A Public Personal Life Is Still Private…

December 31, 2014 7:05pm
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So the question at hand is pretty simple – whose business is it what you chose to do in your personal time???

It came about via a random posting on Facebook in the form of a warning to kids about what they post online, specifically with concerns about jeopardizing any potential scholarships as they’re preparing to go off to college. In one scathing example, a child being scouted for college sports was cited as being no longer considered after the recruiter came across this person’s social media accounts and didn’t like what they found…

And that’s really troubling for me, as I expressed in a few comments but wanted to elaborate more on here because for me the scenario sounded awfully similar to an overreaching employer trying to dictate what his employees are allowed to do online, which frankly I think is kind of horse shit.

I’m going to write about it here from the perspective of the employer/employee simply because I think it relates to more people, in addition to the student level seeming a little power-play-y between the adults admitting students and the students desperate to get into a good college.

Of course, then again I’ve certainly worked for full blown employers who try to do that same sort of crap with their employees, so maybe the simple power aspect of it has more weight than I assumed… 🙁

…but anyways…

The way I see it, when you work at a job your employer gets you for X hours a week, and in exchange for the money they pay you they get to establish some rules:

  • They can say when you’re to report to work.
  • They can say what you’re allowed to wear.
  • They can say how you’re supposed to answer the phone.
  • They can even limit the amount of personal things you do during company time – up to zero should they so desire.

But the thing is, with the exception of specified positions in the company, your job has to have a defined beginning and end to it where your working day ends and your personal life resumes because otherwise you should be getting paid for much more than 8 hours of work each day!

And it’s for this reason that your boss doesn’t get to decide:

  • What you’re going to have for dinner that night.
  • What you’re going to watch on TV.
  • Whether you’re going to have intercourse with your spouse.
  • and so forth!

They’re not paying for that time, so they have no right to dictate how you’re going to spend it, and just like how yesterday it was none of your boss’s business whether you had a couple of beers while watching the game over the weekend, it also shouldn’t be any of his business what you choose to post online when you’re not on the clock, either.

Now of course the big caveat is simple – it’s probably not wise to trash talk your boss online, and specifically to do it by name, but aside from that I have a real problem with this whole concept of using things posted online as a judgement of a person’s character when the non-digital equivalents are still very much considered off-limits. An employee would never worry about getting reprimanded at work on Monday for saying the word, “Fuck!” in his backyard over the weekend, so why should it suddenly be a ding against his character if he posts something similar to his Twitter or Facebook account???

Sure, maybe he posts some things that are controversial or downright nasty, but still, just because it’s posted online shouldn’t make it an indicator of how well you’ll perform at your job or in your classes at school … not to mention the little subjective issue of what may be offensive to you isn’t necessarily offensive to the next person down the line.

Just as it’s none of your employer’s business if you get drunk on the weekends, or go to church, or date members of the opposite sex, or walk around the house in your underwear, they’re not paying you for the things that you post on your Twitter account outside the hours of 8a – 5p, and honestly I think enough of these kinds of cases are going to turn into lawsuits that eventually we’re going to have a bigger discussion on just how “official” the boundaries between personal and professional lives really are.

There’s a reason why we don’t police free speech, and even though I know I’ve also said myself that freedom of speech doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from consequences, it’s one thing to have someone pass judgement in a personal setting but it’s an entirely different monster when it happens at work or school where the thing said has no relevance in the first place. Besides, today someone decides that saying swear words on Twitter is a poor show of character, but what happens next week when it’s saying liberal things or saying anti-Christian things?

I guess I kind of look at it the same way that I would IP rights – if you want to pay me $1,000, I’ll write something for you to run exclusively on your site; $250 gets you non-exclusive rights to reprint something I’ve already written, but you can’t demand the lower rate and exclusivity because that’s not what you’re paying for at that rate.

As an employer, you pay someone to work for you for 40 hours per week. If you want to maintain a code of conduct outside of those hours, put up or shut up unless I’m specifically going out of my way to slander or share trade secrets about your own company.

Going back to the original story, sure it makes for a bad headline when it says UNIVERSITY OF BADGERVILLE FOOTBALL STAR TWEETS ABOUT UNICORNS ONLINE, but are you paying for his tweets or are you paying him to play football???

I think if schools and employers are going to demand a say in our social media presence after hours, it should cost them.

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