Q&A: Boss wants to know if I’m on Facebook

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Q:  I have started working at a new company just over two weeks ago. Everything is going well, there have been no problems with my performance, and I am getting on well with my coworkers. However, when I arrived for my most recent shift my manager asked me if I have facebook (I know she doesn’t have it). Is this normal?  I understand why an employer would want to see it prior to employing you, but I am already hired? Are they allowed to search you? (I am not worried about what is on my facebook – though my account is private – I’m just concerned why facebook has come into it).
-Jordan

A:  Jordan, as popular as social media is these days, I am not surprised to hear that you have been asked about whether or not you have a Facebook presence by your manager.  I sense that you have a concern about this, but be open to the fact that this may not be leading down the path you think it is.  As employers begin to understand the various benefits and functions of social media (spreading awareness, offering customer service, etc.), they seek out existing employees who are well-versed in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, WordPress, and the like, to help them branch out into this arena.  She may be looking for your advice.  Of course, it’s possible that your assumptions about her intentions are correct though.

It’s important to understand that posting on social media can be much like standing on a corner with a megaphone shouting details about your life to whomever happens to be passing.  For this reason, it is very important to be responsible when it comes to what you allow to be exposed about you and your life on the Internet.  I highly recommend activating privacy settings to protect yourself, including limiting who can search for you on Facebook, if you feel that this is necessary.

Because of the newness of social media, there isn’t much legislation that pertains specifically to Facebook and your privacy.  You can check here for a sampling of what is out there.  People assume that what is published online is protected by free speech, but only a lawyer can tell you that for sure.  The rights that are most certainly protected are the ones that relate to your getting a fair shot at a job that you apply for, so any employer that uses Facebook or any other social media to discriminate against you when considering your for employment is definitely violating the law.  I fully expect that more legislation in this area is forthcoming.

Feel your supervisor out, but don’t lie.  Ask questions that will help your understand what she may be after.

Hope it works out!

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