At the launch of the Safeguarding the Future of Digital Australia in 2025 report I authored for McAfee, part of Intel Security, a question came up about the implications of social media indiscretions.
Angus Kidman of Lifehacker describes my response in an article Will Social Media Indiscretions Really Wreck Your Career?
Futurist Ross Dawson, who contributed to the report, agreed when I asked that question at the launch. “If everybody has something dark online, then you haven’t got anybody left to hire anymore,” he said. “So I think we will be more tolerant, because we’re seeing more of everybody’s lives. Many employers will feel that they’re happy to accept a few foibles on social media.”
“Human brains are malleable,” Dawson pointed out. “We are shaped by our environment, and our younger generation are in a different environment, This is something we must understand, and it’s not that it’s being different is wrong. And ultimately there will be more career opportunities for those who are engaged in the social world.”
This is not a new thought. Back in 2007 women’s magazine Madison ran a piece on the dangers of social media sharing quoting me. In those days it was important to highlight the risks of oversharing, as many people hadn’t yet fully grasped the implications of what they share online.
However even in 2007 I commented about how attitudes may evolve to social media oversharing:
It is inevitable that organizations will become more forgiving about what they discover their candidates and employees getting up to. They never knew in the past, so finding out what goes on outside of business shouldn’t change things. Otherwise the employee pool diminishes too much. Similarly, I always thought that the rise of drug-testing employees simply gave an advantage to companies that didn’t drug test. The less convential, often more creative types went exclusively to less uptight organizations. Performance is another issue, and if lifestyle impacts how people do their job, that needs to be addressed. So today, as we become highly visible in a range of different situations, including in the wilder situations we end up in, as well as of course expressing our opinions, open-mindedness becomes more relevant, and people can be seen more as they are rather than as the corporate persona they often assume.
In any case people are now learning pretty rapidly that what goes online lasts forever. It’s not new any more, it’s just a fundamental aspect of the world we live in. It will be interesting to see if the next generation of youths post all their lives online, understanding that it’s there to be seen by all forever more. I think they will.