Monday, April 26, 2010

Are you still so sure you wanna tweet?

The Record

For years in this column I've been talking about — and warning about — what is turning out to be a major, and now very serious, issue affecting your career and job searches: the lack of privacy caused by your overexposure on social-networking sites.

As recently as a month ago when, discussing a related issue, I mentioned that I would be addressing the subject of communicating via Twitter, little did I know that, by the time I got around to doing it, there would be an earthshaking piece of news about Twitter. Earthshaking!

Before I offer opinion or advice (both of which I fully intend to do), let me first cut to the chase. I hope you're aware of the announcement last week by the United States Library of Congress that it will acquire and digitally archive every single tweet ever tweeted — every single one — since Twitter began in March 2006.

That's right: The very same auspicious cultural institution that houses a draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, Stradivarius violins, handwritten presidential speeches, original comic books, a million newspapers, and a half million films, now has you and every silly thing you've tweeted on file — forever.

Their reason, as stated by them, is that Twitter is a major cultural development of the 21st century. Well, lah-dee-dah. It very well is, but the bottom line is that everything you've written is now searchable in an orderly way — every ridiculous note you've written; every suggestive comment you've made; every casual opinion you've shared, like, "wow eating an awesome donut" or "class sucks can't wait till Friday" or "really love my new tattoo" or other such nonsense; and every serious remark you've made about politics, for instance, which hiring authorities just love to look for. I could write a much longer list of indiscretions, but that is no longer necessary. This story alone should do it for you.

In my eyes, there are two problems here: privacy and quality. I've been harping on the first one as long as I've been in this space; the second issue is newer.

Regarding privacy, you might remember when I responded a few years ago to a young man who learned he was disqualified as a candidate for a job when the HR people found some goofy stuff he had put on Facebook. Irate, he wrote and asked me, "Isn't this an invasion of my privacy?" My totally unsympathetic response was, "Privacy?!? What privacy? You're the one who put it all out there." And now with things like Twitter, people are putting more and more out there. One-hundred-thirty-million Twitter users are now sending out 50 million tweets per day!

Now, the quality issue is becoming just as serious, and here's why. There is little, if any, chance of saying something well in 140 characters, but there's every chance of saying something silly, incomplete, incorrect, undeveloped, un-researched, or unintelligible. And that's because we've taken such a casual approach to communicating, that all the rules and conventions seem to have been tossed out the window, along with style and form. These things used to command all the respect in the world; they now are in danger of extinction. We no longer seem to put a value on quality communication. But we surely get judged on it.

Recently, a student asked me to look over a paper he was doing for another class, which I was happy to do. I made the following comment: "This is four pages of 'tweets.' You need to write this seriously." I may have been a little caustic (which is definitely not my style) but I couldn't keep still on this. Funny thing: When he revised his paper, it was quite good. That was all the anecdotal proof I needed to support what I'm saying about treating quality too casually. The ability is — or should be — there. The standards, though, are not. Along with the loss of privacy, your exposed low quality will work against you every time because not only is it out there forever once it's out there, but now it will also all be much too easy to find.

As I said recently, social-networking sites are awesome pieces of technology, but the problem is not that we don't know how to use them; it's that we don't seem to understand them.

Well, this news from the Library of Congress ought to set things a little more in perspective. Simply put, you're in the spotlight, under the microscope, in the crosshairs of anyone, anytime.

This should have been evident to everyone by now. Apparently not: only 7 percent of Americans, for example, think that information about them online affected their job search, while 70 percent of American recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information they found online. And while only 15 percent of social-site users think it's appropriate for employers to consider personal data posted online, 84 percent of employers do it. Mark my words: Those numbers will grow before you can say "Library of Congress."

If all my pleadings in the past have not been enough to convince you to guard your privacy and regard your quality, then I ask you to think deeply about this news which, by the way, was appropriately sent out by the Library of Congress on — guess what — Twitter!

George Orwell would freak out if he saw this.

Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions in career planning, career-skills development, résumés, interviewing and communication. He is also an adjunct professor of two graduate-level leadership courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He may be reached at 201-357-5844, via e-mail at, or through his Web site at

Original Article

1 comment:

  1. Social networking is showing their pitfalls and it is one of them..nice info dude!!

    John @Career Options