‘A job is not my life, social networks don’t make me and I’m pretty damn sure that 9/10ths of the executives who are judging people have either got a lot more to hide than the average employee or are just pissed off that you are having more fun than them.’
You are probably sick of hearing people rattle on about Facebook’s (and I say Facebook because they just happen to currently be in the news) invasions of privacy and general misdemeanours; I want to talk about it from a slightly different angle. The latest freak-out comes from overseas employers who are not only screening prospective employees by viewing what they have posted on social networking sites, but asking for their username and password as a condition of employment – a pre-employment online health check, if you will. Am I the only one here thinking, ‘What the fuck????’
If it was happening in Australia (a fact I can neither confirm nor deny), I am fairly certain it would be breaking several workplace and employment laws. According to Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor quoted in The Age last week, ‘It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys’. Do they really want to see what I keep in my virtual undies drawers?
And in my case, I would have to turn around and say, ‘But I don’t use it.’
Unlike most of the Western World, I don’t do social networking. No Facebook, no Google+, no LinkedIn, no Twitter. I think the closest I come would be my Xbox Live account or Fetlife: one of which I need to get game updates, and the other which is more like an online club for a niche group of people – not exactly the mass consumption model of say, Facebook. Apart from this and a couple of other bits and pieces that don’t have my name connected to them, my online footprint is relatively small, and that’s how I like it. As far as I am concerned my details belong to me, not some marketing group.
Will this mean I am viewed as an inferior candidate in the job market for not following the herd?
In my experience, corporations aren’t about talented, creative staff; they are about conformists: toe the line, meet expectations. So how do they deal with someone who doesn’t? The larger companies I have worked for have had systems in place that quietly punish proactive and original staff for not adhering to regimented policies. And when efforts are made to implement change, the majority of managers push things aside or file them as being too hard.
I wanted to put this quietly to the test. I am about to go for a new position, so I decided to make a page for the Human Resources department to find, just so I could fill it with corporate-friendly propaganda. I created a single-purpose email address and then entered it into the social networking site of choice, only to discover that this site now requires my mobile number or a copy of my government issued ID to activate. Are they serious?
On the one hand you have employers asking for more and more personal and invasive access to your personal life, just to give you a low- to mid-level job, and on the other, you have a major multinational who wants your personal phone number just so another corporation can look you up and bitch that you got drunk once on your own time away from the office.
A job is not my life, social networks don’t make me and I’m pretty damn sure that 9/10ths of the executives who are judging people have either got a lot more to hide than the average employee or are just pissed off that you are having more fun than them.
Where does all this leave me except with an anti-authoritarian streak a mile wide?
I still don’t have a social networking presence. As a matter of course I make a note if I am asked for personal information that I deem inappropriate and I hold them to task. If needs be I contact my local MP, contact Fair Work Australia, threaten legal action, and in short, stick it to The Man. Because once things start, they are hard to stop, and almost impossible to get retracted. Stand up for yourself, I say. Make some noise, and above all, prove you are more than a collection of search parameters and profile pics.