"So Wasted Last Night": On Facebook and Professionalism
I'm unafraid of my wasted face.
A new study lends hard numbers to a phenomenon we already recognize: Most Millennials think of Facebook as a purely social space, even as we're friends with an average of 16 coworkers. MSNBC has dubbed this our generation's "career Facebook fumble," warning that when we curse or post "lewd photographs" on the social network, we're putting our professional lives at risk. But once the Facebook generation fully saturates the workplace, a casual social network image may become a part of who we are both on and off the clock. Is that such a bad thing?
I agree that it's unwise to be seen smoking pot or engaging in other illegal activities on Facebook. Half-naked photos should be promptly untagged. You shouldn't join any rapey or racist Facebook groups if you plan on applying for a job (or being a halfway decent person). Employers are scanning for these things before they even call you for an interview. Even if you're Facebook friends with zero coworkers, that random "friend" you accepted years ago could always take a screenshot of incriminating evidence in the case of a scandal.
But cursing? Drinking? Talking about sex? Despite these oversharing cautionary tales, most of the personal content we share is harmless. My first impulse on this issue has always been to feel oddly proud of our generation for being able to blend our professional and personal sides. "Keeping it professional" can mean that you're discreet about your private life—or it could mean you're a hypocrite. An upside to our hyperdocumented lives may be that we just keep it realer. There's less space between our sunny veneer and our dark sides. As a result, people may learn to accept us for who we are, and respect our authority despite what we do on the weekends.
Of course, I'm biased—I work in an industry that doesn't give a shit if you're a potty mouth or a lush, as long as it doesn't impact your output. But I do think the corporate world should take a cue from the creative class, where bosses tend to care far less about a "professional" air and more about employees actually being good at their jobs. It's fine to keep things classy, but a loosening of formality may be a positive development. In fact, it may make us better people—the increased transparency of our online lives should make us think twice about not only acting like a jerk, but actually being a jerk, too. By the time our generation is the boss, we'll know the difference between a wasted face and a racist rant.