Employers shouldn’t hire or fire based on social media

Corea Parks

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It is no secret that the growth of technology and the digital footprint has brought along ethical issues with privacy. The most alarming truth behind this awareness is the fact that the World Wide Web is so “wide” in its reach that it is merely impossible to control. 

According to BBC, 3.2 billion people used the internet in 2015 (half of the world’s population), yet in the U.S. there isn’t really much policing going on online. This is mainly due to the First Amendment, which grants freedom of speech and freedom of press. 

While the U.S. did start cracking down on things such as sexually explicit material of minors and the protection of intellectual property online starting in the 1990s, the freedom to express an opinion online is still largely untouched by any regulatory measures. This is because by law any person is entitled to speak their opinion freely. So, why is it that employers are able to base a worker’s job security on what they put on a social networking site?

A study from Career Builder shows that 70 percent of employers now use social media to pre-screen candidates who are applying for a job. While getting a job in the first place is more threatened by social media investigation than losing a job, there have been cases where employers wrongly terminate employees due to personal content that was found on a social networking site.

While I firmly believe that everyone should be careful with what they put out into this world, I cant help but think at what point does the line between one’s professional and personal life get crossed? The problem I have with the whole idea of using social media as a means of screening and gaining a sense of character is that it is literally merging two entities together that are meant to stay separate: work life and personal/home life.

Now, I’m not saying that Facebook is the ideal place to vent; however, it is important to keep up with the times. The fact is that social media is a foundation for so many people now to communicate their feelings. It is a place that is used for socialization. People don’t talk on the phone anymore, they don’t write letters and they hardly do brunch outings with friends to catch up on gossip. They log onto their phone and get connected through social media. It may be more public and much more raw, but it is still considered a personal opinion in a conversation taking place in a setting outside of the work place.

Now, employers will argue that the social media pre-screening has an equal chance of helping you based on how you present yourself. However, it is important to realize that on social media most people aren’t presenting themselves entirely but rather using it as a means of expression. Just as someone can act like a complete fool on social media but hold the ability to keep it completely professional in the workplace, someone could easily portray themselves as well-put-together on social media and be a complete dud on the job.

In my opinion, potential employees should be picked and evaluated based upon the professional experiences they have pursued, which can be determined based on interaction between future employers and past employers. A sense of professional character can be obtained by personal and professional references, such as past coworkers and long-term friends. 

An employer can also do a traditional background check. Resorting to spying on an individual’s social life online as a means of creating a professional judgment is too close to playing God. I think that after a hard, frustrating day at work a person should be able to say “my job stinks” without facing harsh repercussions in the near-to-far future.