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Could Facebook and Twitter Become a Thing of the Past?

Social Media Week 2012 SP

Social Media Week 2012 SP (Photo credit: Fora do Eixo)

In a blog post for 10,000 WORDS, sponsored by Media Bistro, Ben LaMothe writes about his experience lecturing to students at Central Michigan University.  He discusses the relationship of social media to mass communications and journalism.

After his lecture, LaMothe had a Q & A session and found something surprised him.  The students had voiced concerns that social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, were just trends and eventually could fall to the wayside and become something of the past.  They raised questions about whether education institutions should  offer a degree or certificate program in social media.  According to LaMothe, the students also had concerns that while conducting a job search they feared Facebook accounts could hurt their employment chances.

LaMothe writes, “Students are curious about how social media can impact their job search, but are also afraid of how it could be used against them in the search. Some students viewed the idea of maintaining a “clean” profile as unacceptable, and wondered if it was better to have no Facebook presence at all.  I explained that if they view it as one or the other, then it would probably be better not to have a presence at all. It doesn’t give a recruiter something to use against you in the job seeking process. But when you’re applying for a job in media, it could work against you not having a presence.”

On this point, I would have to disagree slightly with LaMothe.  I think a Facebook presence can in fact hurt employment chances.  We have seen recently articles surfacing about employers requesting the passwords of the social media accounts of new hires.  I know of fellow classmates who have applied for internships, find that they’re recruiter decided not to follow their “clean” or professional profile on Twitter, rather their personal one.  Users say and show a lot about themselves on social media, and I think employers are aware of this, and choose to get a “real” feel for the person they have hired or may hire.  I do agree that if you view it as having one or the other, you probably shouldn’t have an account at all.  I’m not sure why anyone looking for employment these days, with the knowledge of how far-reaching the internet is, would post things on social media websites that they wouldn’t disclose in an interview.

I also agree with LaMothe, it could hurt your employment potential if you are looking for work in media.  Considering the direction social media seems to have taken with regards to communication and journalism, not having a presence these days is just plain silly.

I know a lot of people who can’t stand the idea of social media and they don’t understand why people embrace it.  For me personally, I have to embrace it.  I need to be as absolutely connected as possible.  Social media is a great tool for journalists, writers and just about anyone else who want to get published or be involved in the media and news industry.  It’s a must.

LaMothe says in his article that sure, Facebook and Twitter could disappear, but he also says, “…But the ideas and the impact that the two sites have had on communications, customer service, and more, will just inhabit another site.”

Again, I would have to agree with LaMothe.  The technology and methods of these two sites have made a deep and everlasting mark on communications, and the news industry.  I don’t know of many high-profile reporters, commentators, news networks and shows that do not have a Twitter feed or a Facebook page, or some form of social media connected to them.  This kind of communication, and connectivity is here to stay, whatever package it comes in.


You’re Hired! By The Way, Can We Have Your Facebook Password?

Jon Brodkin, wrote an article for ars technica today about employers asking potential new hires for their Facebook passwords and usernames.  It seems that while most of the reported circumstances involving this scenario took place two and three years ago, the action has gained new tread.

According to the article, two senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), have asked the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to make a ruling on whether the requests violate federal law.

According to the article by Brodkin, Facebook stated that they could take legal action against the various employers, but have no plans to do so at this time.

In another article written by Brodkin, he includes a quote from the Facebook company,

“As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job,” Facebook said. “And as the friend of a user, you shouldn’t have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don’t know and didn’t intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

Blumenthal,  is quoted by Brodkin saying these requests are an “unreasonable invasion of privacy.”

So my question is this:  Is this an unreasonable invasion of privacy?

By becoming a member of such social media sites, do you forfeit a certain amount of privacy?  If you are a Facebook user, and say you have 900 “friends”, and lets also say that you post daily life occurrences, personal opinions, photographs and the like, are you still technically, a completely private citizen?  Or have you now jumped into the public arena as some public figure, albeit on a small-scale.

The Sandra Fluke fiasco brought to light a few interesting media law questions.  She chose to take part in a public discussion in front of a mock committee of democratic members of Congress, camera’s rolled and Fluke offered her views and opinions on the topic to be forever part of public record.  Some argue that at that moment, her reasonable expectation of privacy lowered a great deal.

In the spirit of free speech, she has every right to express her views, as do Facebook users.  But, in doing so, it is possible that we are entering a new kind of public arena, opening ourselves to targeted criticism, and possible negative consequences and repercussions from things we say and post.

Is it different if you use the most private settings for your Facebook account?  If your account is completely and  unabashedly public, should that be taken into consideration?  Should these requests by employers be discussed on a case by case basis, depending on the level of privacy chosen by the social media user?

Is there anything wrong with potential employers asking for this information, to make sure that the candidate is the right choice for the company?

Employers do run credit checks on potential new hires, and background checks.  Is this any different just because the medium is different?  I’m not so sure it is.  I can see how both sides of this issue can be argued.  It will be interesting in the coming weeks to see what proposals for legislation manifest, and if this issue acquires new-found “legs”.