With the explosive popularity of social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, an ever-expanding segment of the population is taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with old friends and family members by broadcasting pictures and details of their daily lives. “Blogs” — basically a personal website that anyone can easily develop and publish on the internet — make it possible to publish a commentary, complete with pictures and videos, on any subject at all.
As recently learned by one unfortunate employee, there are sometimes serious consequences for using social media sites and blogs. As reported by Inc.com, a single mother in St. Louis “TBK,” worked during the day for a non-profit but at night, wrote what she thought was an anonymous “sex blog” called “The Beautiful Kind.” She'd managed to keep her online identity a secret until Twitter came along.
When she created her Twitter profile, she used her real name, thinking that only her handle would be visible. When she realized that her name actually appeared in her profile, she immediately removed it and adjusted the name field of her handle accordingly. Immediately, however, was not quickly enough. Thanks to Topsy, a Twitter search engine, her original profile was cached and her real name was displayed next to her user handle. According to the blogger, senior management suggested that supervisors search the web for information about their employees. When the blogger reported to work, she was fired by her boss, who had found out about her extracurricular “activities” on Topsy. The nonprofit claimed that it could not justify the risk to its public image caused by an employee's racy blog.
The fact is, employers and management-side attorneys routinely use the internet to conduct informal “background checks” on applicants as well as employees. While most of the searches do not reveal negative information, sometimes they do, as “TBK” recently discovered. Expressing your opinions and thoughts, publishing your pictures and simply trying to be entertaining to your group of “friends” may seem like a great idea, but folks who work for a living should consider the possible consequences before clicking the “upload” button.