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The Ten Commandments of social networking

Me, in the usual place:

1. Thou shalt not overshare

Some things are best kept between you and your partner, doctor or psychiatrist. For example, if your update contains the words “pus”, “warts” or “prolapse”, you probably shouldn’t post it.

18 replies on “The Ten Commandments of social networking”

There should be another 10 commandments for things that are just boring you know..

What is interesting are the signs of aging our generation (X) has. It’s been studied quite a bit recently what teens and young adults (the under 25’s) consider sleazy or slutty. In their social community, it’s normal and they don’t know enough about life yet to know that a future employer who is good on the Google machine (like me) may not agree. That said, I’m sure people our age thought greasy hair and flannel, looking like a drug addled vagrant would be something we’d live to regret. Where mullets, big hair et al are concerned I think we do regret them. But we didn’t have the big bad internet at the same scale then (or the awareness) to imprint it to the books.

Even actors or entertainers who a decade ago wouldn’t have their terrible bit roles in a crap movies now deal with having those roles isolated, tagged and indexed with their name and blasted on YouTube. Thanks to IMDB (which I love) and YouTube, an actor can be located and exposed virally and in a way their PR rep can’t really claim isn’t legit.

What disturbs me is finding that people begin following me on Twitter because of a keyword I used. I spend my mornings blocking those people because I don’t like the means by which they located my Twitter account. In one case, the follower was following me with in minutes because of a key word in my tweet (that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?).

The political rants, however, are to me the most dangerous of all the public postings. I will do so as a commentary to an editorial or news story but though it pains me, I try to restrict the true depth of my feeling on the topic and try to stay as open-minded as possible. But I’m not impressed by how many people will just release their bowels on these topics and with such anger in their written voice. That is the most dangerous to me because typically the heat of a controversy is forgotten but your opinions live on for a long, long time.

> There should be another 10 commandments for things that are just boring you know..

And bots pretending to be people, such as scripts that alternate five “went to the cinema” type posts with a sixth sales message, or the people who post nothing but inspirational quotes – the worst of which are ones they came up with themselves – or the people who only post “how to get more followers on Twitter” or, or,or…

Agree with you on the political thing. What seems ok in a blog post is weirdly divorced as a social network post. And sometimes the source makes you look like a tool. Someone posted something the other day that was supposed compelling scientific evidence for something or other. Source site also showed proof that Obama is an alien space lizard, 9/11 was simply really good holograms, etc. Unfollow!

> Where mullets, big hair et al are concerned I think we do regret them. But we didn’t have the big bad internet at the same scale then (or the awareness) to imprint it to the books.

Yeah, I’ve said before that I’m glad everyone who knew me as a teenager has been murdered. I do think it’s more than bad haircuts, though: it’s the every little thing hanging around forever.

It’s going to go one of two ways, I think. Either sharing everything is going to be the norm and nobody will find it remarkable if a google uncovers teenage tomfoolery, or *judicious* sharing will be the norm and oversharing, post-first-regret-later stuff will be a sign that you’re an idiot.

Oh, and the keyword followers piss me off as much as they piss you off. “He said arse! Quick, let’s follow him, he’ll see HERBAL ARSE CANCER CURE in his follower list and follow us back!”

Mind you, it’s not all bad. I never fail to be delighted by how many improbably large-breasted teenage nymphomaniacs can’t get enough of my tech-related tweets. Dozens of ’em! Every day!

I’d agree except what is the agreement among generations about what IS judicious sharing and what is over-sharing? Using broad strokes, American’s are often described as unabashedly open and the British are…abashed? So an American’s definition of over-sharing may be far more liberal than other cultures. What concerns me is the schism between cultural and generational values. Within the US, latin sub-cultures are way, way, wayyyyy more outgoing than the WASPy New Englander. These cultural and age differences was the most difficult part of my job when I was a manager. I had to deal with complaints about someone’s trousers being too tight or worse yet, too transparent. But, within the culture and age group the individual belonged to, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. In a corporate environment, a policy can prevail (if we can see your thong, you can’t wear it) but the underlying problem still remains socially. I’m not making any global judgments about what is or isn’t over-sharing (in JPEG or text form..) but I can say my opinion is not shared.

So when I google a prospective employee that is exceptionally qualified but find they hawk bosoms and viagra on Facebook, what do I do? If one of my competitors hires him/her and doesn’t care if they do that or not, then did it behoove me to consider it in the offer of employment? The reality is, it probably would and it’d be my loss. If the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn’t want that to impact my employment options but as it’s been pointed out, kids just don’t care.

It’s a fascinating topic, especially for doomsdayers.

I think that there are a small number of jobs where what you do in your free time could and possibly should be taken into account – public office, judge, etc or if you’re a “spokesperson” or representative of a company in advertising. Outside of that then it’s none of your employer’s business. The only exceptions to that are if you do something in company time or involve the company in some way (like if you were a company uniform when doing dodgy stuff or talking about the company) or you’re doing something very illegal. It’s something that really bugs me.

I agree – what you do in your personal life should be private. In a hiring position, I SHOULD not take into account the undesirable things I find in a google search. That being said, however, it’s a bit like un-ringing a bell. While looking up a potential web designers work, I stumble across their very graphic fetish website (this actually happened though I wasn’t in a hiring capacity at the time) and it’s not easy to forget that.

It’s a bit like saying, “I was working on a Saturday in the office and Joe Smith came staggering into the parking garage with two hookers and shouting racial profanities at people passing by. But since he did that on his own time, I won’t let it affect my professional regard for him.” That would be the right thing to do I suppose, but, it’d also be a complete lie if I said I could do that. Reminds me of an employee I had who would sit on the hood of his street-racing car and make out with some neighborhood girl right in front of the building entrance. Public road and access, every right to be there legally but it killed his career and he was the laughing stock of the company for it (as was I as the boss who had to deal with it).

The tough question for me is, is what you put out on the internet private even if it’s public and should not be held to the same standard as a personal public encounter with a boss or co-worker?

The field of Human Resources is filled with the way things SHOULD be, which is directly in conflict with the way things are. If you’re the one hawking a bottle of viagra displayed in your cleavage, you can’t un-ring that bell and the best you can hope for is to do damage control or that your professional or academic talents are so extraordinary no one will care.

>>I think that there are a small number of jobs where what you do in your free time could and possibly should be taken into account – public office, judge, etc or if you’re a “spokesperson” or representative of a company in advertising

I’m interested in that – doesn’t the potential for a conflict of interest exist at levels that have nothing to do with obvious public roles or trust? In the spirit of “none of my employers business,” shouldn’t basic social values/morals be applied equally to all? Perhaps the consequences of breaking those social structures are greater depending on your role, but the expectation should, imo, be the same unless we subscribe to a “they should be saints but I don’t have to be” philosophy.

The paddle spanks both ways on this: If I’m a pharmaceuticals rep, I have the same right to privacy as the chemist who made the drugs I’m selling. But, if the chemist who made the drugs also sells home-made viagra with slogans like, “Developed by a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Chemist!” then that erodes the perception of quality of the product I’m legitimately selling.

I think the reality is there are far less jobs that DON’T require what you do in your free time aren’t taken into account – particularly if controversial enough.

The thing to remember is that in hiring/firing/promoting the number one reason a person gets a job or loses one is whether or not the people in charge actually WANT to work with them. Now if I’m a randy ol man running a small business where I’m the big boss, I obviously want to hire the lady who sells bust cream. But outside of those hopefully unusual situations, two people equally qualified will be separated by who is the greater miscreant. Every recruiter says the same thing: you have to be able to sell yourself as a team player, be flexible and likable. I’ve been told that from being a filing clerk to a consultant. It also flies in the face of other employment norms (in the US anyway), which is the vast majority of jobs are attained through networking. By that very method of getting your foot in the door, your reputation is what is getting you the job, not your resume or applications.

I don’t disagree with the way things would be in a perfect world, but I do disagree that some should be held to a higher standard than others – mainly because I pity the fool who gets to decide what that heirachy’s line is drawn at.

>>Perhaps the consequences of breaking those social structures are greater depending on your role, but the expectation should, imo, be the same unless we subscribe to a “they should be saints but I don’t have to be” philosophy.

The only time that I can see that the personal morality should have any bearing on it is if it either directly relates to the job if that job is a position of trust based on that morality (extreme example being a paedophile in a nursery) or if the job is based entirely on the perceived morality or character of the person. A judge, for example, could not perform their job as well if it were known that their activities outside of work where generally considered immoral (hence the expression “Who are they to judge”. ;-) ) or a celebrity who gets done for taking steroids endorsing sports kit. In these instances, they do have to be saints. That is what they are being paid for. Otherwise it shouldn’t matter. Note I’m saying shouldn’t rather than doesn’t. It’s not unusual for people to find people being forced out of jobs due to rumours of out of work impropriety. Also, if you are above a certain level in a corporation, your character may be linked directly to the fortunes of the company, so you should be expected to act with a certain amount of discretion. Your salary would also reflect that. Someone claiming that Steve Jobs molests goats, for example, could have a huge impact on Apple’s share price, so he would have to, if he wanted to remain in his position, have a squeaky-clean goat record.

>>But, if the chemist who made the drugs also sells home-made viagra with slogans like, “Developed by a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Chemist!” then that erodes the perception of quality of the product I’m legitimately selling.

That’s not the same thing though. In your example the chemist is willfully abusing his position with the company for personal gain potentially at their expense. It works both ways. If your employer has to respect your rights then you have to respect theirs. It’s not a good example though. The chemist would probably be breaking the laws pertaining to pharmaceuticals so would be risking his job anyway. Non regulated though – I fix PCs. If I was to do that in my free time (as long as it wasn’t to my company’s clients or to potential corporate customers as I am contractually bound not to steal business from my employer) it is none of their business. If I sold the service using my company’s name then I’d deserve to get into trouble.

>>That’s not the same thing though. In your example the chemist is willfully abusing his position with the company for personal gain potentially at their expense. It works both ways.

not really. There’s no law (here) against those things or those claims. The only thing you can’t do is claim it was approved by the FDA. So is it an abuse? They aren’t claiming it’s produced by Pfizer, and the chemist could be making it out of dried up bits of oatmeal in his kitchen so there’s nothing “technically” wrong about that.

>>if you are above a certain level in a corporation, your character may be linked directly to the fortunes of the company, so you should be expected to act with a certain amount of discretion.

It’s been my experience that that’s simply not true in a corporation and most CEO’s would probably agree with me (even if superficially). Every employee is a representative of the corporate image and code of conduct on or off site is part of the agreement. The idiot that had his snogging appointment on our doorstep is a great example – he earned a low level hourly wage and it was the first axe that began to do him in and I was highly pressured to fire him at that time.

A bit of a better example than Pfizer: Walt Disney built the Disney empire and it’s customer service standard other corporations seek to attain based on the entire premise that every single employee (on or off stage) represents the character and values of the company. Their code of conduct over the decades has reached very, very deeply into its employees personal choices and lives. The idea around Disney is that the guy who sweeps up the garbage on Main Street is equally responsible for the reputation of the brand and the company as the president. Up until very, very, very recently (and only due to budget cuts), Disney employees could be fired for turning up at the local market wearing their uniform or name tag. So if a Disney employee’s child was seriously ill and they had to stop at the store for medicine, they could be fired if caught standing there in uniform (and I”m not talking about the Mad Hatter suit here, I’m talking about someone working in a shop or scooping ice cream).

I absolutely see a benefit for a code of conduct and one always has the option of not participating it and seeking employment where it doesn’t matter. There’s one of two choices – the way I see it. Choice 1 is to have freedom of personal choice at the expense of professional choice. Choice 2 is to have professional choices at the expense of personal ones. I don’t think that’s very nice, but neither is it anything new.

Code of Conduct isn’t unusual and the only time I’ve seen exemptions for certain people are where monetary gifts or insider trading rules apply. So should a person exhibit a violation of a code of conduct prior to even being hired, it would not be a surprise if they never were hired in the first place.

The idea that what you do in your spare time should have no bearing on your employment prospects is based on the idea that you’re working for a company. But a company’s just a legal concept. What you’re really working for is other people. Not only will people decide who they want to work with based on all sorts of non-performance-related criteria such as “Is this guy a wanker?” but they should. After all, if you set up a business, why should you be forced to hire people you can’t stand?

I’m always interested in seeing interviews with guys like Mick Fleetwood, ’cause they got into a band with a bunch of mates to have fun and ended up as their bosses. Most bands have that dynamic: someone ends up in charge. And then, if they have a long career, they sometimes have to fire people. Has Mick Fleetwood fired guitarists for reasons entirely unrelated to their guitar-playing ability? Yes. Should he have? Yes. You have to be able to get on with the people you work with. It seems obvious, I think, when you look at the example of a band, but, just because it’s less obvious in, say, an insurance company, doesn’t mean the same principle doesn’t apply.

When I worked at [censored], there was a bit of a bad episode where one of the employees was suddenly and unexpectedly stabbed in the neck by one of his colleagues. Turns out the attacker was literally insane and thought that he was some sort of military intelligence black operative and the attackee was his target. The attacker should definitely never have been hired, for reasons entirely unrelated to his ability to do the job. An extreme example, but still.

>>After all, if you set up a business, why should you be forced to hire people you can’t stand?

There’s a big difference between someone who is a pain in the arse and someone who does things in their spare time that you disapprove of. The majority of people who piss me off at work seem to be pure as snow.

>>They aren’t claiming it’s produced by Pfizer

No, but they are using Pfizer’s name to promote their product. That is arguably against the company’s interest as well as potentially bringing them into disrepute.

>>Disney employees could be fired for turning up at the local market wearing their uniform or name tag.

It’s a bit of an overreaction, but if you are wearing your company uniform then, yes, you are still representing your company. You had the choice to remove the uniform before you left work, so if you choose not to then you are choosing not to divorce yourself at that point from the company. A recent example was when I was in a DIY store wearing a company T-shirt. A bloke started asking me advice on buying a PC. I was well within my rights to tell him to piss off but I didn’t as I knew that I was wearing company livery that I chose to continue to wear so it was my own fault.

>>It’s been my experience that that’s simply not true in a corporation and most CEO’s would probably agree with me (even if superficially). Every employee is a representative of the corporate image and code of conduct on or off site is part of the agreement.

Really? You honestly think that there isn’t a difference between a low-level employee’s influence on the company’s reputation and a senior executive? If I was to commit mass-murder then it would probably have no influence on the share price – even if I did it at work. If my CEO farts incorrectly it would make the tech news at the very least.

The only difference between the idea of a corporate code of conduct which covers all out of work activity and slavery is that you can choose poverty with the code of conduct.

> There’s a big difference between someone who is a pain in the arse and someone who does things in their spare time that you disapprove of.

Sometimes there’s a difference; sometimes not so much. It’s easy enough to come up with examples. What if you start running a cafe as a family business, and your thirteen-year-old daughter helps out at weekends, and you hire a guy who is perfectly pleasant at work but who you later discover via Google is a big fan of rape fantasy cartoons? You’d be insane not to fire him. What if you run a small business and only have one employee and that employee turns out to be a keen supporter of Hamas, who have killed three members of your family? You’ve got to spend all your working days with this guy and give him the only wages you’re giving out? Fuck that. What if you accidentally hire someone who reads The Guardian?

OK, that’s a joke (probably), but there’s a serious point about deciding what to with your money. The Co-operative bank get lauded for their ethical investment policy, but would be breaking the law if they fired one of their employees because it turned out he was donating 10% of his wages to one of the causes they refuse to invest in.

> The majority of people who piss me off at work seem to be pure as snow.

You work for a large company. Most companies are small businesses, and, by their nature, need to operate more like a close-knit family unit if they’re going to work at all. Large companies tend to be in favour of anti-discrimination legislation and other regulations that make it hard to fire people precisely because it’s not a big problem for them but makes life prohibitively difficult for small businesses.

A lot of this stuff is in the news at the moment, particularly surrounding the BNP: should BNP members, who are members of an avowedly discriminatory party, be allowed to have public sector jobs in organisations committed to equality? It strikes me a bit like the muslim checkout workers who refuse to beep booze, or the christian fundies who won’t fulfill prescriptions for contraception: if you leave your beliefs at the door fine, if you don’t then fuck off and get another job.

Then again, one of the early facebook/no-job stories was about a teen job hunter whose profile was fake-gangsta crap about smoking blunts and having sex. Employer didn’t hire on the grounds that he needed smart people to work for him, not dumbasses, and the FB stuff showed that the potential hire was definitely in the latter camp. Which seems reasonable to me even though the profile wasn’t *directly* relevant to the job.

It’s a tough one…

> should BNP members, who are members of an avowedly discriminatory party, be allowed to have public sector jobs in organisations committed to equality?

Yes, because those organisations aren’t committed to equality; they’re committed to “equality”, and are in fact openly discriminatory. Remember that judge a couple of years ago who decided to set the precedent that it’s OK to chuck Jews off the jury merely for being Jewish if the defendant’s a Muslim? Bet he’d say he’s committed to equality. If we’re going to have all this prejudice in our state services, I’d rather we have a balance of different prejudices battling it out than that it all go in one direction while telling us it doesn’t exist.

> if you leave your beliefs at the door fine, if you don’t then fuck off and get another job.

Absolutely, yes.

> Employer didn’t hire on the grounds that he needed smart people to work for him, not dumbasses … the profile wasn’t *directly* relevant to the job.

Eh? What could be more relevant?

Did you hear the one about the Human Rights Watch researcher who was a big (really big, like huge) fan of Nazi memorabilia in his spare time? Very active on the forums, with a huge and expensive collection. Suspended pending further investigation.

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