Saturday, September 06, 2008

Facing up to the workplace consequences of Facebook ...

It’s only been a year since I joined Facebook. I rarely update my Facebook page, except to post articles from time to time. Online social networking just isn’t my thing.

So I was surprised to read that this:

Employers are using sites such as Facebook and MySpace to check up on their employees and research prospective staff.

It gets worse. Under the headline “Facebook frolics can burn a hole in your office kudos”, the Australian Financial Review reports on Friday 20 June 2008 reports:

In Britain, retailer Argos last year sacked an employee who made negative comments about the company on Facebook.

Closer to home, managers who have been caught out by employees announcing their resignations online before they tell the boss are regularly scouring social network sites.

You even need to be careful about how you update your status. Flippant status updates can be deceptive and even dangerous. For instance, the last time I checked, my status update read “Irfan is asleep”. Arguably, that update was misleading.

Checking up on employees who have phoned in sick is also not unknown. Networkers who regularly provide “status updates” make such surveillance easy.

But just how reliable are such updates? And just how much should HR managers rely on information on Facebook? After all, people often don’t put their real photo up on their site. And I’m not always sleeping, even if my status update says otherwise.

Many people don’t behave all terribly seriously online. Social networking lends itself to colourful expressions and hyperbole. So if your status update says you’re partying or seriously bludging, you might actually be sitting in a work meeting.

It seems even your choice of cyber-friends can cause trouble.

It might not be your own message that brings you undone.

"People bring together all sorts of acquaintances online – and that could lead to trouble," said David Vaile, executive director of the University of NSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre.

“Online friends are not necessarily friendly,” Mr Vaile said. “They may be part of a broader
group, such as a particular geography or company. They are not restricted to people you trust."
All this might explain why friends tell me some of their former cyber-friends (including friends in real-life) are cancelling their Facebook and MySpace accounts.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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