I tell my (adult) kids: stop talking on Facebook and Twitter about how drunk they are. I tell you that, too. And it’s a good idea; nobody needs to be hanging their dirty laundry in public. Of course, if you think that laundry isn’t dirty, things get interesting, fast.
The issue then becomes whether what you think and your right to talk about it are more important than the possibility likelihood that someone who you really don’t need finding out about the things you do is listening. To deal with this (for example) in Germany, there’s a law being considered that would make it illegal for prospective employers to look into your background by checking your Facebook page.
Last week, The National Labor Relations Board started taking action against a company that had fired an employee for talking trash on Facebook about the company and some people she worked with. And my head is spinning.
Mixed in with all the rhetoric about free speech, the argument being offered is that employees have the right to say whatever they like about the companies they work for and that expressing yourself that way is both an example of free speech and protected under the same existing US labor laws that guarantee the right to unionize.
The inverse argument is that while you might have the right to criticize your boss, the people you work with have the right to privacy about their personal information. So whether your boss is a psychiatric patient or not, you saying so is a privacy violation if true or slanderous if false. Either way, talking about it on Facebook is detrimental to your company and therefore an actionable offense.
Social Networking is the biggest thing to happen to business change since capitalism. And since we already know there’s not really such a thing as privacy the whole conversation feels like so much hot air no matter which side you come down on or how often you change your mind. But the more these conflicts come up the more I’m certain that the best way to handle things is what I tell my kids. It isn’t actually social networking if you aren’t social with the people who see it.