Online Footprints: They Never Fade

I did some pretty stupid stuff during my time in high school. The most prominent example in my mind is the time my senior class got together just before graduation to play a huge game of Fugitive, which is like long distance version of Cops and Robbers with the taggers driving cars and shooting you with air rifles instead of tagging you with their hands. Needless to say, quite the pallet of shenanigans ensued, and we caused all kinds of trouble.

The day following our night of poor decision making and recklessness, a picture was posted on Facebook of everyone right before we started the game the previous night. Everyone was dressed in dark clothing, a couple people were flaunting a middle finger or two, and there were several air guns being pumped into the air. I was employed at the time the picture was taken, and in hindsight, I’m really glad that I didn’t add it to my personal profile, because that photo could have had a variety of long term consequences.

The age of information is a wonderful thing for many reasons, but it is a curse for an almost equal amount. In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2014, the number of applicants being rejected by employers because of behavior on social media is on the rise. The number one reason the survey stated as being a reason folks in charge of hiring shoot down your application is the presence of inappropriate pictures, having a 46% chance of impacting your hireability. Personally, this makes me shudder a little bit, because I definitely don’t think my future (or current, for that matter) bosses would be cool with me posing with a bunch of middle finger waving, gun brandishing teenagers in dark clothes at night in a parking lot at a middle school.

The survey included a bunch of other negative actions that people have demonstrated on social media that hurt your chances as well, with a percentage stating how often that specific behavior impacts whether or not you get hired. Some of these actions include:

  • Posts bragging about drinking/using drugs — 41%
  • Venting about a previous job — 36%
  • Poor grammar/communication abilities — 32%
  • Hateful posts towards a specific group of people — 28%
  • Evidence of dishonesty about qualifications — 25%
  • Links to criminal behavior — 22%
  • Inappropriate profile name — 21%

A lot of these types of posts seem pretty obvious to stay away from. I mean, it seems like common sense to not post pictures of yourself smoking weed and say mean things on a public site, but it’s actually a lot easier than we think to slip up. For example, if you go on Facebook the day after the election and rip on the winning candidate’s party, it may feel like you’re simply expressing an opinion to your friends. However, this could be taken as an insult to anyone reading it as a member of that political party, and who knows? Maybe the employer reading your application is a member of that party too, and doesn’t like what you indirectly have to say about their decision making. It’s all about thinking before you act, and considering all possible audiences that could end up interacting with your post.

We don’t always take into account just how many people, and which people, have the ability to view our posts on social media, and we don’t always consider what effects our actions in the technological world could have on our physical lives. Pretty much everyone we know, from a sibling to a grandma to creepy uncle Jerry, has an account on some form of social media platform, and therefore has the ability to view anything you post online. So if it never goes away, everyone can see it, and you’re not 100% sure it’s appropriate, then it might be smart to keep that post in your mind. As we learned in kindergarten: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.