You may have heard about the Snapchat scandal from last week: 23 year old CEO Evan Speigel’s, um, inappropriate, e-mails from his not-so-distant fraternity days came back to haunt him. Whether or not your opinion of him changed based on the content of the messages (in case you haven’t read them, just imagine what a life-of-the-party, frat bro would say to an audience of the like), there’s a good lesson in here about online communication.
Everything you say online can be dug up. It’s important to keep this in mind, even if you’re still in high school or college and don’t envision yourself as CEO of anything. Eventually, you’ll be applying for a job or internship, and those old party pictures or ridiculous status updates may come back to haunt you.
With the rise of social media in our personal lives, more and more employers conduct social media screenings as part of their employee background checks (37% as of 2012, and you can bet that number has grown). And, these checks dig deeper than typing a name in Google and seeing what happens. Sites such as Social Intelligence can pull information (that is made public) from your social media profiles. Sure, it may seem a bit “Big Brother”-y, but ultimately it’s information you put out to the general population of the internet.
According to this article, employees usually screen for the following: discriminatory or insensitive comments/slurs, sexually explicit material, images of weapons (for instance, a Facebook profile picture of you posing like a thug with a couple pistols, as opposed to an album dedicated to your last hunting trip), and anything illegal (underage drinking, drug stuff, stealing cars, that sort of thing). Some businesses will do more digging, depending on the position you’re applying for, but you probably want to avoid this sort of activity as a general rule.
If, for instance, like Evan Spiegel or Mark Zuckerberg, you bypass the whole employer thing and start a business or multi-million (billion?) dollar corporation, your online history still isn’t safe from the public. Think about it: there’s a positive correlation between level of notoriety and the public’s interest in digging up your dirt. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg’s IMs from his days at Harvard were dragged into the light of day. While less offensive (depending on who you ask, perhaps) than Spiegel’s, it’s safe to say Zuckerberg would rather those messages remained private. Just for fun, here are more celebrity social media slip-ups that border on embarrassing and entertaining (and yes, the list includes James Franco trying to pick up the underage Instagram girl).
Ask yourself, before hitting “send” or “publish,” if you’d feel comfortable having this message under the scrutiny of a roomful of strangers? The country? Your grandmother?! Think before you post.
Also, as a friendly reminder, someone may take a screenshot of those weird Snapchats you’ve sent her…and use them against you later.