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Social Media and You, Part I

Job seekers: What does social media say about you?

What you post may come back to haunt you
By Christine Simmonds | Mar 26, 2021
Photo by: Austin Distel Employers can and will look at your social media posts. What do your posts say about you?

This is part one of a three-part series, "Social Media and You." Part One deals with social media and employment. Future installments will deal with social media and youth, and social media and politics.

A boss, or employer a future employee is hoping to impress in a job hunt, will likely see what they post on social media, whether it is a rant about politics, photos with friends on a typical Friday night, or venting about work.

“It makes a strong impression on an employer, and it’s not necessarily a good impression,” said David Grima.

Grima works for the Maine Department of Labor at the Career Center in Rockland as an employment and training specialist.

It is important people stay aware of the online persona they have created, said Grima, and that their boss could be looking at it.

Grima said he has heard about people losing job opportunities or facing termination because of online posts. Often, people think their online posts are private and will not affect them in the real world. Most potential employers will look at how people choose to portray themselves, though.

In fact, it is safe to assume any and all future employers will be looking at social media presences.

Christopher MacLean of the Dirigo Law Group in Camden said social media should be one of the many tools used in the hiring process. The best practice for this involves creating a policy that lays out how and when in the hiring process an applicant’s social media is checked.

This policy should take all relevant laws and regulations related to social media into account as well, and be applied consistently for all applicants.

Any use of social media used to discriminate on the basis of race, religion or other protected class is illegal. That is often not what employers are looking for when checking social media, though.

Grima said the job center has increasingly heard from employers who are concerned about job seekers posting pictures of themselves drinking or partying on social media.

“Stuff that used to be rumors… people are now creating that image of themselves,” Grima said.

Employers are people too, and Grima said it can often be surprisingly easy to see other people’s posts and photos.

“The things that you’ve done and the things that you’ve committed to social media may haunt you for years to come,” Grima said. “Like a criminal record.”

While MacLean suggested using privacy settings to increase the safety of social media, he also advised using care in what is posted.

“It is safe to assume that few employers would be impressed with displays of illegal or irresponsible behavior on your social media accounts,” MacLean said. “If there is information you do not want an employer to know about, do not put it on the internet.”

In 2018, the consequences of social media were put on full display when Taylor Hamlin was forced to step down as Sea Goddess by Maine Lobster Festival officials.

Hamlin was dethroned when officials learned of photos on her social media that depicted her with marijuana and a Juul nicotine vaping device.

At that time, there were no specific rules or guidelines about contestants using social media. Since then, the festival has updated the guidelines for the contest to include them.

The 2020 guidelines stated that any inappropriate or illegal activities on Facebook or other social media could be cause for giving up a title if crowned.

It is more than just drinking or illegal behavior that can cause concern on social media. What people write about former employers or others in the community may reflect poorly on them as well.

Grima suggested that instant access to venting thoughts and feelings has led to people saying things online they may regret later.

“Human beings are designed to have a rest period,” Grima said, "It used to be that people would write an angry letter and then wait and see how they felt a day or two later before sending it."

Now, people can act on those angry feelings immediately and post to Facebook or Twitter. “They’ve composed this bitter diatribe, and all they have to do is hit a single button,” Grima said.

It can also be a good idea to review content on social media pages during a job hunt, advised MacLean. “Make sure it reflects the image you would want an employer to see.”

Recently, this lesson was illustrated at a national level with President Joseph Biden’s choice for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden.

According to the New York Times, Tanden withdrew her nomination for the position in early March following opposition from senators caused by Tanden’s past Tweets.

Tanden used Twitter to criticize and name-call many senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Despite the fact that Tanden apologized for some of the content and deleted many Tweets, she still could not gain congressional approval for the position.

Grima said he felt this was a perfect example of someone who sabotaged themselves with social media. It does not matter if the position is at the top level of government or a local job, anyone can commit an act they regret online.

“If someone who is a nominee for a cabinet post can regret their use of Twitter, then the rest of us sure can take a lesson from it,” Grima said.

Social media is not itself a positive or a negative place, but it depends on how people use it.

“It can be positive,” Grima said. “You can find jobs and places to live.”

People using social media need to be thoughtful in their use, though, and aware that it can affect them in real life.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 25, 2021 19:38

Cindi and Dave I am sorry you have to be reminded of the past. Two hard working people that raised productive children really don't need it. What I think of when the Lobster Festival incident comes up is the actions of some of the rule makers and how petty they can be to make themselves feel better. You and your family took the high road and that's more than the festival committee did.

Posted by: Cindi E Hamlin | Mar 25, 2021 17:45

Please remember no other contestants were checked during the Lobster Festival Sea Goddess pageant. Maybe getting an up to date statement from Taylor would be more appropriate than resurrecting this situation for the community as a whole.  This is hurtful, unnecessary, & the opposite of female empowerment.

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