By Ryan Healy – During my senior year at Penn State, the Nittany Lions knocked off the highly (over) rated Ohio State Buckeyes. It was one of the best football games of my college years. A mob of students rushed down the bleachers, the field became a flood of blue and white.
But unfortunately, rushing the field is not a Big Ten-acceptable activity. So the other guys in blue, the police, started an investigation using Facebook to identify suspects.
I guess if you’re going to perform illegal acts, Facebook, MySpace and other online networks that incorporate photographs are probably not for you. But as we leave our crazy college years behind and enter the workforce, should we really have to worry what recruiters think of our social lives?
I have a MySpace page and a Facebook profile. I have hundreds of pictures on each site that show me in both professional and not-so-professional settings. I could remove their embarrassing or “incriminating” pictures to save some face in the real world. Or I could replace them with photos from an old photo restoration service. I have never considered either option.
Social networking sites are blurring the lines between personal and professional life. There is no reason these lines should not be blurred. Most young people lead very healthy social lives, and because of these websites much of our social lives are online. When you live your personal/social life online there is no escaping who you are and what you do. It may be scary to people not accustomed to the openness of the Internet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a refreshing. Why should I pretend to be one person for eight hours a day and someone else entirely for the rest?
It’s absurd to pretend that everyone at work is a saint. It’s just not true. What’s the big deal if our bosses know what we did on Saturday night or what we did in college for that matter?
The whole idea of our lives being available for public display is actually pretty cool. Think about it. If the world already knows what we do in our spare time and we are all able to be completely open about our interests, thoughts and ideas without fear of retribution or not being hired then we can bring our whole being to work everyday.
Of course, if you’re idea of a good time is extremely sick and twisted then you may want to consider keeping things a secret. Better yet, you may want to figure out some better things to do in your spare time to avoid a prison sentence. But for most of us who like to have a little innocent fun, there is no reason to play the Jekyll-and-Hyde role.
Jason Warner, head of staffing at Google writes, “Today there is a fuzzy, but growing distinction that companies will continue to draw between candidate professional experiences, competencies, and capabilities and their private lives and outside behaviors. It’s a line we don’t likely want to cross, because if we cross it for candidates, we may cross it for employees, and that compounds the problem.”
The more young people enter the workforce the less risk there is that someone will Google them to look for bad behavior. Human resources leaders don’t have the time to sleuth. But also, there just aren’t enough perfect little angels in the world to go around.
I urge everyone: Let’s leave all of our pictures up on whatever social networking sites we use. What we do on the weekends is just as much apart of our lives as our day jobs. Don’t be afraid of your boss seeing a risque photo of you and don’t be afraid to talk a little business at the bar. The sooner we get past this personal and professional juggling act, the sooner we can see real change in the workplace.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.