Mar 18 2009
I’m sometimes amazed at how quickly people forget that Twitter and all social media platforms are public forums. The ‘social’ in social media means that what you post is out there in the public for all of your friends, as well as people who aren’t your friends, to read. It’s like standing in a crowded room, talking to a group of your friend, with other people on the fringes listening to the conversation. You never know who’s in that fringe group and what they’ll do with what you say.
Yesterday a job seeker got a very graphic example of the dark side of social media on Twitter; they’d been offered a job by Cisco and made the mistake of tweeting the following:
Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.
Someone associated with Cisco saw the tweet and responded. I don’t know if the job offer was rescinded, but given the popularity of the meme, it’s quite likely they’ll at least have to explain themselves to the hiring manager and fight an uphill battle to keep the job. Or maybe they’ll be too embarrassed to face the hiring squad at Cisco again. In any case, it’s not a position anyone wants to be in with the current economy or any economy.
I’m no stranger to this effect and I’m sure we’ve all posted things online that we wish we could remove from the the semi-permanent record that is the Internet. It’s easy to forget that the little group of highly interactive followers you have on Twitter is also backed by a much larger group of followers who never post, just take in what we’re tweeting. It’s even easier to forget that there are a number of ways people can search on key words, like ‘Cisco’, even if they aren’t on Twitter and following you. It’s a public forum and everything you say is being recorded and read by someone and that someone might be you’re boss, the guy who’s thinking about hiring you for your next job or your mother. Would you say some of the things you do on Twitter or Facebook if you knew your mother would read it?
Making your conversations on social media sites private is no guarantee they’ll remain private. You might make a mistake and make your conversation public, the site might make a mistake, a friend might repeat what you’ve posted or any number of other ways for the information to become public. It’s social media, it’s meant to be broadcasted and it’s entirely too easy to lose control of who is receiving your message. If you really want to have a private conversation with someone, pick up the phone and give them a call. That way, at least you know the only people who might be listening in are in a small room of an AT&T building in San Francisco.
If you’re using social media tools, you’re living a public life. What you say can and will affect your future prospects. It may be a virtual soapbox, but you’re still stepping on a stage and shouting to a crowd every time you tweet or post on Facebook. Learn to live your life like someone’s listening to everything you say, because they probably are.