A Club You'd Rather Not Be a Member of: Fired by Facebook

by Cathy Vandewater | December 30, 2010

  • My Vault

If you wouldn’t say it to your supervisor’s face, don’t post it on Facebook. That’s advice straight from the mouth of Travis Megale, creator of the online “Fired by Facebook” group (hosted by—you guessed it—Facebook).

But Megale, a high school teacher, maintained his own “clean” online record by imagining a class full of kids—not just his supervisor—reading his posts.

While Megale adheres to a strict policy of discretion on his personal account, the educator wasn't surprised as stories of Facebook-related firings started cropping up in late 2008. “They started as human interest pieces,” Megale recalls, “but then there was a notable shift to a more serious tone as people began to recognize the reality of being fired because of social networking habits.”

Megale created the “Fired by Facebook” group to help social media users understand the very tangible consequences of their actions on the internet. “I hope that the group can save some people their jobs and careers and, having failed that, be a place where they can gain some notoriety after losing their job or career.”

The page features horror stories of Facebook-related reprimands and firings, submitted by group members, which vary in degree of fairness. “I believe that if you have posted something that is disparaging to your employer and/or company, you probably deserve what is coming to you,” Megale says. “Having said that, I would hope that the postings were of a serious enough nature to warrant dismissal and that people are not losing their jobs over any offhand comment.”

Megale shares one of the worst stories he’s come across: “I think the woman who lost her job because she had posted that she missed spending time with her child is pretty bad, as it only alluded to her workplace. She obviously had befriended a colleague who was happy to put the knife in her back.”

But that’s not to say that Megale advocates de-friending all your coworkers to safeguard your job. “Facebook is an extension of our 'real' lives,” Megale points out, “so refusing to accept the friend request of a boss or coworker could have the same social repercussions as turning them down if they had invited you to a barbeque.”

To keep things cordial, Megale recommends accepting the friend requests—just don’t post anything inappropriate on your page. Another smart idea? “Group them together as a common name,” Megale suggests. “This can be done in the 'edit friends' section of your Facebook page.” That way you can adjust exactly who can and cannot see what's on your Facebook page, he says. “All you have to do is type in 'colleagues' into the privacy settings and it will block all of the people that you have grouped together from seeing certain aspects of your page.”

Another pitfall Megale says to look out for is the sneak-attack photo tag. “Make sure that you have your settings set so that your friends, or friends of friends, cannot tag photos of you without your permission,” he advises. “That way, a comprising photo cannot 'slip' on to your page without you knowing.”

But what about de-tagging? Not foolproof, he tells us. “I think a lot of people have no clue that a photo can be 'right-clicked' and saved and then shared with the world by someone who wishes to harm your reputation,” Megale says. “Simply deleting it from your Facebook page does not mean it does not still exist.”

That may be a rude awakening for those who think of their social network as friends, and who, in Megale’s words, “see Facebook as being no different than a photo album on their coffee table.” The truth is, of course, that the scope of your network is much wider than you likely realize. “I think most people are unaware that the World Wide Web is exactly that: worldwide.”

Fired by Facebook (Group Profile)

-- Cathryn Vandewater, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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