Rebecca got me thinking this afternoon about her post on how business and even schools may or are forming sanctions against their users of social networking sites.
It really sucks thinking about stuff like that, and I encourage reading the post and links she gives. I really feel that while some of that stuff is useful for hiring managers looking for appropriate team members, most of that stuff should belong to the realm of the individual. The exceptions being documented and reported harassment and disclosure of sensitive information. I also don’t mind hiring managers using such sources of information to determine if a potential employee may be a good fit. That’s cool too, in my books, namely using it to learn about someone a bit more.
Take this example. I have a few Suicide Girls t-shirts (I’d link, but it’s not work safe) which I don’t mind wearing (of note, they’re the most comfortable t-shirts I’ve ever owned) out in public. I’m not a member, but I used to be back when I knew people on the site, a bit before they got “big.” So that kinda illustrates a slight individual taste for me, or at least openness (especially to comfy t-shirts!!). While out and about, I might run into people that know me well enough to know where I work. I may meet others to whom I give out business cards with have my company name on it. This is very similar to how people may stumble upon my inappropriate MySpace site (no, I don’t really have one) and connect my company to the person’s habits.
It’s just life, and that’s how we are outside of work in our personal lives. We all have some things we’d rather not air out, on either side of the fence. And I really think trying to police social networking sites (which is really trying to steal individualism away from employees and enforcing Thought Police) is futile and detrimental to our culture as a whole.
If my company president saw me out in the street on a Saturday with my Suicide Girls shirt on, the earring I can’t wear when at work, and doing a wireless site survey on open wireless networks in the area just because I can, I’d hope that he’d be able to smile, say hi, and not let that carry over professionally or try to change who I am. Anything less, is superficially shallow, in my books.