Wait a second…

Over the course of this blog thus far I have spoken at great length about the best way to present oneself to the melee of prying eyes in the digital world. However, one aspect of the discussion that we appear to have chosen to skirt around is the ‘ethics‘ of this barrage of scrutiny, and that’s because it’s a whole new can of digital worms.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, there is no doubt that employers will explore every corner of the Internet to try to learn a little bit more about you. But we should not necessarily simply grumble to ourselves and accept our online self-censorship (even though I say it pays to be careful).

The issue of the ethics of ‘screening’ via social media is that nobody really knows where the line should be drawn, as it has only come to the forefront since the global uprising of social media itself. Given that we choose to make our lives public, should employers be able to use this against us?

Officially, there’s no reason why not, and that’s because, as I said, you’ve chosen to make your information public. There are some obvious ways to put off an employer, or even get yourself fired, over social media. Just take a look at these examples rounded up by GMM:

However, the lines become blurred when it comes to exactly which aspects of your life a potential employer considers a deterrent. For example, hiring (or not hiring) on grounds of race, religion or sexuality, to name but a few, is not legal in any aspect of society, including via your online profile. There are, in fact, extensive criteria in ensuring the legality of screening employees online, which if neglected, can result in a lawsuit.

The fact that there are so many pitfalls for employers when it comes to using social media to find out more about someone would suggest that it’s probably not worth their time and effort, but given that there are so few ways of actually proving such activity or enforcing the implications in the current technological climate, it’s up to us to take responsibility for our profiles.

But it would appear that, despite all that we’ve covered in this module thus far about preserving our online identity, the ethical dilemma really lies with the employer in what they make of our profiles. Perhaps we shouldn’t feel persecuted and fearful of the ramifications of our online activity. The ethical responsibility should lie with the employer, who should be able to make impartial judgements about an individual without relying on Facebook, as many of us choose to separate these aspects of our lives.


Works used:

Fast Company article by Robert McHale

HR Zone article by Lauren Riley

New York Times article by Jon Ronson

Scientific American article by Roni Jacobson


5 thoughts on “Wait a second…”

  1. At the start of your blog you raise an excellent point which as, as i interpreted it, basically means; ‘Is all this new scrutiny ok?’. I feel like you make very strong arguments as to why it would be – internet users chose to give potential employers material on which they can potentially scrutinise. Furthermore, one could strongly argue that this only makes the employment process fairer. To give an example, would employers want to employ anyone seen in your GMM video, had they known they were going to behave as they did on the internet? The added scrutiny that we have nowadays can only aid this process – those who aren’t suitable for a certain position due to their online behaviour are simply vetted out quicker than they were before the advent of the social media age.

    Also, I enjoyed your use of videos, particularly the GMM one. You were able to save yourself a lot of words buy using a clip that gave you several strong examples to reinforce your arguments whilst not encroaching on your word limit – A good tool to use!


  2. Hi Will,
    I really enjoyed this blog post and thought it was very well written. You mention that it’s down to the employer as to whether they perceive certain parts of your social media profile as a deterrent. You have also said that ethically this could result in discrimination against race or gender for example. Do you think that this is any different to a more traditional job application or interview? Employers are still able to reject applicants CV’s once they’ve seen their gender. Not only this, but you wouldn’t expect an employer to offer a job to a candidate that said some of the tweets included in your video in their interview. So, do you think it’s any different to them posting these things online?
    Looking forward to your next post!


    1. Hi Hannah,

      Thanks very much for your feedback, you raise some very interesting questions. Firstly, I think that the pre-judgement of people based on appearance or similar factors is far more discreet over the internet, and this is what has the potential to make it more potent. As is always the case, people are far more happy to judge others when they aren’t face-to-face. Obviously, however, this form of judgement is harder to prove.

      Secondly, I think the comparison between Twitter and an interview doesn’t work unless an interview somehow monitors your personal or private life. As we’ve discussed in past topics, Twitter and others forms of social media are less formal than the workplace and therefore you wouldn’t expect people to conduct themselves on Twitter as they would in an interview, in the same way that you wouldn’t expect them to go about their daily lives with an ‘interview mentality’. However, I completely agree with your point in that there are some things that are wholly inappropriate for general society, let alone the workplace.

      Thanks for your great questions and I hope I’ve been able to answer them!



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