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Social media can be a fun way to interact with your friends remotely, however, it can also land you in some hot water at work if not used conscientiously. Here is how social media posts can affect your career, and our tips on how to prevent any social media faux pas.

What is social media?

Social media is a platform that allows users to create and share content and participate in social networking. There are more types of social media cropping up all the time to accompany the more classic types such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. LinkedIn, TikTok and Hinge are all relatively new to the social media scene. The average person has 8.5 social media accounts and spends 145 minutes per day on social sites.

How can it affect your career?

As social media’s purpose is to link people together, it is usually relatively easy to find people on a social platform. From an employer’s perspective, your social media accounts can provide a glimpse into your personal brand. Increasingly, employers report searching through potential candidate’s social profiles. A recent survey indicated that 61% of employers who researched potential candidates on social media decided not to hire based on the contents of their profile. Moreover, people can lose their current jobs based on indications of their character through posts they make on social media. For example, in 2016 Dani Mathers was convicted of invasion of privacy in America after photographing a woman showering in the gym and posting it on Snapchat without her consent. Mathers was a model and was subsequently sacked after the incident went viral. There are many more examples of employees being let go for violating privacy agreements and posting things they were obliged not to on social media. 

Most recently, Laura Orgill, better known as ‘TikTok Postie’, faced backlash after joking in a viral video she only waited for 2-seconds for people to answer their door to collect their parcels. Royal Mail received hundreds of complaints and have since asked Orgill to not post about her work with Royal Mail anymore. Royal Mail said in a statement it is a violation of their policy for employees to post content under the Royal Mail brand on social media. Moreover, social media has also caught people out telling lies about being too unwell to work, which can lead to disciplinary action or termination of the employee’s contract. However, a recent ruling found that an employee was unfairly dismissed after he was spotted outside a social club after working hours, on a day he had called in sick to work. The judge said there was nothing in the disciplinary procedure to stop him from behaving this way and therefore he was unfairly dismissed. Thus, it may be worth checking your company procedures should a dispute arise regarding your social media use.  

What can I do to prevent employers from finding things that don’t represent who I am anymore?

There is no need to delete all your social media accounts in fear of being fired by your employer for a minor transgression. But, you should be aware of how you portray yourself online, even if you believe that what you post on your profile, in your own time is your prerogative.

  • Update your privacy settings

 Look at your profiles from a public perspective (there is a handy tool on Facebook that allows you to view your profile as a member of the public would, instructions are linked here). If you tend to be tagged in compromising photos, it may be worth allowing only your ‘friends’ to view your pictures. Similarly, if your friends tend to tag you in viral images such as “tag a friend who hates their job” you probably do not want a current or future employer seeing this. Set your privacy settings accordingly, and only allow friends to see your posts. Untag yourself from images that may be seen unfavourably and be aware of who might be able to view your content.

  • Be aware of social media’s reach

Once you share something online, it is no longer under your control. Statements and images can be easily manipulated out of context, saved onto people’s devices, and circulated more widely than originally intended, even if you have high privacy settings. Posts can go viral in a matter of minutes and can be viewed millions of times in an hour. Therefore, even if you delete a post that you have second thoughts about, if someone else has already screen-grabbed it, it could come back to haunt you. Use your socials conscientiously and ask yourself before you press send/post “Would I want to defend this to my employer?”.

  • Clean up your profile

Most of us joined social media at a young age and have grown up online. Therefore, there may be posts or photos that no longer represent who you are anymore but could still be found on your public profile. Delete posts that you don’t want an employer to view. It might be worth removing posts with bad language especially.

  • Sign up to LinkedIn

 LinkedIn provides an avenue to direct employers to social media that you DO want them to see. LinkedIn is your opportunity to represent yourself online and allows you to curate a new profile that showcases your skills and expertise, without any of the embarrassing photos, tags and challenges that are often present on more traditional types of social media.

How can Ackroyd help?

From time to time, issues can arise in the workplace that need professional legal support. Our team of highly specialised employment law specialists can provide advice on a full range of employment issues, including disciplinary issues and dismissals. Get in touch with us today.

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