Parents and Kids Embarrass Each Other Online – Privacy in Social Media

I thought this was pretty funny. A site called Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook launched a couple of months ago. The whole idea is for people to share real world examples of how their parental units are misusing the site or embarassing them with their mom-and-dadness.

As the site says: CONGRATULATIONS! YOUR PARENTS JUST JOINED FACEBOOK. YOUR LIFE IS OFFICIALLY OVER. So, you finally caved. You’ve accepted a friend request from your Mom, Dad, crazy Aunt Ida, and your college roommate’s newly divorced mother. Well here’s your chance to get back at them for taking away your public privacy. Email us at: myparentsjoinedfacebook@gmail.com because we want to laugh at your Mom’s ridiculous Facebook status and the embarrassing message your Dad wrote on your wall too!

The site certainly has the potential to be really funny: from posting personal converations publicly to a son’s response to his mom’s body part quiz or your mom correcting your grammar, the humilations are countless.

But, it does raise an interesting public perception issue. As one blogger put it:

You agonize over it for days—should you accept or ignore? Facebook is your turf, the one place in the cyberworld where you can be yourself with your select group of friends, in a setting both public and at the same time private. You really don’t need your parents to see what kind of hangover you had from your friend’s birthday party, as evidenced by the pictures where they tagged you.

But, is Facebook really “your turf”? Is it really a place where you can be yourself with a select group of friends? Even with all the privacy functions, I often find myself avoiding posting certain comments or videos or photos because the fact is social media isn’t really a private medium. It really isn’t a place where you should be telling people about your hangover.

As we’ve seen time and again, one wrong tweet can cost you a new job opportunity.  Complaining about your current job on Facebook can get your fired. And, while you may be building your client’s image in a dozen places online, one wrong move on their own personal page can take it all down.

I worked as a secretary to put my way through school. I remember my boss had been really excited about hiring someone for the team until his wife happened to be on an elevator across town with the candidate and overheard the guy telling a friend about the job interview. Apparently, the candidate said some unflattering things about my boss. He subsequently pulled the offer.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube … all of these sites are one big elevator and you never know who is standing next to you – even with privacy features. A lot of  employers are now assigning staffers to monitor their employees’ Facebook and Twitter pages. The WSJ reported last year: Employers are scanning the Internet for information on job applicants and even checking up on existing employees. Companies worry about photos showing drug or alcohol abuse, racially offensive comments, and revealing clothing – anything that could damange a company’s reputation.

Now, it’s true, we all have personal lives. Most people share a drink with friends on the weekends and there is nothing inherently wrong with posting a photo of yourself enjoying a beer with pals. And, don’t forget, Facebook is sensitive to this issue. A little over a year ago, Facebook launched a feature called “Friend Lists.” This lets you create groups of friends, separating work from family and close friends. It’s simple to use, but it’s definitely an underutilized feature and it doesn’t protect you against employer-paid snoops.

So, remember, folks, your public image is just that … public.

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