Online Identities and the Workplace

My first experience learning how the online self and private self intertwine was a harsh lesson. I had called in sick to my place of employment to attend a co-workers’ wedding party. The drinks were flowing and it wasn’t long before I was tagged in several photos on Facebook. I woke the next morning to my line manager in the comments section questioning my level of commitment to the job, and pointing out the stupidity of my foiled plan. While the discussion about privacy is better left for another time (and helped to some degree by changing the settings for your timeline), it also gives rise to issues about online identities and persona(s). It was fortunate my employment was spared (considering I wasn’t on a contract at the time), but if I were in a higher position it surely would’ve been a different result. There are countless stories of people losing their jobs for often trivial matters on social networking sites (Love (2011), 17 People Who Were Fired For Using Facebook). I wasn’t surprised to find that nowadays employers fire people simply for using the internet on company time for non-work related activities (like Facebook) (Burgess (2015), Employees can be sacked for social media use, even outside of work). And this is if you have already secured the job.

people-woman-coffee-meeting‘ by Eric Bailey (https://static.pexels.com/photos/7096/people-woman-coffee-meeting.jpg). Licensed by CC0.

 

Unprofessional pictures and statuses (particularly those referencing alcohol/drugs) are deal-breakers for attaining many jobs in the first place. (Giuseppe (2017), Mind Your Online Reputation). Furthermore, only 4% of recruiters don’t use social media to source and assess candidates (JobVite, 2015). I’d always assumed that if I had the perfect resume (and aced the interview) there would be no problem, but it’s clear the recruitment process (and maintaining a job) has become more complex. Doing research on this matter made me begin to question my own online existence. It made me reconsider who i was supposed to be in this increasingly connected world; where the personal and private online self collide more ever more frequently (When Worlds Collide In Cyberspace, 2013). Should I continue to present a ‘genuine’ and relaxed version of myself online focus strictly on my professional self, or construct a combination of the two? For a long time I wasn’t sure to what degree I should let the private (family/friends) and professional (work/university) worlds intersect online.

‘In an always connected and cloud driven communication environment, identities are performed, articulated, represented, and negotiated in relation with those who are not necessarily physically present in our everyday lives but also with those we engage with in the “networked social.”

– ‘When Worlds Collide In Cyberspace: How Boundary Work In Online Social Networks Impacts Professional Relationships,’ Academy of Management Review 2013

Judith Butler raised the concept of Performativity, that suggested instead of our online selves being static – our identities are in fact an ongoing ‘process of becoming’ built by repetition (Cover (2015), Understanding Identity Online). It’s argued that social networking isn’t simply a singular activity, but ‘an array of activities requiring the users to “work” to perform a coherent, intelligible selfhood extending across all online activities in addition to offline behaviours’ (Cover, 2015). It wasn’t long ago I chose to adopt this type of continuity by having the same (or similar) formal biography and profile picture across all online platforms I use, such as Facebook (below).

I’ve found over time that conformity on SNS’s is often more effective than posting what I want to see from others. This was evident on Twitter (below), where posting a humorous GIF received several more ‘likes’ than a news article I thought would be of more interest.

 

 

 

Not long ago my online presence was rather fragmented, the intention being to keep personal (informal) information and accompanying audience separate from more the formal platforms like LinkedIn and AboutMe. It’s now much more unified and coherent. One possible limitation to my online persona(s) though is the neglect to change the pseudonyms ‘Scott Russell’ and ‘Scotty Russell’ to my birth name ‘Scott Enright’ across all online platforms. It’s suggested that this, as well as keeping the informal name ‘Scotty Enright,’ could hinder my future employment opportunities. This is because using an identical form of ones name in all professional communications makes it easier for people to locate your profile when searching for you. (Hannon (2015), 6 Ways to Dial Up Social Media to Advance Your Career) This is also (I assume) because using a proper name comes across as more professional, and using a pseudonym may imply the potential  candidate has something to hide.

http://prezi.com/c2qypzltmxfp/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

I find it near impossible to keep a strictly professional online persona though, as the boundaries are inevitably blurred and mostly out of my control. My manager often messages me regarding shifts at work on Messenger, friends playfully take Snapchats of me at work (and send them to people I do not know), and potentially damaging Facebook photos and comments are often posted and viewed by others long before I’ve had the chance to check their appropriateness. Furthermore, SNS’s such as AboutMe (and more recently Facebook) can be linked to to several other SNS profiles. And despite choosing not to use these features and limiting our visibility online where possible, technically anybody can find anything related to you that has ever been posted online. So while I have closing down several SNS’s in the past, it could be more beneficial to make them work to your advantage. It’s said that job seekers who have a diverse, compelling online footprint are more attractive to recruiters and employers, than those who have little or no presence at all (Giuseppe (2017), Mind Your Online Reputation). By working hard to build positive, brand-reinforcing information online, it will hopefully counteract the informal information about me online (Giuseppe (2017), Mind Your Online Reputation). I aim to achieve this through platforms such as LinkedIn that are designed to help users create and manage formal networks. Since signing up, I am one of the 40% of job seekers using social media who also uses LinkedIn (JobVite, 2015).Furthermore it may be advantageous to create separate profiles (professional and private) on other platforms like Twitter and Facebook in an effort to target my intended audience(s).

‘If employees can effectively manage the boundaries between their professional and personal identities such that they engage in some personal disclosure in their interactions, but without violating professional norms, they will be more respected and liked by professional contacts’ – ‘When Worlds Collide In Cyberspace: How Boundary Work In Online Social Networks Impacts Professional Relationships,’ Academy of Management Review 2013

It’s often a challenge walking the line between a professional and private self online, if such a balance does exist. And there will always be elements of the online self that are out of users control, as information shared can be misinterpreted or taken out of context. But I figure if I can effectively manage and update my online profiles that this will be advantageous, at least from an employment perspective. Online persona(s) aren’t something that I stress about, although I’m definitely more vigilant now when it comes to constructing and maintaining them. I hope my line manager from back in the day knows that they taught me an invaluable lesson about the online world back then.

Broader Online Engagement 

My level of activity on both professional and private SNS’s increased over the course of this trimester. I have updated each profile picture and biography on these sites to create a more congruent and stable online presence. In future I will be increasing active on more profiles that are beneficial to my career goals. Recently I deleted Snapchat to focus my attention instead on more rewarding platforms. There is no end goal to my existence online though, as I believe it’s a continuous process of modifying and adapting ones persona(s) to not only better position yourself in a competitive job market, but better manage the private life too.

 **Apologies for Twitter/Prezi links not appearing properly, I tried the best I could to fix it**

References

  • Ollier-Malaterre, A, Rothbard, N Berg, J (2013), ‘When Worlds Collide In Cyberspace: How Boundary Work In Online Social Networks Impacts Professional Relationships,’ Academy of Management Review 2013, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 645–669http://justinmberg.com/ollier-malaterre-rothbard-.pdf

Census Fail?

In all the excitement of the Olympics, I almost forgot about the other major event of the week! I’m sure most people are up to speed with The National Census of Population and Housing, which is taking place today. Its the largest collection of statistical information about Australia, and (aside for a few exceptions) is compulsory for everyone in Australia to take part. The census takes place every five years, and this year is set to be the biggest so far. This information is vital as its used to ‘distribute government funds and plan services for the community… and is used by individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors to make informed decisions’ (ABS, 2016). This data is primarily used to guide government policy, and where money should be directed. Organisations, researchers and the wider public are allowed a simplified version of this information after it has been condensed down.

writing-828911_960_720.jpg
‘Writing’ by Unsplash. Available at https://pixabay.com/p-828911/?no_redirect under a Creative Commons Attribution CC0 1.0

But with the hashtag #CensusFail gaining momentum and Senators Nick Xenophon, Scott Ludlum and Sarah Hanson-Young publicly stating they won’t be putting their names on the census form – it’s clear that many don’t have confidence in the system. Too be honest, I’m a little apprehensive too. If conclusions can be drawn about an individual from simply accessing their metadata, which the ABS is also collecting from online participants; what then can one conclude from a whole questionnaire? Not only that, but this information is collated and crossmatched with data from previous census survey, then linked to educational, medical and criminal records too.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and ministers responsible are comparing the census to people ‘giving information to big corporations such as Facebook’ (Martin, 2016) . This doesn’t put me at ease though, as Facebook (which is voluntary to join) has been fighting off concerns about privacy ever since it started out. Furthermore, Facebook doesn’t yield as much power against the Australian people as the government does. Well, In most respects.

6092000030_b8808e63f4_b.jpg
‘Privacy’ by Sebastien Wiertz. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/ under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 2.0

I believe the risks shouldn’t be underestimated on data collecting initiatives as far arching as this. No matter how securely this information is collected, transferred and stored, there is always a possibility of mismanagement – especially in the unstable environment of the world wide web. Even though the ABS has had 14 (known) breaches since 2013 (Farrell, 2016), it has got a clean record when it comes to the census.

While ABS census data processing director Tracey Chester outlined how data is ‘anonymised’ and that names and addresses would be stored separately, ABS agency head David Kalisch confessed that there was ‘always a chance’ someone could hack the system (Mills, 2016).

ABS_House.jpg
‘ABS House which is the headquarters for the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ by Bidgee. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Bureau_of_Statistics under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-SA 3.0

Former deputy privacy commissioner Anna Johnson, aka Boaty McBoatface, is all for the census but states that whether its ‘external hackers, deliberate misuse by ABS staff or negligent losses of data, the only way to prevent data breaches from occurring is to not hold the information in the first place’ (Johnston, 2016). This can be backed up by Chris Berg from the Institute of Public Affairs, who said how ‘there is no such thing as 100 per cent safely secured information… No matter what firewalls the ABS places around access and matching, it is a truism that any data that can be used usefully can also be used illegitimately’ (ABC, 2016) . This is a major concern, as more than 65% (roughly 16 million people) plan to complete the census online (ABC, 2016).

It seems there will be inherent risks, no matter how the data is collected. I’m not sure how else we would be able to get an proper ‘snapshot’ of the population (with our full knowledge and consent)? There is the argument that there shouldn’t be a census at all, but its hard to deny this rich source of information is highly useful. If there were no census, another way to accurately assess where the societal problems were would need to be developed. Without it, it would be difficult to determine where the most disadvantaged were, and who required the most attention.

Parliament_House_Canberra_Dusk_Panorama.jpg
‘Parliament House Canberra, Australia’ by JJ Harrison. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_House,_Canberra under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-SA 3.0

While information is likely collected for the reasons they say it is; the general public may never know the full extend to which the government, organisations and individuals utilise it. I believe that the public good must outweigh the dangers associated with the collection of private information, particularly when its on such a large scale like this.

I hope all Australians forget the Olympics, if only for a second, and pause to think about their privacy.

References

 

 

Online Identity and Persona

It’s never been more advantageous than now to have an active online presence, as our online selves are ‘at the very least an important component of our presentation of ourselves to the world’ (Marshall, 2010). Its even argued that an ‘online presence is more important than your resume’ when looking for work and, at the very least, job seekers ‘should have a fully developed LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot’ (Garone, 2014). Trede goes on to explain that every ‘professional has a professional identity, the question is how conscious and purposefully chosen it is’ and hence are able to utilise the core of their identity (2014). This why we can no longer be passive consumers, but rather ‘produsers’ who collaborate and continuously build on existing content ‘in the pursuit of further improvement’ (Bruns, 2008). This made we wonder, are we all just minor celebrities trying to show off our best selves? Is it ok to show ourselves off and look self-important? But as we move into this new age of ‘being relatively anonymous and private to identifiable, interlinked and public’ (Bazarova, 2016), just how much should we be showing of ourselves on social media? As Van Nagel points out, it’s near impossible to achieve true anonymity online (Brown, 2016). This led me to reconsider my own online persona(s), in particular how I’ve been presenting myself to the online world. The most important thing I needed to know was ‘what can I change to be successful on social networking sites’?

Online marketing secrets

Online marketing secrets‘ by Internet marketing secrets. Licensed CC BY 2.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

It wasn’t until joining Facebook in 2009 that I became truly active on the internet. I chose to flaunt the real-name rule (as many of my friends did) and went with a moniker, which gave me ‘a sense’ of privacy. However my activities were soon to be interpreted in a negative way. As I gave the impression I was a low-grade comedian, my friends’ newsfeed soon were saturated with my trivial photos and statuses in my hope of positive feedback and reinforcement. This is reflective of how celebrity culture works, as ‘every like, every retweet, eIMG_1023.JPGvery follow, and every reply’ reflects how ‘celebrity culture has worked for over a century,’ and also ‘the behaviours of social media users’ in recent years’ (Brown, 2016). So why then do we need to be famous? This is because even though celebrities’ ‘production of self’ is dependent on highly mediated and ‘powerful media culture,’ the audience can still use this to build their sense of their ‘public and private worlds,’ and how that is related to the ‘production of the self’ (Marshall, 2013). I aimed to create an online persona of someone who was witty and edgy, and was mostly unconcerned of the impact on future work prospects. However, the utmost care should be taken these days as people have been sacked from jobs (and even jailed) due to tasteless Facebook and Twitter posts (Business Insider, 2013). Celebrities such as Adele even need to have their social media posts signed off by management before they are allowed to be published (Matyszczyk, 2015).

Its argued that Twitter has become more crucial to online success than Facebook. This isn’t just in regard to personal networking, but also with creating and maintaining professional connections too. This is because Facebook limits users to see only what friends post, while Twitter allows us to connect with people who we actually ‘need’ to know (Facility, 2015). On Twitter you don’t need to be ‘friends’ with someone to see what they’re writing about. Additionally, Twitter can be used to promote yourself (and products), while several profiles can be set up by the user to tailor communications to different audiences (Brown, 2016). Many celebrities have taken advantage of the platform connect with their fans, as many now have close to 100 million followers (Twitter Counter, 2016). As I joined Twitter develop connections for university purposes, I was much more aware of the audience I was communicating to. As Brown noted, if you’re aware of your intended audience you can develop ‘your persona(s) in a way that will work for what you want to get out of these sites’ (2016). Butler enforced the point that the real-self is hard to find as our social selves are ‘continually created as an illusion through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign’.

In addition to Twitter, there are several networking sites you can use for purely professional reasons. While it’s advantageous to be more visible to (potential) employers on sites like about.me, professionals may be turned off if you use serious websites (like Linked In) in the same way you wo476599_10150664475254178_1400664759_ould Facebook (Brown, 2016). If you need to, unlink personal profiles from professional ones (or at least have them set to ‘private’). This can relate back to my profile picture on Google+ which is linked to my about.me profile, and should really be changed. While it’s not a ‘selfie,’ nor all that harmless, it is quite informal and should be changed to something more appropriate. This is why I now have a ‘multi-purpose’ profile picture that is suitable for both private and professional communication. The significance of profile pictures was reinforced by LinkedIn, who found that having a profile picture alone made ‘your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed’ (Ahmed, 2015).

In conclusion, if we wish to benefit from our online activities we must present our most positive identitie(s) online. And while we don’t need to constantly edit profiles in ‘up-to-the-minute performances of self’ (Marshall 2010), social networking has drastically altered the way in which we connect with the world. And as seen from celebrity and professional culture, you are invisible if you’re not active online. In a constantly changing landscape of ‘new media forms and possibilities’ and the ‘intercommunication of devices,’ we must adapt in order to stay connected to the real world.

Prezi

My broader online activity and engagement

As for my future of social networking, I need to increase the level of engagement across all personal/professional platforms. I’m an active user of direct message applications (i.e. Messenger and WhatsApp), but should be more visible on ‘open’ forms of communication tools such as Linked In and About.me . I also should regularly consider how I’m portraying myself, particularly in relation to the images and words which may carry negative connotations. It will be interesting what the future holds for digital communications, and more importantly, how it’s going to continue to influence our day-to-day lives.