Thou Shalt Not Twudge

Scene One: Winnie the Pooh with dark sunglasses is smoking a cigarette by the window. Man with a girls’ soccer uniform on is playing beer pong. Woman with cheetah ears and tail is dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Scene Two: A woman with Uggs on and a colorful scarf appears in the doorway. A girl follows with high-waisted jeans, a turtle neck and sweater vest. I thought to myself, that woman is clearly having a mid-life crisis and I’ll totally lend my September Glamour magazine to this fashion-deprived girl.  I try to act natural but almost strain my neck for further analysis.

When unfamiliar people enter a room, no one is quite sure how to behave or what to say. Facebook—a previously, purely personal place (say that ten times fast)—became a professional place overnight. Employers who infiltrated the social network discovered negative comments about their companies or less than glamorous photos of their Employee of the Month.  Obviously, hoopla regarding scandalous pictures and rude wall posts are not ideal for PR. The resolution was (and still is) to publish articles regarding an “appropriate” Facebook profile, create company policies about YouTube use, and talk about guidelines for proper conduct online.  As a result of this, employees and candidates are afraid to be themselves in online communities because they could get fired or may be disqualified from a position.  Being a social media strategist has not exempted me from this fear.

As though riding the line between young adulthood and full-fledged grown up isn’t difficult enough, I have all these “social media experts” sending me mixed signals.  I read an article from Mashable that recommends to Be Transparent and Authentic. Be Human. while on networking sites. Then, the elephant in the room whispers (and the next blog post reads) “be real BUT DO NOT SAY THAT”.  So I take this dichotomous advice:  I mock my sister on her wall and post a funny picture of us together. I think twice: What if my co-workers interpret this as insensitive and immature? I leave the picture and delete the comment. Basically, I end up being this filtered, watered-down version of myself.

Employees and candidates should not be judged by or simplified into a tweet or status update.  While companies should monitor their reputation by using sites like SocialMention.com and setting up Google Alerts, companies should not condemn employees for being real and having a social life outside the office.  While recruiters should reach out to candidates via several social media sites to strengthen the connection, recruiters should not pour over blog comments for minute signs of an irresponsible candidate.

Pictures, posts and profiles are (mis)interpreted.  I find that the situations I over-analyze or misunderstand often have a very logical explanation…

Scene Three: Ali sticks foot in mouth. Weeks after the Halloween party, I discovered that the mother-daughter pair was actually dressed as each other. How clever. They were actually invited to the party, too.

This post was originally published in February 2010 on the Pinstripe Recruitalicious blog.

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