Social Media Boundaries – The price of trust.

As we progress in technology and time, we store less information in our own minds, and more in the cloud – So who’s benefiting from this mass of data?

Well to start, we are. Life has become easier and more convenient, information that would have taken you days to come across now is a simple Google search away

However, we are not necessarily the only beneficiary. We are currently adapting to allow computers to take over everything, in fact, we are encouraging it. Think about how many things you used to have a physical device for? Calculators, clocks, TV. When did you last read a paper map?

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As we reduce the information stored in our own minds lock box, we are allowing computers to learn from the stored online information of our intelligence. Everything we do, know or see online can all be stored for other uses, could it be exploiting us? Perhaps.

But then why do we trust it so much?

What is it about this giant base of knowledge that we trust so much? We’ve all heard the stories, we know how easily it can be tampered with and we know to be careful when providing personal details online.

So why don’t we seem to care when it comes to social media? Its almost like its seen as a separate segment from the internet, but the same rules apply – anything you post online is still available for the entire world to see, with or without a social media account. In short, don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want to share with the whole world, why? Because that’s how far social media can stretch.

Imagine a video gone viral, now imagine that the video is actually of you. Somebody happened to be in the right place at the right time and took a video of you doing something ridiculous, embarrassing or illegal? Now its been uploaded and shared millions of times around the world. This could be  potentially life destroying, what if your employer saw it? Could this affect your career? Your health? Your family? Of course it could.

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Opportunistic behavior is of course evident throughout social media, but interestingly, the greater social media becomes the more we seem to trust it. Consider this, if you use any a social networking site its likely you’ve uploaded photos at some point, do you know who owns these photos? Ever seen your own image in Google images? Facebook is advanced enough to use facial recognition – Do you know who else has access to your face? More importantly, do you trust them to use your face?

What about businesses? Do they share the same level as trust?

Personal social media usage is one thing, the introduction of social media for business, another entirely. Social media has become big in business, it provides vast information sources, collaboration tools, brand building, recruitment and communication tools. Its expanding at a rapid rate and has become somewhat essential to many business practices. However interestingly, according to Jeffrey Mello social media policies are not all that common, and businesses are taking a huge risk with social media and employees.

So how how do they monitor it?

One one hand you have employers wanting to protect brand and reputation, understandably, but then again, on the other you have employees with privacy issues. Firstly, lets consider the use of social media in the workplace. No business wants distracted employees reducing productivity and making mistakes so how do you control it?

As we have already discovered, many businesses do not have any policies in place for the use of social media. Social media can be destructive in the wrong hands. A disgruntled employee, or perhaps just one venting after a hard day to friends on Facebook could potentially be damaging to a business.

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This means a element of trust is required between most employers and employees to make the best decisions when using social media. Trust must work both ways in order to be effective, cultures introduced into a workplace for transparency are a good start. Encouraging employees to understand what good use of social media is also beneficial. But there is always a risk, if that trust is violated, you will likely feel the wrath of social media.

A fine line between whats acceptable and the violation of trust.

Its important to remember that any social media usage from company equipment can be monitored, for example, computers, phones, tablets etc. Any emails you send, even if from your Gmail account, can be monitored and there isn’t a lot you can do about it, you are using company equipment after all.

It is becoming more and more common for HR departments to monitor employee social media pages, and complete pre employment checks on potential candidates as overall protection for the business. A number of people in recent years have been caught out pulling a sickie after being snapped at a rugby game or something just as incriminating, resulting in disciplinary action.

Lets also consider this; Social media is a place for people to express themselves, posting about opinions or interests is all to common on Facebook and Twitter. What if your employer comes across something they feel is a conflict of interest, should you be disciplined for it? Even if you are speaking personally and not on behalf of the organisation, using your own personal equipment? Is it fair that your boss should even be snooping through your Facebook page in the first place? Should you really have to pretend to be somebody else at all times on social media to protect your employer?

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These questions raise an important point, whilst its certainly understandable that organisations use all available resources to protect their business, catching your employee pulling a sickie, in my opinion is certainly one, but is it really necessary to dig into the employee’s personal social media accounts to find it? Surely this goes against the policy of trust between employer and employee, and a violation of that trust would likely result in an undesirable outcome for everyone involved.

Social media is showing all signs of increasing, so perhaps do yourself a favor and think twice before you post online, think about where you are posting it from and check your privacy settings. Protect yourself and avoid a most unpleasant and awkward encounter with your employer.

Images have been obtained from Pixabay, and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

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