Look at 18- to 34-year-olds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networks and 29 percent have posted a message, comment, photo, or personal information that they worry could cost them a job, either because a perspective employer doesn't hire them or a boss sees something and fires them.
"People love using social media to share their thoughts and life experiences," Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor with FindLaw.com, said in a press release. "The drawback is that many comments, photos and other information may not be looked upon favorably by employers."
There have been many public examples of people who were fired for exactly this. Multiple people got canned for inappropriate images on Instagram, Facebook comments, or tweets on Twitter.
Another survey supported the idea that young people might be ruled out for a position because of social media evidence. According to analyst firm On Device Research, 1 in 10 young job hunters have been rejected because of what appeared on their social media accounts.
Apparently, such posts among the young are a combination of too little thinking ahead and an abundance of impulsive behavior. People enjoy documenting their lives and sharing them with friends but forget that others may one day see the material. The FindLaw.com study found that 21 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds had taken down at least some posts or information because of concern about employment prospects.
Unfortunately, hindsight is often too little, too late. A publicly posted message, image, or video may have been reposted by others who don't have the poster's interests in mind. People can take screenshots of embarrassing material and major search engines and archiving services often save material for public view even when someone has deleted the original.
Rather than cleaning up after the fact, FindLaw.com suggests three strategies to avoid getting into trouble in the first place:
- Think first, post later: As the saying goes, would you want your mother to find what you are about to post? Now swap mom for boss.
- Tighten privacy settings: If you are prone to indiscrete whim, lock down your accounts so that only people you authorize can see what you post. (Even then, remember that not everyone you "friend" may actually be a friend.)
- Limit personal information: Consider what personal information you really want to enter when you create or edit your account. Maybe you shouldn't provide a phone, your usual email address, home town, or other information that can let others more easily identify you.