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Facebook Faux Pas

September 7, 2010

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Bahrain Gulf Daily News. Old hat for hardened social networkers perhaps, but a reminder to everyone else that living in a world where everyone’s a paparazzo has consequences:

“The other day I saw an interesting piece of research from the UK claiming that the era of Facebook faux pas was over.

If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, there’s been quite a lot of press over the past few years about job applicants finding that they’ve been rejected because they’ve been less than discreet on their Facebook page. Nasty comments about their current colleagues or bosses and, horror of horrors, pictures of what we’ll call exuberant behavior plastered all over their “walls”.

In common with the rest of the world, Facebook is hugely popular among the young and not-so-young of Bahrain and the rest of the Middle East. I’m pretty sure that Bahrainis are far more discreet about the pictures they show and the things they say on Facebook than the party generation in the West, so perhaps they’ve not fallen foul of the corporate police who scour the social networking sites looking for dirt on promising candidates.

But apparently job applicants have now got wise. Before they apply for a new job, they delete incriminating photos from their walls so that they appear squeaky clean in the eyes of the potential employer.

I find that rather sad. Do the banks, accountancy firms and lawyers really want to employ only po-faced citizens in suits? Don’t they want to see a bit of joie de vivre, even if that joie sometimes appears to go a bit far? Perhaps they should remember that two of the UK’s leading politicians appeared in their Oxford days in a group photo for the Bullingdon Club. Looking like young peacocks, Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson were pictured with a dozen more young toffs similarly attired. Presumably the photos were taken before a club night on the tiles, because the Bullingdon was notorious for its debauchery.

Much as his opponents tried to use the picture to portray Cameron as an upper class twit, I suspect it did him far less harm than the revelation that the last Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, grew up in the company of thousands of garden gnomes (his father sold them for a living).

One of the stories that came up in the survey was of a girl who narrowly avoided losing out on a job with an accountancy firm by promising to remove a picture of herself at a fancy dress party wearing a beard.

Another concern voiced in the survey was that because Facebook so frequently changes its privacy settings, the dodgy pasts of some users might surface without warning, like mammoths in the Siberian permafrost. There must be thousands of bearded ladies out there quaking at the thought.

As oldies like me start Facebook pages, should we only show the dignified and professional side of our lives for fear that one of our bosses will see us in our Y-fronts and take a jaundiced view of our future career progression?

I agree that lies, unkind remarks, posts in support of deranged killers and groups encouraging people to insult the religion of others are indeed beyond the pale. But when it comes to running the rule over the potential leaders of the future, the corporate watchdogs should perhaps be looking for some spice, some evidence of character, instead of gleefully unearthing youthful peccadilloes.

After all, like David Cameron, I’m sure Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great and Winston Churchill had their adolescent moments…..”

From → Employment, Social, UK

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