In this day and age, it's not unusual to spend a significant portion of your life on social media. That said, if you've ever hesitated before making an Instagram post about or tweeting something related to your job, your gut instinct was probably right: Work-related issues are one aspect of our lives we definitely do well to keep separate from our social media presence. There are some work-related things never to post on social media, even if you have super-tight privacy settings and a fake name on all of your accounts.
Why is this so serious? Well, it's serious if you're serious about your job and your career: If you don't care much about keeping your job or developing a reputation in your field, then you have little to worry about when it comes to your social media presence. However, if you're like most of us and value your job, it's worth it to take the image you project into the world seriously — and that includes your social media accounts. You never know who is looking at your social media, and even if you have strict privacy settings, there are ways for your information to leak. And once it's out there, you can never really get it back.
In my opinion, when it comes to your employment, it's better to be safe than sorry. Here are the five things that rank among the biggest no-nos when it comes to posting on social media:
1. Complaining About Your Boss
Seriously, this one will do nothing but bite you later. If your boss is annoying you for whatever reason, resist the urge to post about it on social media. Call your best friend, your mom, your significant other, your great-grandmother... Seriously, call or text someone to vent about it, but do not vent about it on social media. And yes, even if you strategically leave their name out of the post, or only refer to them with pronouns, it's still a recipe for disaster. If people find your account, they'll be able to piece two and two together, even if you've posted something you think is vague. If your issues with your boss are serious, confront them in a mature and respectful way, directly. Please don't post it on your social media accounts.
2. Talking About News That Hasn't Been Released Yet
A contributor to The Financial Diet shared her story about getting terminated from an awesome job for this very reason: In short, she shared a picture on Instagram which featured a design that hadn't yet been released to the public. This seems like a big no-no anyway, but as she worked in marketing, it was an even bigger faux-pas, and led to her release from the position. While this contributor was lucky enough to find a new position within a few months, she admits to having to take a pay cut and basically lose out what would have been a big stepping stone in her career, all because of an Instagram post. Even if you think your social media presence is small or obscure, it's a risk you don't want to take.
3. Gossipping About Your Coworkers
If you work in any setting that isn't remote, you likely spend a lot of time with your coworkers. If you get along with your coworkers, that's great! But if your coworkers are toxic or you simply don't mesh well, it's going to be tempting to vent about them... and that's OK! But don't vent about them on social media. First of all, in the super connected world of the Internet, you don't know who knows whom, so even if you aren't friends with your coworkers on Facebook, you don't know whose second cousin is married to so-and-so's best friend who is, surprise, the person in the cubicle next to yours. Beyond that, it doesn't make you look good to future employers or coworkers: Remember, people are judging you based on your posts, and even if you're in the right in the overall situation you're talking about, venting about others behind their backs generally makes people look bad. Not the professional image you want to put out there.
4. Posting About Looking For A New Job If Your Current Job Doesn't Know
Now, if you're leaving your current workplace because you're moving or have other personal or health reasons, that's one thing. If your boss knows you're leaving, social media can actually be a good place to job search, given how many places post job-openings on the Internet. However, if your workplace has no idea you're trying to find a new position, posting about being "available" or "looking" on social media can be a disaster. Not only does it have the potential to get you in trouble with your current job, it can also look bad to potential employers: If you'll post so openly about wanting to leave your current position, what makes them believe you wouldn't do the same thing if they hire you at their organization?
5. Complaining About Your Responsibilities At Work
For most of the population, work can feel exhausting. Even if it's a job you're passionate about, it's likely at some point you're going feel drained and overworked. If you need to vent or gain perspective, talk to a trusted friend or loved one. Don't take it to your social media. First of all, depending on your specific job, it's possible your work is supposed to be kept confidential, so you could be breaching your contract right from the get-go anyway. Beyond that, if your superiors or coworkers find your posts, it only makes you look bad and lazy. The same is true for future employers who may stumble upon your thoughts on your previous job: Why would they want to hire someone who would (potentially) complain about their assigned duties so publicly? If you're truly unhappy with your role or feel that your workload is unfair, it's more than reasonable to talk to a superior about making a change. But posting to social media about these issues doesn't solve them and only opens up for more issues down the road.
All in all, your social media accounts are yours and it's up to you what you feel comfortable posting on them. However, I think it's worth seriously weighing the importance of a tweet or Instagram picture in light of the real possibility of losing your job. Remember, social media sticks around even after we delete things, so when it comes to your livelihood, it's often better to be safe than sorry.