Will Social Media Indiscretions Really Wreck Your Career?

We’re often told that an indiscreet post to Facebook could ruin your career down the track. But is that always going to be the case, or will it no longer matter in 10 years’ time when a total life history present on social media is the norm, even for the bosses?

Shame picture from Shutterstock

Speaking at the launch of Intel Security’s Safeguarding the Future of Digital Australia in 2025 report in Canberra yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher was keen to bang the familiar “your social media presence could ruin your career” drum:

One of the standard pieces of advice that I give to any 20 or 25 or 15 year old who wants to go into politics is ‘Be very, very careful what you put on social media. Somebody somewhere is going to find that and that may not be consistent with the particular brand image that you want to present in 15 or 20 years’ time’.

Good to know that our politicians think brand image, not what they actually do, is what matters. And worth remembering that Fletcher was one of the key architects of the Coalition’s proposal to introduce an Internet filter — a scheme it announced just days before the 2014 election and then dumped even more quickly when its lack of community support became evident.

That aside, this is a message we hear quite frequently. But to some extent it reflects a workplace culture where older employers are judgemental about Facebook, Twitter and the like, while younger potential employees don’t care. It strikes me as likely that we’ll be a lot less fussed about the issue in a decade’s time.

Futurist Ross Dawson, who contributed to the report, agreed when I asked that question at the launch. “If everybody has something dark online, then you haven’t got anybody left to hire anymore,” he said. “So I think we will be more tolerant, because we’re seeing more of everybody’s lives. Many employers will feel that they’re happy to accept a few foibles on social media.”

“Human brains are malleable,” Dawson pointed out. “We are shaped by our environment, and our younger generation are in a different environment, This is something we must understand, and it’s not that it’s being different is wrong. And ultimately there will be more career opportunities for those who are engaged in the social world.”

In other words: things change, even if politicians don’t always like them changing. We’re not saying go nuts with naked selfies, but we’re also not suggesting hiding your personality behind a wall of dullness.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to Canberra as a guest of Intel Security.

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