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You Can Be A Professional And Still Have A Facebook Page

Another employee has, as CBS News terms it, “failed Facebook 101.”

A Massachusetts teacher was recently asked to resign after postings on her Facebook page, in which she called students “germ bags” and lamented the town she worked in as being “arrogant and snobby” – became known to administrators.

This, of course, isn’t the first time a teacher has lost his or her job because of Facebook postings.  In 2009, a Georgia school teacher was asked to resign after her postings, one of which included the teacher with a drink in her hand, were brought to her employer’s attention by a parent.  In 2008, a teacher in North Carolina came under fire regarding her comments made on Facebook regarding her employer, “the most ghetto school in Charlotte.”  And a Wisconsin middle school teacher was placed on administrative leave after a photograph on her Facebook page, featuring the teacher aiming a gun at the camera, was discovered.

I prefer to keep my personal Facebook page as “bare bones” as possible.  However, I firmly believe that you can be a professional anything – teacher, attorney, police officer – and still have a Facebook page filled with personal musings and photos.  To do this, though, it is vital that you follow certain rules:

Check your privacy settings.  Often.  There is no excuse for “not knowing” the particulars of Facebook’s privacy settings.  Get to know them.  And then check them often, because Facebook’s privacy policies do change frequently.

Be picky about your “friends.”  You should only “friend” relatives and people who actually are your friends – not merely acquaintances.  Do not “friend” your coworkers, students, parents of students, clients or vendors.  And do not “friend” your supervisor.  It seems like a no-brainer, but it happens often.  If this rule results in your playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon every time you receive a friend request, so be it.  It’s the price you pay for having a personal Facebook page in the first place.

Never be too specific.  Don’t list your employer, and never refer to your coworkers, students, or supervisor by name.

Just say “no” to tagging.  If a friend “tags” you in a photo of the two of you, un-tag yourself from the photo.  Even if your settings are private, your friend’s setting might not be, and it could still be possible for others to view that picture of you holding a margarita while on vacation.

For the ultimate peace of mind, it’s better to simply not post anything personal on your page.  If that isn’t feasible, then following these rules could mean the difference between amusing posts and public embarrassment.  And you could lose your job.  

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