We've all seen circumstances of private items getting thrust into the public eye, whether it's the latest celebrity sex tape, stories of teenage misdemeanour, or even just that ghastly high school year book picture that still torments you when you see it.
Often we can laugh these moments off, others may play havoc with our emotions, and then sometimes, these exposés can go so far as to affect our careers. But is it fair for an employer to go looking for your Skeletons in the Closet?
I read an article recently, which has subsequently prompted this entire post, stating that we should limit what we post online about ourselves to information that we would be happy for our employer, next door neighbour or the old lady in the supermarket to see. This recommendation is regardless of your privacy settings on social media sites like Facebook and instead suggests treating the online world like a completely public arena – as in, everyone can see everything.
Now I don't have gripes with this particular advice; it makes sense that you should be careful about what you post, particularly when you think something might have limited visibility when often this isn't the case. However, the article went on to talk about this in the context of employment. To summarise, it cited that employers in the 21st Century will utilise Facebook, Twitter, and Google to do some investigation, prior to offering you the role. And this was the first button of mine to be pushed...
I can understand doing a little bit of homework, particularly if the job on offer is more senior oriented, but where is the line between research and actively seeking out someone's skeletons in the closet. This article suggested employers would go onto your Facebook page, finding loopholes in the privacy settings if required, to take a peek at all your social media glory. Now why do I have a problem with this if this is an online profile? Because the vast majority of us only share this information with family and friends! This is exactly the same as coming to your house and poking through your DVD collection, trawling through your photo albums, or ciphering through your emails and text messages. It's a complete invasion of privacy. So why is it seen as okay?
Let's approach this slightly differently. Suppose upon applying for a new job you were required to fill out a questionnaire on your favourite movies, hobbies, books, music, where you go for dinner on a Friday night, and your wardrobe choice for that Hen's night you went to last month. That's right, there would be an uproar! What is the relevance of this information upon your capability to do the job? Don't get me wrong, I understand wanting to hire people that 'fit' with the culture of the company and thus, there is an amount of gauging a person's personality that needs to take place, but if that involves digging up a picture from the 1980's of them passed out after a few too many vody's, then the line has well and truly been crossed.
Why else is this so frustrating? Because we can't control everything that's online either. Sure we get notified when we get 'tagged' in posts or pictures, and we can ask friends to take down something if it's a little garish or bawdy, but the world of web 2.0 we now live in allows anyone to share whatever they want want online, undoubtedly a pro and con, and this certainly means there is information available about everyone that we probably wouldn't put up ourselves.
We all have the odd skeleton in our closet, they help define who we are, but just like in a relationship, sharing these things is a choice, not an obligation.