arrived in the ER with multiple stab wounds.  (The hospital fired four of the employees, and disciplined three). 
All of these individuals were fired or disciplined for their online activities.  None of these activities were protected by the First Amendment (which protects restrictions on certain types of speech by government actions) or by labor laws (which protect labor-related concerted activities between co-workers).  No, these activities were simply "oversharing" in a very personal and/or inappropriate manner.  We see it every day, and not just in the news like all of these stories, but on our own social media sites.  We might shake our heads and wonder why someone would post that ("that" being something very private or embarassing or inappropriate).  
Getting back to my kids and their generation.  What I try to make them understand is that there is no privacy on the Internet, and that the Internet is forever.  Before they post anything on social media, they should ask themselves whether it would be ok if their co-workers, bosses, future bosses, parents, or even grandparents see it.   That's not a bad tip for all of us. 

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