Now more than ever workers are leading double lives, only not in the way that you might expect. The old distinctions of day job and night job, or office life and home life are fading to the background as we rapidly embrace a new double life: one actual and one virtual. It is almost cliché to cite statistics detailing the staggering growth of social media, but it is nevertheless instructive. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn boast a combined 885 million worldwide users, with Facebook accounting for 56 percent of that figure despite first reaching 250 million users just last year.1 Facebook is currently the second most visited Internet site in the United States behind Google, while MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn each place in the top 20.2 Combine all social media and blog sites, and suddenly 22 percent of all time spent on the Internet is accounted for.3 If use of social media has not already permeated your workplace, perhaps the next IT roll out should focus on ditching the dial-up modems.
Employers must heed the social media revolution and the significant changes it has brought to the employment landscape. Indeed, the double lives of social media users can profoundly affect employment decisions spanning issues such as background checks, hiring, termination, and litigation strategies. The reason is that virtual personas created on these websites are not so much creations as they are extensions of users’ real lives. A Facebook profile could just as easily tell you someone’s employment history and experience, as it could their least favorite ’80s hair band. For that matter, a profile could also detail negative information about an individual’s employer.
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