Social media and networking sites have never been so popular and prominent. Anyone who's anyone has Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or others. They are a great way to communicate and connect with people. They provide to you a platform to voice your thoughts, opinions and feelings at any given time. And this is where the trouble begins! Who is reading your tweets or updates? Friends, family, strangers? Anyone could be reading your updates, even those you would prefer not to, maybe even your boss! It is not uncommon these days to hear stories of employees who have been fired for comments made on social networks. The question is:
Does social media allow a means for companies or authorities, to pry into people's business and maybe even infringe on people's right to freedom of expression?
The story of a 19 year old girl from Essex who was, "fired after she described her office job as "boring" on her Facebook page". (courtesy of BBC News), is a prime example of this argument. She simply said that her office job was "boring", without mentioning the company name, in a update and this was seen by her employers.
Now, there's no arguing that maybe it was a bit of a silly thing to do, particularly if your boss is your friend on Facebook, but is it justified to then remove her from her post? Everyone is prone to having a bad day and making a flippant remark without thinking. The fact that she wrote this on her personal page should not be considered as anything but a personal feeling at that particular time. Even if it was a misjudged comment, is it really any different to someone venting an opinion verbally to their friends? After all, you certainly wouldn't get fired for chatting to a friend face to face over a pint in the pub would you?!
Is it wise to have colleagues and bosses befriend one another on social networks just on the off chance that you have a bad day and make a comment without thinking? Where do you draw the line? People should be free to connect and talk with who they like, that's exactly the purpose of these networks after all! If you are friends with people in high places then yes, maybe you should think twice before moaning but employers need to grow thicker skins too. If you fired all team members which have ever once made an unsavoury comment then you would probably remove more people than you would like to believe!
It's not just businesses who use social media to keep tabs on employees.
Universities have been known to do it too! Oxford University was heavily criticised for using Facebook to intentionally catch out students who have been drinking or acting "unruly" after finishing their exams. The University argued that it was in response to complaints about mess but rather than issue a plea to tidy up after themselves and show respect to the community, they simply trawled through students personal photos trying to catch people out! Students are entitled to celebrate the end of the year/graduating over a drink (or many in my case) with friends, they shouldn't be punished for posting photos of themselves having fun in their own time to their own personal pages. God knows if my University had done that they would have had absolutely no students left by the end of freshers week! Is this not oppressing and immoral to the individual and the community alike, making them feel as though their personal time and antics are now under scrutiny by people who really shouldn't have any say in what they get up to? So, the question is:
Is it fair that businesses and authorities to use these tools with the soul intention of catching people out?
Should someone be allowed to make a remark in their own time on their own network without fear and consequence or rule by an iron fist? Social networks are just that, social. People are free to say if they have had a bad day or not, go out and have a drink. You wouldn't follow your employees to the pub or their house, why do it online? This will only be an issue which becomes ever more present in a world with increasing technology and social media encouraging people to express themselves. Yes, maybe people should keep their followers, friends and privacy settings tight and think before Tweeting, but punishing them for having an opinion on something or making a mindless remark?
This post was originally published on WeAreSocialPeople.com by Nikki Peters, WeAreSocialPeople team member. Reproduced here with permission.
Links to the articles mentioned in this post:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/essex/7914415.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6902333.stm Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kickandrun/2645897174/