Shut Your Facebook
It appears the gentle giant known as Facebook is starting to be turned into an angry monster. As you may recall, we visited the topic of social networking earlier in the year. I'm afraid its more nobler goals—communicating with friends and expanding business relationships—are beginning to give way to those less proud tendencies we all possess, such as stalking and spying.
A Canadian woman who's been out of work from her job at IBM in Quebec for quite some time due to depression lost her sick-leave benefits recently because her insurance agent allegedly found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun. According to an Associated Press article, photos of Nathalie Blanchard were discovered on the social networking Website kicking up her heels at a Chippendales show, having fun at the beach and at her birthday party, among other things.
Blanchard claims her doctor recommended that she go out as a way to forget about her problems. But apparently, insurance companies are now qualified to make determinations on one's medical status based on looking at online photos. The insurance company, Manulife, admitted to CBC that it uses Facebook and other sites for investigative purposes, but that it is not a sole determining factor.
Absurd. But perhaps the larger issue is the Website's invasiveness and ability to impact one's life in a tangible manner. I've seen it in action first hand. An old high school friend saw his marriage come unglued when he and his wife rekindled an old friendship with another person via Facebook, only to have this old pal charm the ring right off her finger. The divorce isn't far off.
Another high school acquaintance on my friend list posted a jaw-dropping note one day this summer that read, "Karen has left me...our marriage is over." Wow. Recently, my neighbor came over to help me repair a couch that our roughhousing children had broken, and noted that there's a fine line you walk when you open a Facebook account. "I started getting all of these invitations from women I hadn't seen in years, and my wife kept asking, 'Who's that, and Who's that girl?'" he said. "I don't question her about anyone on her friend list. The past is the past..."
Until it becomes the here and now.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling for a noose to be slipped around Facebook's neck. The w-h-o-etc. who cheated on my pal was just looking for an opportunity to show her true colors. Marriages are built on trust and can withstand poker night, girls night out, a few drinks with friends after work and, of course, Facebook. No need to kill the messenger.
But the bond between employer and employee, while not as deeply rooted as marriage, is equally vulnerable. If your star salesman bragged about his under-par performance on the links last Tuesday afternoon when he was allegedly calling on clients, would you take him to task? Assume his sales calls were wrapped up, or that a key client was golfing with him?
Sure, trust is vital, but business is business. Does it not behoove you to receive information about employees regarding matters that may be impacting the quality or quantity of their work? What if an employee, or one of his/her friends, references past drug problems or run-ins with the law on the employee's Facebook page? Bottom line, what is off limits and what concerns your business?
I seriously doubt there are many employees who are connected as friends with their bosses on Facebook, but loose privacy settings could allow information to be seen by those outside one's FB network. And whether it's your neighbor, boss, insurance agent or a long-lost flame dying to reconnect, one thing's for sure. Somebody's watching you.