All opinions here represent me and me alone.
I hope this blog post sparks a debate. I do. I love creating conversation. I know you have an opinion on this, so please share. Onto business…
I hate seeing people I care about fear for their jobs.
What do employers think people do in their spare time? And since when is having a social life wrong?
I remember being a kid, hanging out at the adult table and seeing my family members and their adult friends drinking beer. I knew it was adult stuff. I wasn’t influenced negatively.
When there is educational measures about the dangers of drunk driving and alcoholism in place (which there is, just like for drug abuse and unprotected sex) children know (or should know) that underage drinking is wrong. And let me tell you something. Underage drinking has been going on for a tad longer than the Internet. Am I wrong? Heck, many adults still don’t pay attention to the laws and dangers involved in drunk driving and alcohol abuse.
So why, then, are our school districts so adamant about teachers not having Facebook pages? I have many friends who are teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and general college employees. For the most part they all have very active social lives and most live in constant fear that a picture of them with a drink in hand will show up online one day. I am pretty careful about what I post online out of total respect, but it still blows my mind that higher ups in education are so against this. First of all, profiles can be set to private. If students are going to look for Ms. Talarico, they aren’t going to find her. They will see she has a profile, but that’s about it. Think of it this way. Someone may know where I live, but they don’t know what is inside. If I let someone in my house, only then will they see the pictures on my wall and be able to peruse through decades worth of photo albums in my office.
What is the point of shielding children from seeing an adult doing something perfectly legal? For real! Like I said above, some of my earliest memories are adults with alcohol, mostly because I grew up the child of entertainers. So we know that underage drinking is wrong. That also means that drinking after 21 is legal. Why, then, do we also hide that legal people are drinking? Why aren’t children asking, “Then Mommy, who DOES drink?” Think about it. Why are school districts so afraid? The argument, “It’s not professional” is completely lame. I want a better explanation. If someone can provide a better explanation, maybe I can be swayed. But simply, “It’s just not professional” is, in my book, an argument with no substance.
Besides, I never thought my teachers were perfect. Why must we paint them that way? I knew that most of the adults around me drank at family functions- whether a holiday, a picnic, a family reunion, a birthday or some other event. Some of those people were educators. So if the teachers I know drink, doesn’t that mean that other teachers may drink? Of course it does. They are humans just like anyone else, and while many adults abstain from alcohol, others don’t– regardless of what their day job is. They are of legal age and can drink a beer just like they can smoke a cigarette. And people are going to know about it whether they have a Facebook page or not.
I am not saying that these pictures should be rampantly widespread, but I can’t understand the harm if someone sees a picture of their teacher with a Miller Lite in their hand. I do not think that it would discount their teaching abilities in any way, shape, or form. I think the pros of having a Facebook page way outweigh the negative. And besides, like I said before, profiles can be private, and let’s not forget that we control everything about our pages. You don’t have to put pictures up. You can prevent others from tagging you in pictures. You don’t have to fill in any information if you don’t want to.
I would not lose respect for my teacher if I saw him or her drink. In fact, when you get into graduate school, it’s pretty darn common to have a brew with your professor. I understand that in grad school you are a grown up, but I am just trying to illustrate that professional people do partake occasionally in an adult beverage, together or alone.
What about on New Year’s Eve where a toast is customary? What about on a wedding day, where a toast is customary? Do you take those pictures out of a wedding album when you show your students your big day? What if you are a parent, but also a teacher? What if you are friends with a teacher and your children play together? Do you not have wine together when they are over for fear that the other kid will say, “I was at Kimmie’s house and her mommy- Ms. Talarico- had a beer.” It’s not a picture, but it’s the same effect. One kid saw it, and word can spread. What happens if a teacher is seen by a student at the grocery store buying a six pack? What happens if a student lives on your block and they are walking the dog past your porch while you and buddies are having a beer? Isn’t that the same thing as seeing a picture? Which again– you can hide a picture online and you don’t even HAVE to post a picture online. But you can’t hide in real life. And why should you, anyway?
PROFESSIONAL JOBS, TOO
It’s not just education. Studies show that employers are starting to pay attention to Facebook profiles. And, as this chart I pasted here from eMarketer shows, sometimes people aren’t hired because of a picture containing alcohol.
I’ve worked in many industries, including the beverage industry where I promoted Bud Light and if I wasn’t seen with beer, there would be a problem. In general, when people come in from out of town for job interviews or people from a corporate office come for visits to an office, it’s likely that people will go out to dinner and have drinks. When people are at conventions or entertaining clients, people are drinking. “Can I buy you a drink?” is just common, professional courtesy in many situations. Company parties and picnics often have bars. Now getting out of control would be an issue, but I’m not talking about that– that’s completely different.
Why then, are some people so infuriated by pictures of others with alcohol? I don’t blame people for being afraid that they would lose a job, or lose the chance at an opportunity.
It’s that fear I have a problem with. Why is that fear there? Why is society painting a picture that it’s wrong to be social?
Personally? I have placed pictures of me at happy hours and other social occasions online. Why? Because it shows that I am a real person who likes to have fun. I am serious in my work and serious in my schooling and because I work so hard, I deserve to have fun. While in the past the majority of my pictures online seem to be at parties and such, some may assume that going out is all I do. However, it’s obviously not true. In fact, I have thousands of pictures on my computer and frankly I only post ones that I find entertaining so, oftentimes, that ends up being goofy pictures in social situations. I mean, how many pictures of the Gettysburg battle fields or fall foliage do people want to see on Facebook.
But more importantly, I am not hiding who I am. I am not afraid of who I am. If I were to ever look for employment again and someone were to judge my employability based on a photo of me at a Sam Adams tour posing with a picture of Brick Red Ale, then that’s their loss. Seriously. Why would we judge someone on a picture or two? Behind that picture is a woman with varied career experience, a solid GPA in all my college, countless publications, and more. I think that’s pretty lame for employers to base decisions solely on that. Fortunately I work in a field where we praise social media and all that it can do. But I am still smart about it. I am pretty liberal in what I share online, but I also know where to draw the line.
Finally, this is an out-there analogy, but think about celebrities. While my personal view is that parents (sometimes), teachers, and coaches should be the main role models for children, children seem to want to be like the actors and musicians and singers they see on TV. The covers of all those trashy tabloids are littered with pictures of celebs looking completely trashed. And guess what. They still get movie roles and record deals. They are still adored by millions. Granted when there is addiction involved, work and respect may be lost, but in general a party picture doesn’t hurt them one bit.
I can’t say that I would want to ever work for an organization that governed what I did outside of work. I don’t think I’d ever want to work for the government, or in general, for a conservative company. Blah. Ugh. No disrespect to anyone that does. The money and benefits are wonderful, but I just hold so true to being an individual that I know I would not do well in that type of environment, and it’s better for me to know that beforehand.
I hope that after reading this people aren’t assuming I am some alcoholic. I’m clearly not. I just can’t see the harm in being in a picture holding a beer. I simply can’t. Maybe I am too liberal. Maybe growing up in the entertainment industry and later working in media has made my tolerance for things like this higher. But I am glad I fall to this side of the fence. Things are much happier over here.
UPDATE: March 21, 2012
Three years after I wrote this post an Associated Press article appeared on Yahoo! Finance called “Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords”. This infuriated me and I wanted to write a response to it. Then I remembered that I covered this topic here, at Daily Dose o’ Donna (which sadly is not active any longer), three years ago. My opinions on this matter of Facebook being used as a hiring decision have not changed; in fact, I’ve only gotten more passionate about my feelings.
At the time of this post I worked for an eCommerce developer. Today, I work in higher education in a similar capacity — social media, web content and the like. I have started to be more careful and deliberate about what I put online because my career took me to a new industry–I’ve even went back and removed some things (and please don’t call me a hypocrite–I’m not!). Despite my tighter rein, I am still showing the real me and I am still having fun; that’s no secret. I feel that the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives and, further, that the negatives are completely controllable by the individual. Common sense, people. Common sense.
Here’s a screen shot of a Facebook post I made today. I forgot that when I read a Yahoo! News story that it appears on my Facebook timeline, so a debate started on my page. See that? Now people know what I am reading. If I choose to not let people know what I am reading I can simply turn it off. In fact, I”ll go do that right now.