Social Networking: Freedom of Speech and Expression vs. Conventional Wisdom

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A disturbing trend has emerged over the past several years as the use of social networking tools has increased… and many aspects of it are very disconcerting.  The line between our right to exercise “Freedom of Speech and/or Expression” and our choice to use “conventional wisdom” seems to have become blurred.  Adults and youth alike are posting, commenting, uploading photos and videos via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites without considering the negative impact it can have on their future.  It seems we’ve forgotten the “Think before we speak or act” advice that most of us, as kids, were reminded about by parents, teachers, and other adults as we were growing up.

So what?  U.S unemployment is hovering around 8.5% and 8.6%.  There are currently an average number of 95 applicants per job opening.  Employers, Human Resource Executives, and even Graduate Schools are using the Internet, Google and other search engines, as well as social networking sites to screen applicants and potential employees.

NOW… let’s look at some interesting statistics.  A recent study involving 300 employers and those responsible for the hiring process for their company, selected at random, resulted in the following:

  • A whopping 91% admitted to using social networking sites to screen job applicants.
  • 76% used Facebook
  • 54% used Twitter
  • 48% used LinkedIn
  • 47% began social networking screening immediately after receiving the application.
  • 69% rejected job applicants as a result of what they found on a social networking site.  A few of the reasons included:
    – Inappropriate photos
    – Inappropriate comments
    – Posts included content about them drinking and/or using drugs
    – Posts included racist remarks
    – Inappropriate comments about current or previous jobs and/or employers
    – Demonstrated poor communication skills
    – Comments and posts were discriminatory

Now… I’m all about freedom… but let’s take a look at what the use of a little “conventional wisdom” can produce:

  • 68% said they DID hire a job applicant after something they found via a social networking site.
  • 39% did so because the applicant portrayed a positive image of themselves and their personality online.
  • 33% found the applicant to have solid communication skills.
  • 33% found the applicant to be well rounded.

So… sure, you’re FREE to post pics and videos from that outrageous graduation party… or boast about being the beer pong champ.  You’re FREE to express your dissatisfaction with authority or share why you don’t like your job.  You’re FREE to post and share your political and religious views.  Whether it’s right or wrong, employers are using information they find about you online to determine whether or not they even WANT to talk to you, get to know you, and give you a chance.  It’s up to you to determine how important all that is in the scheme of things.

Part of “being free” includes being responsible.  Being responsible includes making choices.  Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you HAVE to do something.  In this one instance… it can mean the difference between “job” or “no job”… and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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