Friday, September 10, 2010

Hobbled Creativity, a.k.a. The Digital Age

This entry stems largely from comments made by a certain family remember regarding a certain status I posted on facebook.  The status in question was 'honk honk motherfucker,' after Paul Gaustad's goal in tonight's replay of a Sabres game from last season.  Yes, this is getting stupid already.  (I would like to note that I have since rectified the situation, and by rectified, I mean done a double-check of my privacy settings).

It's really an obnoxious trend, isn't it?  And I'm not speaking solely about relatives on facebook.  The trend of being held accountable in one sector for  a portion of your private life that exists in a separate sector.  There are plenty of barriers being crossed between personal, professional, family, and recreational aspects of people's lives.  You can blame social networking sites to a large degree for bringing all of those under one umbrella, but some of the onus has to fall on those that feel it is acceptable to invade someone's privacy to such a degree.

The biggest offender is easily employers, who are constantly trying to undermine the privacy of current and potential employees.  Numerous stories have surfaced about people who have either been fired, or turned down for jobs thanks to something they posted on facebook.  There was a story about (I think) a teacher who was fired for pictures of her with alcohol on her facebook because they "condoned underage drinking," even though the teacher was of legal drinking age.  (No, I can't figure that one out either.  If I could find the article to link to, I would).

Obviously, I would stress that those who frequent social networking sites take advantage of the privacy functions that are made available.  But such instances of invaded privacy are ridiculous.  They do absolutely nothing but screw innocent people out of jobs, and employers out of competent employees.  I understand that background checks are necessary to ensure that your potential fourth grade teacher isn't a child molester or your future pilot doesn't have a penchant for getting drunk during the week whether he has work or not.  But there is a line, and it seems to be frequently crossed.

The harm in such deeds is twofold.  First of all, the content on social networking sites often presents a very small slice of an actual human being.  I mean, what are you really looking at, other than a few pictures and some text on a page.  It does little to even begin to profile what a person is like in general, let alone in a professional setting.  The notion that something innocuous that someone does in their private life can affect their professional life to such a degree that makes them unhirable is asinine.  Secondly, people pass judgment on others for an almost ridiculous variety of mundane bullshit.

Does the Human Resources rep toss a resume of a qualified receptionist because she has "maturity issues," after seeing Harry Potter and Twilight listed among her favorite books?  Is a purveyor of romance novels too bawdy to be an elementary school teacher?  Or does it even work the other way?  Do companies see a facebook profile like mine, where virtually nothing is public and become turned off thinking I must have something to hide?  (Okay bad example, I actually have a great deal...dead hookers, illegitimate children in Mexico, etc.).

The end result is a culture where people grow afraid to express themselves for fear of something reflecting poorly on a current or potential employer.  That is never a good thing because it hampers creativity and critical thinking.  Employers think monotonous clones make the best employees, but they actually make the worst.  You're dismissing individuals in favor of people who take no risks and cannot think outside the box.  Company growth will stagnate and innovation will disappear.

I for one cannot wait until someone gets fired for a risque facebook profile or "inappropriate" blog content, and goes on to achieve bigger and better things.  (Hell, I'm sure it's happened already, but no one wants to report on that).

I'll finish by summarizing my line of thought.  I keep things relatively private.  My facebook profile is on friends-only, and excludes several friends (sorry!) and I don't have my last name on Blogger, Twitter, or Hello Poetry, though it's not horribly difficult to string things together and figure out who I am.  My blog content hasn't been terribly risque aside from an abundance of swearing.  When I do break into a touchy subject like sex or gay marriage, my points are logical and well reasoned (logic can have f-bombs).  My overriding thought is that if someone doesn't want to hire me for that content, then I don't particularly want to work for them.

So there.  *Sticks out tongue.*

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