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Fired Over Facebook

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It seems like everybody and his brother has a Facebook account these days – literally! In early February 2010, the social networking super-site celebrated its sixth birthday and made an exciting announcement: the site was surpassing the 400 million-user milestone. Along with this piece of news, Facebook published a rather impressive list of statistics.

Of those 400 million plus members, more than 50% of active members log on to Facebook on any given day. More than 35 million users update their status each day, and more than 60 million status updates are posted each day. Also, more than 3 billion photos uploaded to the site each month. It appears that it’s safe to say that social media is here to stay.

Many people even use Facebook as their means of keeping up-to-date on current events. A CNN article claims that more Americans get their news from the Internet than from newspapers or radio, and three-fourths hear of news via e-mail or updates on social media sites.

Young people are some of Facebook’s biggest advocates, but high school and college students use the site to do much more than stay up to date on the news. They also keep in touch with friends, brag about events in their life, gossip about others, complain about school and work, and post photographs. Unfortunately there is a downside to all this Facebook-ing.

Facebook vs. Studying

Your grades may suffer. Really. An Ohio State University article says, “College students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grade point averages than students who have not signed up for the social networking website, according to a pilot study at one university.”

“We can’t say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying, but we did find a relationship there,” said Aryn Karpinski, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in education at Ohio State University. Karpinski and her research partner, Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University, presented their research at an annual meeting of the American Education Research Association. Among her study results? Faculty members who allow students to use laptops in class have told her they often see students on the Facebook site during class!

If you have a 4.0 GPA despite the fact that you spend massive amounts of time on Facebook you probably don’t have to worry about Karpinski’s research, but if you’re a college senior nearing your graduation date, there is one thing you might want to take into account as you begin job hunting.

Facebook vs. Your Job

According to recent surveys, 70% of the human resources workers polled admitted to not hiring a potential job candidate because of their internet behavior such as posting inappropriate photos and content on social networking sites such as Facebook. If you feel compelled to post photographs of yourself drinking vodka straight out of the bottle while wearing a see-through T-shirt, well … hey that’s your decision! Just realize that if you also choose to make your Facebook profile public, you really do run the chance of anyone out there seeing whatever you post, including people who are interviewing you for a new job.

You might believe that your private time off-the-clock is your private time and therefore none of your boss’s business. While that’s somewhat true, anything you post publicly on the internet is a different story. If it really can be seen by anyone who knows where to look, that includes customers or competitors of the company you work for. Many bosses take an interest in their employees that work in sales, public relations, or customer service because they serve as representatives for the company. Employers have a valid interest in ensuring prospective employees won’t embarrass the company and tarnish its image.

Missing out on job opportunities because of online behavior isn’t your only worry. You don’t want to get fired after you get hired, either. Don’t think it can happen? Then apparently you haven’t heard of Heather B. Armstrong, AKA Dooce.

Armstrong, matriarch of Dooce.com , is one of America’s most popular bloggers. Armstrong was featured by Forbes magazine among 30 honorees on its list of “The Most Influential Women In Media” for 2009. Things weren’t always so peachy.

In 2002, Armstrong was fired from her job as a web designer / graphic artist because she had written personal details and her various opinions of her experiences at an internet company on her personal blog. She did not fight the termination and she has never publicly revealed the place of employment in interviews. Armstrong is so well-known for this little incident that the site Urban Dictionary now defines dooce as “to be fired from your job because of the contents of your blog.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t any rules set in stone regarding hiring and firing because of your social media posts but you might want to think things through a bit before typing them out on your blog or Facebook account. You may want to watch it with the photos, too. Annoying, sure, but sometimes it really is best to err on the side of caution.

For Further Reading

Facebook Statistics

Ohio State University article


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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