Hi, I’m Daniel Horowitz, and occasionally I like to wear women’s dresses.
Specifically, Bavarian dresses, but that’s another matter entirely. My Facebook profile is full of similar risqué photos, and if your college life is not spent entirely in self-loathing or boredom, then your life may be similar to mine. Well, maybe not quite as interesting, but it may scratch the surface. And if it does, then it probably involves a fair bit of self-indulgence.
But if you’re career-conscious, or have received advice to “clean up” your Internet presence in the past, then your profile may not reflect mine. And that’s totally fine. But I’d like you to consider what “cleaning up” your profile actually means, and whether it is necessarily the right thing to do in every situation.
When you’re looking for employment, you are told to present the best aspects of yourself to your employer. Unless you’re applying to work for a company that advocates getting drunk on the job, it would be unwise to share a story about your latest keg stand adventures with your prospective employer. In ages past, it would be extremely easy to cover that side of yourself by simple omission. But with social media, our personal and professional lives are intrinsically melded. And with employers often doing Facebook searches on prospective employees, it’s no wonder that many who are looking for future success in the workplace choose to conceal that part of their digital identity. It certainly makes things easier, and overrides any cause for concern with the employer.
What we should consider though is the type of culture we live in that makes us feel pressured to “clean up” our digital act. While Facebook and Twitter are great tools to make and maintain professional connections, this is not, and should not be, their primary use. Personally, I use my Facebook and Twitter feeds all the time to promote my own work and the work of my colleagues. But I also use my social media feeds for their primary intended use: to interact with friends and acquaintances, to use as a platform for my own thoughts and views, and to post photos of myself generally having a good time.
Rather than fight against the notion of the blending of public and personal lives, we should embrace it. If employers choose to spy on you for consideration for employment, and decide that a few photos of you in morally ambiguous situations is enough to deny your application for employment, then you should ask yourself, “Is this the type of work environment you really envision working in?” Would you be willing to give 110% to a company that doesn’t value you as an individual, who is within their right to display whatever they choose on their social media feeds as a private citizen? Would you want to work for a company that sees your potential value as a commodity, but fails to recognize that you are free to indulge in whatever you choose when you are not on their payroll?
If you feel the ends justify the means, if you feel that the potential restriction on your freedom of expression is warranted to secure a high paying job at the company of your dreams, then feel free to completely disregard what I’m saying. But I’d like you to at least consider that when it’s all out there, it’s out there. Internet culture has the potential to allow us to disregard the societal norms of the previous generation, to no longer allow embarrassing photos of you in your spare time to be used as incriminating evidence against you, especially in the job market. If you feel like you want to work for a company you love, with people you genuinely enjoy being around, who may very well be a part of your social network, then maybe you should think twice before untagging yourself in that ridiculous photo posted of you.
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