On Line Identities– Pay Attention To How Your Identity Defines You!
Harvard University recently retracted the admissions letters of 10 in coming freshman students after university officials found on social media that the students shared Facebook memes that targeted minority groups, mocked sexual assaults, the Holocaust and the death of children.
Prominent civil rights lawyers, including Harvard professor emeritus Alan Derschowitz decried the actions of the University Admissions committee, arguing that the university actions infringed upon the students first amendment rights.
However– what is most important in this post social media posts that disparaging remarks that one makes about others may not be seen in the same light as the original poster. The current millennial generation, all digital natives, are used to everything and we do mean everything being posted on various social media platforms. When extreme caution is not employed to ensure that positions that others may find vile and offensive are not carefully monitored, the impact can be significant.
The 10 incoming Harvard freshman were all denied admission to one of the most prestigious and highly recognized universities in the United States. Employers, prospective employers, colleagues, neighbors, friends, credit monitoring agencies all use social media monitoring to review the status of individuals who work for them, who want to be employed by a certain company as well as see as what they say and act in an environment which is basically, a free for all.
Individuals today must clearly recognize that social media is not a “free” posting zone. Ideas, actions and behaviors which run counter to those of certain groups may find that they are no longer welcome in the group, their employment or admissions applications have been rejected and the organization or instrumentality has no further interest in the individual– even after the company may have spent considerable investment resources bringing the individual on-board.
We counsel all of our executive coaching clients to carefully review all social media postings that they have. Anything that could be considered offensive or negative, no matter how small, nor no matter how trivial or insignificant it may seem to the poster should be permanently deleted. That action needs to be done TODAY– not tomorrow.
The Harvard students have learned a valuable lesson. Be careful, your on-line identity defines you– and that definition may not be congruent with the goals of many organizations which you may wish to join or become a member of.