When your social graph breaks

There is a lot of talk these days about social graphs, a newish term used to describe our online social relationships across the myriad of web sites these days. If you are unsure what a social graph is read this description from Jeremiah Owyang.

Another common discussion at the moment is the cross over of all these different social networks and pain they cause. USA Today had a story last week about this with several examples of where people’s different networks collided and too much information was shared across the boundaries.

If you are online you need to manage your social graph and decide up front how you want to manage your different identities. Will you let them merge, do they have to kept separate and what happens if they do merge? Are you concerned about what your online identity will do for your personal brand?

These are all question the think about. Especially given that it is fairly common practice for potential employers to use the internet for background searching on candidates.

Today I read a report that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission “upheld Telstra’s appeal against an earlier ruling that Carlie Streeter be reinstated and paid compensation for being unjustly sacked following the romp last February”. What happened after a Christmas party a few employees stayed in a hotel and she had sex with another male employee while other employees were in the same room. The other employees claimed sexual harassment. It’s more complex than that but I hope you get the picture. This got me thinking where do the boundaries lie online?

It is fairly common for executives to be sacked if they do something that not in the best interests of the company, mainly because they are the public face of an organisation and should be a role model.

But with everyone possibly having a public identity and if public identity is associated with their employers could they also be will also be sacked. We all know of bloggers who have lost their jobs for posting confidential information or lying this is not what I am talking about. I’m talking about the person who posts, clearly outside of work hours, on their Facebook, MySpace or other account that they might of “hooked up” with someone, got drunk on the weekend, or discussed religion or sexuality and loses their jobs. I know that an investigation would be held and it might be found that they were using company time to interact online or some other “excuse” to justify the sacking.

But where will the boundaries lie? Will we all have to become politically correct just to stay employed? Who decides what is appropriate? Will what’s appropriate for a 25 year old entry level employee be the same as a 45 year old mid-level manager?

I don’t have any examples of this so if they are out there I would really like to read them.

2 thoughts on “When your social graph breaks

  1. Michael,
    This is a very interesting and complex issue which is just dawning on a lot of people, for whom it may already be too late. It’s not only what comments they may have made publicly on blogs or forums which they cannot edit, but also who has video footage of them doing or saying something in jest which may be taken the wrong way or is not considered PC by a future employer or their current employer.

    MySpace and YouTube are becoming a major problem in this respect.

    Here’s a link to a recent case in the UK where a teacher’s perfectly legitimate past has caught up with her and is now threatening her career. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/17/nsaucy117.xml

    Of course there will be many cases where people are discriminated against because of something about them or from them on the web and they won’t even know. In fact it might not be the same person at all, just someone using the same name.

  2. Kevin, thanks for the link just the sort of thing I am looking for. Agree it is a very complex issue.

    Take the teacher in your example, if she is removed of her position does that mean anyone who has done any form of raunchy advertising is no longer suitable as role models in the UK? If that is the case doesn’t that mean that the advertisements themselves are not suitable, or is it one of those things that is ok, until “it is my backyard”? Given our children see the adverts and are influenced by them regardless of if the actors are their teachers.

    Taking this line of thought to the extreme in a school system that is non-religious anyone who has been a member of clergy probably should be teaching, what about anyone who is divorced, or an ex-army officer who might of been involved in active duty & possibly been involved in killing people as part of a military operation, etc. Where does it stop? Taking the education example will we run the risk of being too insular within our schools and what will this do to our society. The examples can easily be transferred into the workplace, and are we now saying that we won’t support diversity?

    Might stop here for fear of offending people, or my employer :-).

    If you have any further examples would love to read them.

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