Social media and your employer

Free Speech MeansBack in the old days, when it was just forums instead of Facebook, avatars instead of profile pictures, and fictitious user names instead of actual identities, I never once mentioned on a public forum the name of the institution for which I slaved.

Beginning with my very first Compuserve account, and before the implementation of the mouse, I was known everywhere I went online by some form of the name of my favorite animated character. I made up names for my employer, at first calling them “MegaBank” in honor of their size and global reach. Eventually, significant growth resulting from multiple mergers and acquisitions, led to a re-anointing as “GigaFirm”, which really ended up sounding more like an anti-cellulite product than a financial institution. Regardless, until the advent of LinkedIn, I never once used my real name or mentioned where I worked while interacting online.

For better or for worse, the days of uninhibited online anonymity are long since over. Identity online becomes increasingly difficult to protect. Everyone knows where you work. You’re worried that where you work is going to interpret that series of bar photos in all the wrong ways, and where you work is worried that you’re running your mouth online in all the wrong ways.

Enter the corporate social media policy. These rules are designed to protect the company, sometimes seemingly at the expense of the employee’s online liberty. In a fit of corporate narcissism, employers fret that every word an employee utters online will reflect on the company. They therefore seek to control for that risk with a list of Dos and Don’ts. We’ve never before skated quite this close to freedom of speech coming down to a matter of who’s got control over everyone’s livelihood.

On the flipside, a blogger once opined, “Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of saying stupid $hit.” That is to say, we all make choices about what we say, and to whom we say it. As with all choices, online or IRL, there are consequences. Be smart enough to recognize whether you are being controlled, or just being asked to exercise a normal modicum of restraint.

13 Social Media Rules You Should Never Break |

Freedom of speech 101 | Jim C Hines