Who really gets fired over social media posts? We studied hundreds of cases to find out
What you say and do on social media can affect your work; it can prevent you from getting hired, hinder your career progression and even get you fired. Is this fair or an invasion of privacy?
our recent Research involved a survey of 312 news articles about people who had been fired for posting on social media.
These included stories of posts that people had themselves posted, such as a teacher who was fired after coming out as bisexual on Instagram, or a store employee who released a racist post on Facebook.
It also featured stories of posts from others, such as videos of police engaging in racial profiling (which led to their resignation).
Racism was the most common reason people were fired in these news stories, with 28% of the stories related specifically to racism. Sometimes there were other forms of discriminatory behaviour, such as queer phobia and misogyny (7%); conflict in the workplace (17%); offensive content such as “bad jokes” and insensitive messages (16%); acts of violence and abuse (8%); and “political content” (5%).
We also found that these news stories focused on cases of people being fired from public jobs with a lot of responsibility and control. These include police/law enforcement officers (20%), teachers (8%), media workers (8%), medical professionals (7%) and government employees (3%), as well as employees in service positions such as hospitality and retail (13%).
Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be used to hold people accountable for discriminatory views, comments or actions. But our research also raised important questions about privacy, common HR practices and how employers use social media to make decisions about their workforce.
Young people, in particular, are expected to navigate social media use (documenting their lives, hanging out with friends, and expressing themselves) with the threat of future reputational damage.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) September 29, 2017
Are all online messages fair game?
Many believe that people just need to accept the reality that what you say and do on social media can be used against you.
And that one should only post content that their boss (or potential boss) wouldn’t mind to see†
But to what extent should employers and hiring managers respect employee privacy and not use personal social media to make employment decisions?
Or is everything “fair game” in hiring and firing decisions?
On the one hand, the ability to hold certain people (such as police and politicians) to account for what they say and do through social media can be of immense value to democracy and society.
Powerful social movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter used social media to expose structural social problems and individual villains.
On the other hand, when ordinary people lose their jobs (or don’t get hired in the first place) because they are LGBTQ+, post a picture of themselves in a bikini, or because they complain about clients in private spaces (all stories from our study), is the boundary between professional and private life faded†
Mobile phones, e-mails, working from home, highly competitive labor markets and the intertwining of ‘work’ with ‘identity’ are all blurring this line.
Some employees need to make their own strategies and tacticssuch as not making friends or following colleagues on some social media (which in itself can lead to tension).
And even if someone finds joy and satisfaction in their work, we should expect certain boundaries to be respected.
Employers, HR professionals and managers should think carefully about the boundaries between professional and personal lives; Using social media in employment decisions can be more complicated than it seems.
A ‘hidden learning curriculum’
When people feel controlled by employers (current or imagined future) when they use social media, it creates a “hidden curriculum of supervisionThis can be harmful and inhibiting, especially for young people.
This hidden curriculum of supervision works to produce docile, self-governing citizen workers. They are forced to curate often very sterile representations of their lives on social media, always under the threat of labor market doom.
At the same time, those same social media have a clear and productive role in exposing abuses of power. Bad behavior, misconduct, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry, harassment and violence have all been denounced by social media.
So this oversight can be both bad and good – in some cases and for some people (especially young people whose digitally mediated lives are governed by this prism of future impact), but also liberating and enabling justice, accountability and transparency in other scenarios. and for other actors.
Social media can be a effective way for people to find workin front of employers to find employeespresent professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn or work portfolios on platforms such as Instagram, but these can also be personal spaces, even if they are not set to private.
How we strike the right balance between using social media to hold people accountable versus the risk of invading people’s privacy, of course, depends on context and is ultimately about power.
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Quote: Who is really getting fired for social media posts? We studied hundreds of cases to find out (2022, June 16) Retrieved on June 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-social-media-hundreds-cases.html
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