The Facebook Minefield


Do you know who your friends are?

If you had just been to a job interview, would you try to add your interviewer on Facebook?

If a client sent you a friend request, would you accept?

If your boss asked you to change your profile picture, would you?

Each of these scenarios has happened to me or a family member, and yet discussing them, we all had different opinions. If we can’t even agree, how on earth is a company supposed to lay down the law on social media use?

Let’s face it, Facebook is a minefield. Some people are happy to let it all hang out, others jealously guard their privacy and everyone is perfectly entitled to use it as they please… until they mention where they work. That’s when it all changes.

If your company doesn’t yet have guidelines, I’d really recommend these – from the General Teaching Council for Scotland – as a basis. It pretty much boils down to one, common-sense line:

“A teacher should never share information with students in ANY environment that they would not willingly or appropriately share in a school or school-related setting or in the community.”

It seems daft that it should need to be spelled out like this, but I guess when you’re updating a status from a phone or in a rush, you can forget the fact that all 300 of your ‘friends’ can see it, share it, comment on it and basically pass it around. I can only suppose the people who post they’re hungover when they’ve called in sick, bitch about their boss or slate their company policies online haven’t checked their privacy settings or have forgotten who their ‘friends’ are.

I feel quite strongly, though, that it should work both ways. I hate hearing that people have accepted friend requests from line managers and new employers because they’ve felt they couldn’t say no. I’m one of the people who keeps Facebook very private, so I’ll often send back a message with my LinkedIn and Twitter details before I decline. I’m self-employed, but if I worked for a company I’d be leaving that field blank. The reality is that as soon as you say who you work for, you are representing them. This is true in real life so of course it’s true online and therefore your boss is, I think, entitled to ask you to change a dodgy profile pic or remove a controversial comment.

Do you agree?



1 Comment

  1. AnnieBeee
    January 9, 2012

    I agree with you Kim, I keep Facebook strictly private. If a client or someone I don’t know very well contacts me there I offer them my LinkedIn profile as a place to connect.
    It’s such a grey area but with more and more coverage in the press and cases appearing in court it’s a subject well worth watching. Employers and employees should know their rights and have access to a social media policy to reduce the risk of confusion.


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