Facebook: Friend or Foe?
It is unquestionable that the Internet has affected our job market tremendously in the last decade. Whether it involves finding jobs, advertising open positions, prescreening employment candidates, or keeping tabs on current employees, the internet has provided employers and job seekers with an important tool for the expansion of their companies and their professional connections through the use of social networking sites. While the presence of Facebook in the professional world obviously carries a lot of benefits – networking with colleagues or partners, promoting business through advertisements or referrals, etc. – there is still leeway for opposing viewpoints on the matter for those who believe that Facebook and other social networking sites shouldn’t have any connection to the professional world.
One of the most important issues with Facebook being used as a professional tool is the obvious lack of privacy. It is no secret that employers are able to prescreen job candidates through their Facebook pages before an interview even takes place, nor is it a surprise that they can utilize Facebook in order to keep an eye on their current employees to make sure that they are conducting themselves properly in and out of the workplace. And while a study conducted by researchers at the University of Dayton found that “32 percent of students think it is unethical for companies to scan the Facebook profiles of job candidates,” mainly because a prescreen could violate equal opportunity rights in this country, it is also true that the economy is not presently in its best state, which means that companies are striving to out-do their competition so that they can successfully stay in operation despite the economic downfalls they are experiencing. In order to rise above competition, a company needs to stand out as being the best, and in order to be the best, they must have the best employees, an ideal staff of respectable, hard-working personnel. In order to assemble such a staff, “40 percent of companies say they would at least consider perusing Facebook profiles before making hiring decisions.” Using Facebook to prescreen candidates allows for employers to find the best candidates to enhance their company’s success.
Employers have also turned to social networking sites to check on those already employed to make sure that they are acting in accordance with company standards at all times. This also can easily be labeled an invasion of privacy since most people would agree that their professional life is not defined by their personal life and that employer’s have no right to make it so. And while this is true, it also begs the question: would an employee of an organization’s personal life be important to us if that employee were someone like a teacher or a nanny taking care of our children? Whether one has a child or not, it can be universally agreed that most parents would like to be assured that when they send their child to school, they are in the hands of teachers who are educated, respectable, and a good influence on their child. But not all teachers are the outstanding citizens that their resumés boast them to be; first grade schoolteacher, Jennifer O’Brien, of P.S. 21 inPaterson,NJhad to appear in court after a comment she posted on her Facebook page was seen by parents and school officials.
O’Brien had posted the comment, which read, “I am the warden of future criminals,” in reference to her students at the predominately African-American school. She defended the comment by saying that she had written it in frustration after being constantly interrupted in class and having one student actually hit her. But regardless, the comment was loaded with racism and rude intentions, publicly displaying O’Brien’s ineptness as a positive role model. She may not ultimately lose her job, but the fact that school administrators were able to see this “private” side of O’Brien by utilizing Facebook is imperative because it allows them to see the true character of an employee whom they believed to be essential to their program.
Although not all companies and businesses use Facebook to prescreen or investigate employees, one company that most certainly has the access to do so is Facebook itself. With 3,200 employees and a “headcount rising about 50 percent per year,” Facebook has become one of the fastest growing companies in the nation over the last decade by creating “a new social media universe that supports games, advertising tools, and other applications that didn’t even exist a few years ago.” And while this sounds as though Facebook has become an asset to the economy by decreasing the unemployment rate, many will argue the obvious point that Facebook’s job market is really only geared towards one demographic: “college graduates under 40.” The type of skills required to be employed and useful at Facebook generally exist in the forms of “software engineers, product designers, and other personnel with certain technology expertise.” This decreases the actual value of Facebook’s expanding job market because it only pertains to a certain group of people, rather than the entire nation. However, for those that do not have the kind of skills needed to be a Facebook employee, the site can still be used to look for and find jobs in other job fields with other companies. According to a study done by employee recognition provider, I Love Rewards, and career-services network, Experience, 35% of college students plan to use Facebook or LinkedIn, another networking site geared more toward professional networking, to find a job post-graduation.
While there are definitely reasons that Facebook should not be utilized in the professional world, it is undeniable that in all the ways that it is unfair, there is always a beneficial counterpoint, allowing companies to hire and maintain the most successful staff and recruit candidates in a much more timely and cost-efficient manner. Instead of criticizing all the ways in which Facebook is detrimental to our professional lives, it is more realistic to accept that the impact exists and realize how we can use it to transform the standards of our professional world.