Have you seen Britain's Prince Harry lately? Of course you have -- photos of the prince's pixelated privates have been all over the Web and the news for the past couple days.
For Harry, the private-photos-made-public (thanks, TMZ) will likely result in few consequences, save a possible reprimand from his superiors in the British Army and having to endure hearing Queen Elizabeth explain that she's not so much angry as she is disappointed. Call it a perk of being born to royalty -- the usual rules just don't apply, and image and reputation are more durable. But, you're not Prince Harry (unless, of course, you are. And, in which case, thanks for reading, Harry!) And so that questionable photo on Facebook or that ill-advised tweet could have real repercussions, especially when it comes to your career.
More than half of employers use social media to recruit and vet job candidates, according to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management survey. And there are plenty of anecdotes about people who lost their jobs because of things they posted online.
We hate to play the same old tune, here. But people just keep on damaging their reputations, getting fired or missing out on opportunities because of stupid stuff they do online. And it's not just the tweet-happy members of the group that everyone likes to call the millennials.
People of all ages and occupations get into hot water over bad social media decisions. A bunch of police officers in New York, for instance, just got punished for posting allegedly racist comments on a Facebook page, The Huffington Post reports.
And last year a teacher in Georgia reportedly lost her job after an anonymous parent complained to the school district about photos on the vacation teacher's Facebook page that showed her drinking alcohol.
So please, use your head and protect yourself by always keeping these things fresh in your mind:
1. Everyone has a camera.
These days, anyone with a cell phone can take your photo 20 times before you even know it -- and then they can easily send it, post it online or copy it, without you permitting it or even being aware of it.
- Getting crazy at a party? Someone is taking your photo.
- Getting into a fight? Someone is taking your photo.
- Getting into a game of strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel room? Someone is taking your photo.
Moral of the story: Be aware of your surroundings, think before you act and maintain decorum in public. Big Brother is everywhere!
2. The Internet is a public place.
Even if you're surfing the Web from your family room while wearing your PJs, remember: You're in public and a lot of what you do and say on the Internet will be visible to others. If it's not something you would say or show on Main Street, you should think twice before saying it or showing it online via social media.
3. The Internet is forever.
Items posted to the Web can be endlessly copied and reposted – what some call the "collective memory" of the Internet. When it's online, you're not able to tear it up, scratch it out or burn it. And even if you pull a photo or post from your own social media, there's no telling if it's already been snatched by someone else.
4. Check privacy settings often.
As social media sites evolve, the way your information is used and accessed may change. So even if you set your profile to have the most stringent privacy protections a year ago, changes in the social media platform could have affected them and you may be sharing more than you think. Make sure that you're protected by double-checking your privacy settings often.
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