Over the past five years, Facebook has grown to the point of heavy use in various points across the globe. Today the network boasts over 1 billion members, with hundreds of millions of these members active. Most people these days either have an account or, if not, have heard of the popular social networking site.
Facebook can be a great way to connect, reconnect or have regular contact with friends and family, but more and more people are increasingly using their accounts to connect with colleagues, work associates and bosses as well. Work and social communications can be shared and everyone gets to know one another on a more friendly basis. All sounds great right?
Perhaps, however, as people have learned in recent years the hard way, Facebook mistakes can hurt your career. Despite this, many social networkers still often do not realize the potential consequences of the decision to connect their personal lives with work-related relationships.
In many ways having these two worlds collide can be disastrous. Facebook is a pretty open network and unless individuals take the time to carefully go through their privacy tools and restrict their profiles, it can negatively impact a career. This takes some effort and sometimes people don't realize they've inadvertently exposed themselves. Not to mention a technical glitch or bug could occur.1
A few Facebook mistakes that can potentially hurt your career:
Sometimes it is simply better to keep work and play separate. Before connecting with work associates and bosses on Facebook, it is a good idea to carefully weigh potential consequences on this decision. It is easy to friend work colleagues however a problem many don't consider until it is too late is that there are often consequences with this decision. Even if colleagues aren't friended, information can be found in search engines if precautions aren't taken and there is always the possibility something will end up copy/pasted.
Do you really want to have to walk a fine line with everything you say? Do you want people at work to know your personal business or have too much information about you? When you connect with colleagues on Facebook, your life essentially can become an open book to those you work with, this is a consideration worth tendering before making a decision to hit that "add friend" or "accept friend" offer.
Status updates are often considered to be light-hearted fun comments. Or in some cases people get frustrated and decide to vent it off on Facebook. Either way this can lead to career suicide. For instance, if the light-hearted comments are inappropriate or contradict something said at work, this will undoubtedly be discovered on the job by someone. An example of this would be calling in sick and then writing all about a glorious day at the beach. Bosses and colleagues won't take well to this one.
Sometimes people forget that the Internet isn't a private place and use their Facebook accounts to rant on about their spouses, bosses or other negative events in their day. This is bad because the workplace gets a good glimpse into personal life/problems. Worse, if the impulsive rant was about a boss, customer or an event at work, this could result in terrible consequences.
Photographs / Comments on Walls
What people do on their off-time may not remain private on Facebook. A night out after having a few drinks or other outing could result in friends and family posting inappropriate photos online. If a certain image has to be maintained work, colleagues could potentially see another side to your personal life through photos, or perhaps even videos.
While users can control what they say online and are careful to walk that aforementioned fine line on Facebook, it is almost a certainty that others will not. Connections may post inappropriate or revealing information on your wall which colleagues may have access to if you haven't restricted your page. Worse, if you haven't privatized it at all and it shows up in Google, Bing, Yahoo! or other search engine results.
Facebook offers many different groups that are linked to politics, religion, high school, businesses and pretty much any other aspect of life. If a user engages in some groups he or she would rather not people know the association, or if he or she wants to keep personal politics out of the workplace, users should keep this in mind when joining any Facebook group. A good number of fan or member created groups are open for public viewing and even if a person restricts his or her own Facebook page, comments made in groups can often be seen.
No More Anonymity
In earlier decades people could hop online and post to their heart's content anonymously and no one would ever be the wiser. Much of this activity took place through services, such as America Online. Employment and online networking were completely separate entities. However, in the early 2000s, even AOL realized the Internet would not remain a closed network and began gravitating towards web-based applications. By the mid-2000s other social networks had cropped up, still largely anonymous, that is until Facebook arrived with its "real name" policy with others following suit. This is when things began to change.
The problem with Facebook is that the business model isn't designed on anonymity like the earlier network were; this network is designed for people to use their real names and expose parts of themselves online. There are pros and cons to this structure, but the reality is it can really hurt a career if not careful.
Facebook has the tendency to make professional and personal lives collide. People may act one way at work and feel free to express themselves differently when they are off the clock then when they are present at work. Since Facebook theoretically may never separate work from play, it can be difficult to keep things segregated and can open up a can of proverbial worms.
In addition to one's professional life, the presence and/or behaviors on social media can also impact job searches. A person's Facebook profile can literally make or break a career. In 2013, CareerBuilder, an online jobs website, conducted a study and found almost 40 percent of employers routinely searched social media sites during the hiring process.2
Some problematic Facebook issues are more serious than others, but most people would probably agree that potential impact on careers changes the dynamics of the social networking experience on Facebook.