The Collegiates' Guide to Professionalism: Social Media and the Workplace

Social media.  Oh yes, I'm going there.

More and more employers are starting to check social media on their employees. I, like many of you, have heard stories of people getting fired because they were trashing their company online. I know, most of us would never think of doing this in our right mind. But what happens when you've had a bad day at the office, there was a conflict with someone at work, or you disagree with your boss? The best thing and saddest thing about social media is that, most of the time, our accounts are connected to our emotions and personal lives.

This is the double edged sword that is social media, along with the fact that the things you tweet, Instagram, pin, post, etc. will never really go away. Yes, you can delete it from your feed, but it goes to a server and is completely owned by these companies... (Yes, Snapchat too.) The things you post online in the heat of a moment are permanent, and could possibly hurt your career.


1. Never, EVER complain about your boss on social media. The main reason, it makes you look like a child. Put your big girl panties on and take it up with your boss or HR directly if you have a major issue. Note: major issue. If someone borrowed a pencil and didn't give it back, that doesn't warrant a visit to HR. The other reason is because when you're venting, you often say things you don't mean. When you post it on the internet, there's no turning back. In an article from Forbes this was a common characteristic. People got riled up and, instead of reconciling it in person, they thought Facebook was a great place to vent. Don't be that person!

2. If it's an account via the company, do not post anything that isn't work related. Just don't. I know that there's this huge discussion on [insert social issue here] so I'll just post from the account tied to the company I work for because I don't feel like signing out of it. Just, no. Your personal opinions on today's touchy subjects have no place on the company social media pages. Of course, if you're working for a particular company/agency/non-profit that advocates for an oppressed population, it's probably a good idea to share the company stance. Just remember, world views and opinions are an extremely sensitive subject. Saying someone else's opinions or beliefs are stupid is completely unacceptable and a horrible way to convince people to trust you with their business.

3. If you wouldn't let your mother/father/boyfriend/girlfriend/grandma/grandpa read it or see it, don't post it. This is more in response to photos. If you don't want people to see it or it could be seen as questionable content, then you probably really shouldn't post it. Here's a specific example: If you're a teacher or something like that, someone, the principal, superintendent, students, parents of students, etc. will find you on social media. My roommate told me all about her first week of teaching this year when her students found her Instagram. She doesn't have anything crazy on her Insta, but if she's "friends" with a student on Instagram (or any other social media) she could be risking her job. Trust me, the likes on social media are not worth risking your career over.

If you're a college student, don't think that this doesn't apply to you! 

It's important to start being conscious of what you're posting on social media right now. If you think it's cool to troll your rival team's hashtags on Twitter and trash their fans, not only does that show up on your feed, but it encourages poor habits when it comes to working with individuals who are different from you. You could also end up working with some of those people you trash-talked online. Just because you're an Aggie fan through and through doesn't mean that you can't work with someone who went to The University of Texas. Both schools are great, and you should say anything to the contrary. One up-ing an anonymous someone online isn't as cool as you might think it is.

Think it's a good idea to send that scathing email to the professor who wouldn't bump your grade? Re-think that decision. For example, the Social Work Program at UNT is a professional program and my professors will ask around about students applying for the program. Other professors will forward email interactions to either encourage your admittance to the program or prove that you probably shouldn't be. Some people might not think that's fair, and that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. But if you think employers don't ask around, you're kidding yourself. If you don't want them to find something on you, then you probably shouldn't put it in writing. Just conduct yourself with a classy (not classé) attitude and you won't have any problems!

The most important thing you can remember when it comes to social media is to use your brain. If there's even the slightest doubt that it could come back to haunt you, it has no place on the internet. Find a friend you can vent to in person, invest in a diary that will never see the light of day, take up kick boxing... Whatever you need to do to get your emotions out in a healthy way. Social media is not the answer.

Of course, there are many more things that can be said about this topic.

What are some of your thoughts on the effects of social media? Weigh in below in the comments section!