Joining a social media network can be both helpful and detrimental to your career. When done right and maintained properly, it can enhance your career, but one false move and it can come back to haunt you in future interviews. Here are a few social media moves you should think twice about doing. (For related reading, also check out Advance Your Career Off The Clock.)
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1. Being Too Opinionated
With Egypt's recent revolution, social media in general can be seen as a powerful tool for leading others and gathering a community of like-minded individuals to rise up and demand change.
That said, if you are voicing a strong opinion, you might want to be careful about how free your speech is, especially in regard to the following topics: religion, politics, race and employers.
A good example of this is UCLA student Alexandra Wallace's YouTube rant against Asians, in which she mocked Asian UCLA students and their families. That ill-conceived video will now follow her student and working career for the rest of her life, and there will be no escaping from something like that.
When talking about religion or politics, you have your own values that you strongly believe in and are proud of, but there's no need to attack someone else's.
The same goes for complaining about employers while you are still under their employment, such as Kimberley Swann who, according to The Daily Mail, updated her Facebook status as being 'bor[e]d' at work. Her employer hauled her in and fired her immediately. She tried to say she was just talking about the job duties themselves and never mentioned her employer's name, but the damage was already done.
A future employer might stumble across your profile, read comments from months or even years ago, and decide you are not a suitable candidate especially if you are complaining about your current employer. (For an interesting read, also take a look at 9 Famous Celebrity Firings.)
2. Allowing Photos of Yourself to Be Posted or Tagged
They say a photograph is worth 1,000 words, but you might have to come up with 1,000 excuses for why it was on your page, instead!
A bikini carwash might seem like a harmless bit of fun for a good cause, but, according to the website All Facebook, one South Carolina police officer from the town of Moncks Corner found out it's not such a great idea to post these questionable photos.
He either resigned, was asked to resign or was fired, but any way you see it, he's out of a job. The police chief mentioned that the officer used poor judgment and it reflected not only badly on the police department, but also on the town of approximately 6,000 residents.
It may not even be something you intended to happen; photographs can also be easily saved to a computer and used or seen out of context, such as the case of former teacher Ashley Payne of Barrow County, Georgia. According to wsbtv.com, Payne was on vacation in Europe, and had a picture of herself holding alcohol in her hands; a parent saw the photos and complained. She was asked to resign or be suspended, and she resigned immediately
The best line of defense is to not have any questionable photographs taken at all, but if it can't be helped, then sharing such photographs in a private album meant for selected and trusted friends' eyes would be the safest way to go.
3. Using Foul or Inappropriate Language
Keep your language clean, and avoid what happened to Jeffrey Spanierman of Ansonia, Connecticut who crossed the line by using foul and inappropriate language with students on his MySpace page, according to pbs.org.
Or how about an unfortunate mix-up mistake, such as with Gloria Huang who is a social media marketer for Red Cross. According to brandchannel.com, Huang accidentally tweeted under the official Red Cross account: "... when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd" (slang for getting drunk). She deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage had been done, and is forever documented on the internet by various blogs and news sites.
The Bottom Line
There is always an element of risk when posting online, especially under your social media profiles because you can't always control who is going to be reading or watching it. If nothing else, familiarize yourself with privacy settings and keep in mind that the internet remembers everything. (For additional reading and an alternative perspective, see 4 Career-Boosting Social Media Moves.)