Maintaining A Squeaky Clean Professional Social Identity For Today’s Employers Is A Full-Time Job
As any millennial at the office can tell you, today’s workplace looks nothing like the one Gen X’ers were groomed for coming up. Gone are the days where graduating college students looked for a perfect career fit with a company that they would then devote decades of their lives to, the goal being to work in one place until retirement. Hiring managers are no longer looking at a series of shorter assignments with a gaggle of different companies in an applicant’s CV as a sign that they are unhirable. On the contrary, as long as there is context to the bullet list of related but distinct short-term gigs that provides a range of relevant experience pertinent to the position for which they are hiring, having hopped from one employer to another in a relatively short period of time can be looked at as an advantage.
With these changes to hiring practices comes the need for better background checking. A potential employer wants to ensure the candidate sitting across from him or her won’t end up causing the company any trouble or embarrassment 5 weeks after shelling out money for their medical, dental, and vision insurances, airfare across the country for a sales trip, and various other expenses commonly incurred during the hiring process. Perspicacious interviewers often take to the web to see what their applicant gets up to in his or her spare time, and social media accounts provide an instant view to an individual’s personal social identity. There has been much controversy in the past few years about some employers going to extreme lengths and demanding that employees give them full access (via account password) to their social media profiles or at a minimum, that employees refrain from filtering any content they post from authority figures in the workplace. In some cases, one unfortunate leak of personal opinion can lead to a pink slip if a company finds it necessary to distance themselves from any negative press an individual’s comments or actions might draw.
Although federal laws prohibits [sic] employers from discriminating against a prospective or current employee based on information on the employee’s social networking site or personal blog relating to their race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, and immigration or citizen status, employers can and do use information on such websites as a method of conducting background checks. Employees should therefore be conscious of what information they display on social media websites. – WorkplaceFairness.org
For that reason, it is prudent to keep one’s publicly available personal information as clean and innocent as possible, no matter what private predilections they might have behind closed doors or on (not at all private) online bulletin boards, chat rooms, cam sites, etc. To accomplish this great divide between the highly employable model citizen (public identity) one portrays on Linkedin and the porn-loving, promiscuous, potty-mouthed anarchistic (private identity) he or she might be on their own time takes a fair amount of concentration, diligence, and – well – work!
In order to keep search engines and social media spiders from linking and aggregating separate accounts into a single searchable identity, it is imperative that completely separate data are maintained under each profile. No cross use of email accounts, phone numbers, or screen names can be shared. One slip up, and suddenly a search for Jimmy Q. Public turns up a full fetish sex profile and chat history for PuppyPlayATL96, something no one really wants their boss to have access to or see. Companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter each maintain (with some limitations) their own profiles of each of us as a marketable consumer with the intention of profiting off of that information as much as possible by selling you to various advertisers. They catalog your browsing history, user names, phone numbers, addresses, online purchases, newsletter subscriptions, and everything else you don’t actively block their access to in a dozen or more different settings across multiple applications or sites.
So, it becomes an ever increasing challenge to engage with others, especially if there is an actual crossover between professional and personal circles. Do you allow a coworker with whom you regularly hang out at happy hour access to see every post you make to Facebook? Should you steer clear of the sexy guy from accounting whose profile you just came across on BarebackRT.com for fear of gossip getting started in the breakroom? Every single interaction, post, search, purchase, or subscription has to be preceded by this crazy checklist if one is to achieve a perfect split and maintain it. And let me tell you, one tarnished reputation to another, it’s very easy to cross contaminate. I once sent a tweet intended for a particular non-work affiliated audience of followers under my good boy Twitter profile about my excitement over an upcoming new scene between adult film performers I had just read about, and then freaked the eff out for a good ten minutes while scrambling to delete, delete, delete! Had I not caught it right away, chances are that post would have been cataloged and archived by Google after only a few hours or days, making it searchable using my good boy Twitter handle. No bueno!
It’s hard work. And it pays nothing. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do the job you’re paid for, the work that has to be done at home, AND the never ending tasks one should be on top of online to ensure they don’t pollute self A with the stupid stuff that self B gets up to throughout the day. You could argue that it’s easier to just not do the shady stuff instead of going to such lengths to hide them, but that option doesn’t sound like much fun at all. Or you might think, “Fuck ’em! My life is my own. I’m ashamed of nothing!” That sentiment, while noble, is cold comfort after an unforeseen layoff lands you late in life in the applicant pool filled with young, web savvy millennials, with a slew of pervy porn profiles attached to the bold-printed name and email address printed on your very 20th century paper resume.