Friday, August 2, 2013

Too. Much. Information. Or, why you people obsessed with social media need a serious filter.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to free speech. It says nothing about protecting you from the consequences of your words.

And for a generation raised on the assumption that actions do not have consequences, it often seems surprising when words come back to bite you. Yes, you can lose your job for saying the wrong things. You can wreck a career for posting things on the Internet. (See: Weiner, Anthony.) And you can make yourself unhireable if you go public with thoughts about your employer, politics, religion, sex, or the general public.

People of my generation really don't "get" why young people feel compelled to share their most personal details or strong opinions. It frankly boggles my mind as to why social networking aficionados think that posting their innermost feelings for the world to see is something that's no big deal. Well, here's a news flash: despite what your parents told you, you're not the center of the universe, and most people don't care about the intimate details of your personal life.

Unless you cross the line.

What ever happened to privacy? Dignity, anyone? Class?

Those of you who work on air need a filter. Big time.

Back in the day we guarded our privacy fiercely. The women were particularly careful, often wearing fake engagement rings or having guys record their answering machine messages. I not only had an unlisted phone number, but one under a phony name I made up. If a viewer called wanting personal information, the most you'd share is where you got your hair cut.

Now, of course, it's in vogue to share everything. Your sex life, your brutally honest thoughts (and who cares if you offend anyone), photos that are borderline suggestive. Yep, you are entitled to post whatever you want on the Internet thanks to the First Amendment. Knock yourself out.

An employer also has the right to kick you out the door if it finds your expressions are damaging to its reputation and business. Or not hire you at all.

When I was in management I, like almost all managers, checked a reference you didn't put on your resume. I googled applicants. I checked their social networking sites and blogs. On more than one occasion I found something that made me cross an applicant off the short list. I found applicants who had posted suggestive photos, wild opinionated rants, tales of doing drugs, and fond memories of getting hammered. Sorry, kid, you're outta here. You're a newsroom accident waiting to happen.

And you never even knew you were in contention. But you took yourself out of the running. You may have had the best resume tape I'd seen, but I knew there would be trouble down the road.

Just about every employer does this. It is well publicized that the NFL looks into the personal lives of college players before the draft. Numerous articles have been written about managers doing their own background checks of stuff you've posted on the Internet. Some have claimed that this is an invasion of privacy. Well, guess what? You gave up your privacy when you posted on the Internet.

Put yourself in a manager's shoes. (I know... for some of you this is like saying, "I wonder what Lord Voldemort is up to this afternoon?") You're trying to attract viewers. Do you want an employee who publicly announces in writing he hates his boss, thinks the company is cheap, complains about the equipment, slams his co-workers, makes unflattering comments about the newscast, or casts viewers in an unflattering light? Or someone who has a personal life that the public would consider a turn-off? You wouldn't hire someone like that.

It's time to seriously filter what you post online. I've talked about cleaning up your Internet footprint before. You can rip your boss, company, viewers, or quality of the newscast all you want to your friends or co-workers. You can talk about your strong views on politics or religion, as that is your right. But when you do it in writing on the Net, you're asking for trouble.

And the Internet is forever.

You can't hit "undo" if you put something stupid on the Internet. You can literally kill your own career with your words.

It's fine to share some parts of your life. If you want to tell the public about your favorite sports teams or what music you listen to, fine. Keep things simple without revealing too much about yourself. But the really personal stuff and opinions need to be kept to yourself.

Forget the First Amendment. You guys need Miranda. Because anything you say on the Internet can and will be used against you.

You also have the right to remain silent. That may be as valuable as the First Amendment when it comes to the Internet.