Most of us are using social media these days to connect with friends, relatives and strangers. Facebook, once a college-based platform, has expanded into a world obsession that is now being used by companies and people to promote their brand. The more people that are our Facebook friends, the greater the opportunity we have to gain a new audience.
LinkedIn has become the go-to source for individuals looking for a job or new business. It is the place to find out about people and get connections into companies. This application is set up to help people build their network and to meet others that can help them in their career. It is also the place to showcase your own talents.
Twitter is a place to build dialog with others in a seemingly intimate manner to engage followers. Companies all have a Twitter account that they solicit individuals to respond to. Even The Weather Channel which used to just give us weather reports is in the game asking its viewers to Twitter them.
We live in a world of social media that has become a “must” to participate in as not to be left out of something that we think can aide us in our branding or help us find a new job. Sometimes, the sites work for the ones that are savvy in using them. Most of the time, they just become a place for others to invade our privacy. Hackers, impersonators and advertisers search our sites to gain access to our personal information, of which, is often out there all over the internet.
The problem is that we want people to find us as not to lose a potential opportunity, yet we risk being violated of our privacy. This is becoming a major issue with candidate’s looking for work. More companies are using Facebook and Linkedin to find talent to add to their organization. Not only are they finding us on these sites, they are seeking our passwords when they identify us and bring us in for an interview.
Some are demanding our passwords for these sites to look deeper into our dialog with others and own character. But, are they stepping their bounds when they do this? This has been an issue of much debate. Some states are trying to make this illegal for companies to do. Would you give a potential employer your password to your social sites? My first response would be maybe, if it helps me get a job. But there are no guarantees you will. And, what are you hiding that you don’t want a potential employer to see?
Is asking for your passwords an invasion of your privacy? Will you be blackballed if you don’t offer them? Having been an executive recruiter for years, my feeling is that companies should ask for references, not passwords when looking for more information on you. Indeed they are invasive by placing you in a position to have to say No. You have no reason to connect with them as a job candidate unless you are hired, but even then it should be your own choice.
Even in the world of social media, we need to protect our privacy. We have a right to include people we want to correspond with and leave others out of our network. The speed of social media makes it difficult to retract any negative comment. The more people you allow to connect with you that you don’t know or don’t like you, the more issues you will have in protecting your brand and reputation.
I had a former friend who one day decided that I had betrayed him. He wrote me a letter stating all the things I had done wrong over the past four years, and then refused to speak to me. This would have been okay, if he hadn’t decided to use our Facebook connection to disparage me. I found out that every time I would post something with a photo, he’d copy the photo and make up something I said and repost to others in his network. I never saw this, but someone told me he was doing this. I immediately removed him from my circle and made sure that my Facebook was private.
We have too much information out there in cyberspace. We need to protect ourselves. Sometimes, passwords are the only devices we have from keeping what we want confidential. I suspect that many states will outlaw the practice of asking for our social media sites passwords. Let the companies do their own background checks if they want to hire us and leave our social media alone!