Someone recently posted this question to me on Facebook:
How do I “teacher-proof” my Facebook profile?
My wife taught music in the public schools for quite a few years, and I have quite a few teachers in both my family and my circle of friends. As social media continues to become more integrated into our daily lives, teachers in particular find themselves in a tough spot. If a teacher has a rough day and vents about it on his or her Facebook profile, that teacher can end up unemployed.
But teachers aren’t the only ones with this challenge. Facebook posts have resulted in firings of doctors, polices officers, and even a guard at Buckingham Palace.
If you’re going to use social media, there’s ALWAYS a risk that someone will use your comments, tweets, and status updates against you. Sometimes, it’s to protect people, especially when kids are involved. The truth is, people rely on their social media circles for support and encouragement. They use social media to vent frustrations. They also use social media to share their life experiences with friends and family all around the world.
So how do we take full advantage of social media while minimizing the risk of getting fired over what we say and share online?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Lock down your privacy settings. Most social media profiles give you granular control over who can see what. I have a fairly detailed blog post on how to lock down your Facebook privacy settings here. Twitter lets you protect your tweets so only your Twitter followers can see them. Pinterest allows you to hide your profile from external search results, as well as block specific users from interacting with your pins. Social media sites are well-aware of the privacy issues related to social media, and the bigger/smarter sites have empowered users to control their own privacy settings.
- Establish clear boundaries between your social media profiles. For me, Facebook is for personal and creative use only. I use it to share writing and filmmaking projects, to stay in touch with family and friends, and to express my personal views and opinions. I have two Twitter accounts, one for “creative Jerod” and one for “infosec Jerod.” I also have a LinkedIn account that is all business. No personal stuff there, ever. Once you draw these lines, the next step is to sever unnecessary connections between your social media profiles. If you’ve got your Facebook account configured to automatically tweet your status updates, don’t be surprised when a supposedly private rant ends up on Twitter.
- Think before you post. There’s only so much you can do to technically protect your social media profiles. The truth is, anyone in your friends list can take a screenshot of a tweet or a status update and send it to your boss. Keep your friends and followers list reasonable, taking time every few months to review and update your connections. But remember this: all it takes is one irresponsible post, and you’re putting your career at risk. Just ask Anthony Weiner.