Friday, 26 February 2016

Monday's Breeze Session - Assessment "in Absentia" via Social Media

This Monday's breeze session in the BAPP Arts Meeting Room with Paula, Lauren, Lizzie, Lois and Chloe held a lot of interest and conversation, sharing our thoughts about the course in general, including how to reference properly, the pace at which we should be working and what in which direction we were heading.

Some of the other topics which came up were 'googling' one's self to see what came up and if we were aware of it's being online for everyone to see, and several topics relating to social media in particular and how it is used to view someone's character to make judgments on whether or not to hire such a person. We also discussed the benefits and disadvantages of self-advertising through social media.  Many ideas were bounced back and forth between us all.

I decided to begin my research by looking into how prospective employees are judged by employers via their online social media account (for example Facebook) in order to assist in deciding whether or not to hire people using information freely displayed regarding their social life. I also looked at the advantages and disadvantages a potential employee's looking up an employer's social media account to assist in making a decision as to whether to join a company or not.

My first search into employers judging employees via social media through Google lead me to two interesting articles; one from Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina and another from the Time Magazine.

My second search was into potential employees judging employers/companies through their online media content. This was my question "effects of employees judging company's social media". This search brought up no relevant results, but more results to my previous search. There were also articles on how to make, and what to consider putting into, a Social Media Policy.  A Social Media Policy is a guide written by a company which states what employees may post on their personal social media site.  Deviation from these guide lines can result in termination of employment.

The checking out of a company's and/or employer's social media network does not seem to be viewed as a negative or a positive, judging by the total lack of interest in this matter demonstrated by the irrelevant Google results.  I think it is common practice to look at company profiles before deciding to apply for a job in order to get an idea of how a company sees itself and what it stands for which helps in deciding if a company may suit a prospective applicant.  I am sure that everyone of us looked at more than one university before deciding on Middlesex University.  Each person shops around for the best possible match for their individual needs as a starting  point.

This means that, by using social media to make a judgment of a company, one could possibly decide that a particular company does not suit one's requirements for employment.  Companies are looking for people who are going to want to work for them so perhaps they are not too worried about being judged by social media.  After all they are the ones who are making the decisions to hire certain people and their first criterion perhaps is that a prospective employer is interested in what they do. Perhaps this is the reason that there are neither any positive nor negative Google entries regarding the use of social media by companies.   

However, the judging of individuals by employers seems to be something that most people do not like, suggested by the mass of results given by Google.

The extract below from an article in Science Daily gets a strong message across.  Employers screening job candidates personal social media are creating "a new digital divide, as well as revealing how our freedoms with regard to virtual identity are being encroached upon increasingly by the world of work."  

This means that one is no longer able to leave Work at work because employers can make contact through email via mobile devices which include internet access.  If one goes on holiday, an employer can easily find where one is staying and ask one to conduct business while supposedly taking some R&R.

Similarly, one's private life is no longer private and is viewed by our employers and our colleagues. Hiding one's private life by non-involvement on social media is also viewed negatively.  Employers want to see how we socialise etc which means that our freedom of speech and social life have been removed from our own power because modern practice means that we feel pressured to display them in an "acceptable" fashion to the world.  Therefore, in order to compete for work in a digitally-focused age, one needs to be online sharing one's personal thoughts and events with anyone who wishes to look deeper into one's life both inside and outside of the workplace.

The above article was written in 2012 and is in relation to the use of Facebook.  At that time, Facebook did not allow for the privacy settings it now has today.  Facebook's increase in privacy settings could be in direct relation to this problem of being judged by employers before one has even shown up for an interview.  It raises a troubling question for a prospective candidate as to why they were not given an interview or hired by the employer.  Was it because of one's religious views, political views, sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, looks, hobbies, interests, etc?

Another article by Akankasha Dewan for Human Resources argues in favour of screening candidates and employees via social media.  This article was published in 2014 and argues that this procedure allows the employer to assess personality effectively.  However, it shows examples of candidates not being hired because there were photographs of the candidate drinking and taking drugs, behaving provocatively or inappropriately, in skimpy outfits, using bad language, posts written about them, post written showing their previous employers and colleagues in a bad light etc., Such issues lead to an appearance of unsuitability.  This again raises troubling issues.  

Social media is about one's social life and people usually put up images of themselves having fun.   Going to a bar is a common pastime when out socialising with friends and family and often appears on social media accounts.  Is viewing one's social media account a true reflection of a person's social life or personality?  Do people show everything or only what they think others will want to see?  Do people show the serious side of themselves or only the fun side?  I happen to be an avid reader but I do not stop reading the book to take a photograph of myself reading the book to post to Facebook so how do people know that I read a lot?  I don't list it as an interest in my profile because I prefer to talk to people face to face about my interests.  I enjoy human interaction without a screen in the way.

Most of us have had a Facebook account from a young age and are now older and wiser than we were then.  An employer looking back on our walls could see something they may view as being inappropriate and we ourselves may think this too but have forgotten about the incident.  We were all young once.  Is there a time limit on looking back at candidates profiles?  Are we viewed the same now as we were when we were 14, 16 or 28?  Is a photograph of one's self on holiday, on a beach, in a bikini considered skimpy clothing?  Or are photographs of one's self in a costume which can quite often be skimpy considered provocative?  Are we judged on what we are forced to wear at work and by what we wear on holiday?

Although this particular article argues in favour of using social media to make decisions on employment due to the author's view that one's social media site gives a true insight into a person's personality, I find this hard to agree with due to my own posting on my own Facebook and by many of my friends and co-workers sharing a similar view to my own.  However, on researching this I came across two interesting articles both explaining that professionally trained experts, psychologists, can work out one's personality by what one displays and what others display of one on social media sites.  Both articles suggest that even though one can display an idealised version of one's self most people tend to stick closer to the truth.  This being the case, as shown by these two articles, are employment candidates having their social media personality judged by trained psychologists or by people with no training in this area?  Are either of these situations acceptable? 

Now I return to the two articles I found from my first initial search.  One being from the Times Magazine and the other being from Queens University Of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Times article, written in May 2015,  makes many points saying that while the odd inappropriate photograph may be posted,  it is unlikely that an employee will post photographs of themselves doing anything illegal or harmful to the company they are working for so monitoring social media is largely a waste of time.  It also states that limiting one's use of social media limits one's own creativity.  To be creative one needs to feel comfortable and free to explore unknown areas and these could potentially help a company.  Yes they could also cause harm but should companies take a little risk in order to perhaps gain a lot more?  Do the possible pros outweigh the possible cons?

The article from Queens University is actually an introduction to join their Online Master's In Communication Program.  As such, it makes some interesting points on what we post on our social media sites and how they can affect our chances of gaining work, a promotion, offers of future work etc.  It also points at the fact that we can no longer easily separate our professional profile from our personal profile.  It also strengthens the statement from the Science Daily mentioned earlier that our freedom online is being encroached upon by our need to display ourselves in a favourable light to potential employers.

It appears that our Facebook, or social media account, is slowly becoming a bigger part of our CV than we realise.  This is almost like a Court of Law deciding to accept hearsay evidence.  Is this a good thing or a bad?  


Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina
Managing Personal vs. Professional Identity on Social Media

Time magazine
22nd May 2015, by S. Kumar

Science Daily
23rd July 2012, Inderscience publishers

Human Resources
9th August 2014, by Akankasha Dewan

You Are What You Post: What Your Social Media Engagement Says About Your Personality
17th November 2014, by Jacki Christopher

What your Facebook use reveals about your personality and your self-esteem
13th October 2014, by Amy Morin


  1. Wow! a marathon and a very interesting read Nora! Your comments about 'screening ' job candidates and never leaving work are relevant to many - but you leave us with some solutions for our professional lives and that is good - like Martin Weller's message about being a digital scholar - we are up and out already - but making this presence what we want it to be is a responsibility.
    I will put this link on my blog for the session!!!

    1. Thanks Paula.
      It was really interesting to research and there was so much more I could write but, like you said, it is already a marathon! I am saving it up for another post. It was originally meant to be my post on task 1b but it has become just a part of 1b. There is so much information and research into communication technologies and web 2.0 platforms that I decided that I would just concentrate on pieces of it at a time.

  2. Love this post. Really thought provoking and made me think outwardly about my own social media accounts. I also agree that someones Instagram or Facebook page for example is not necessarily a completely a true representation of oneself.

    1. Thanks for your positive comment, Madeleine. :)
      Looking into social media raised another question for me. Should I remove friends from my Facebook that post potentially dangerous things onto my wall to protect my future? But then I discovered that I can evaluate anything I am tagged in before it appears on my wall. However I still allow all my friends to post on my wall. Should I remove the freedom my friends have to post or should I take a risk that at some point there may be a post that could harm my employment? It is a lot of things to think about for something that was originally designed to keep you connected to your friends and be fun. Like Paula says, it is a responsibility.