Social Media posts & employment

I’m sure we’ve all heard some stories where people faced consequences at their place of employment for something they posted on social media.

However, here’s an interesting take on the topic.

The other day I was talking to a friend in the US who works for a global apparel company that owns several major brands. She’s a super private person, who’s not on social media & doesn’t particularly enjoy any public exposure. Recently, the marketing department at her company decided to get on the TikTok & Instagram Reel bandwagon. They created mandatory team-building activities around filming these short clips. One of the activities was a TikTok dance. She refused to participate & got written up for the refusal.

Her reasoning was simple: “I do not want my image- particularly doing silly things designed to make me look ridiculous – out there on the web, for the whole world to see & archive.” Not to mention, she’s not a fan of TikTok & doesn’t even allow her kids to use it.

I know this probably wouldn’t happen in the EU, given the strict privacy/employment rights. However, I would love to hear your thoughts on the situation.

How would you handle an employer who doesn’t respect your personal privacy stance regarding social media? Would you quit? Try to reason with the HR department?

4 Likes

I would seek a legal advise in a meeting with one of the employment lawyers in your area. And start looking for another job.

2 Likes

I think one issue here might be that principles/moral convictions are not yet equated with religious or gender-identity rights. Which kind of makes sense, because otherwise people could take advantage. But it leaves us in an awkward position where a certain moral stance that is extremely strongly held, perhaps even to the point of being nearly as much a part of the fabric of your being as your identified gender or religion, has little or no protection whatsoever.

I suspect a lot of this issue depends on your job description. As a social media marketing manager, it would potentially not be as easy to refuse to use smart devices or social media - although anyone should be able to refuse to appear as a face in a promotional video, especially within Europe, as this is a matter of consent and personal rights.

I am fortunate enough to work for a small-enough firm that I can tell them my limits and boundaries. They know that I will not receive, let alone answer, any attempts to reach me via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, even though I am often grumbled-at for it. I have also made it clear that if an app or smartphone is ever required for me to do my job, they must provide it and expect it not to be operational outside working hours. I do not install work related things on my own devices, partially because they are my personal devices and I pay for and maintain them; and partially because I don’t want to have the responsibility/liability for my employer’s information in the event my device is compromised. If they provide the device, and I just use it however they instruct me, they are responsible for its security and any hacks/breaches, and I am not liable.

I think your friend’s stance is entirely reasonable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her employer’s stance was illegal, even in the US. After all, someone could easily be part of a witness protection programme, whereby a TikTok video could easily compromise their very life. Additionally, if activities such as “featuring in promotional materials” were not in her original employment contract, I fail to see how they could enforce this request. What next? Suddenly mandating that all female employees attend work in the new uniform of a skimpy bikini or wet T-shirt, as “team-building”, so that male staff can “get to know” them, and also so that “promotional videos” can show how relaxed and informal the firm is? Where would it end? Demanding staff prance about in embarrassing videos is not a reasonable or acceptable request for a normal employer.

If my employer did not respect my personal privacy stance regarding social media, there’s absolutely no question: I certainly would quit. But I am in the fortunate position where I have enough savings and qualifications that I could take the gamble that I would find another job before losing the roof over my head. Someone struggling and living “hand to mouth” might not have the privilege of that choice.

We can protect ourselves somewhat by making it clear from the outset that we do not wish to appear on promotional photos, videos, social media and so on. If an employer knowingly takes you on when you have made this clear, you always have that argument to present when faced with an unreasonable request. I do not know how the law systems in different jurisdictions would interpret such things, but I’m sure having an e-mail trail where an employer sees (or even acknowledges) that you don’t want to appear on TikTok, is surely a good thing.

2 Likes

I wouldn’t be surprised either if it were illegal, though unfortunately (at least here in the US) a lot of legally actionable behavior on the part of employers gets tolerated because people need their jobs or don’t have the time and energy to fight it. It’s certainly an inappropriate thing to make mandatory, and imo pretty stupid and insensitive of the company to assume everyone in the company would or should be ok with it.

I’m a private person who does a lot of online publicity for my organization. The fact that I don’t have a personal social media presence has never been an issue. If it ever did. . .well, I love my job, but there are limits.

(For what it’s worth, I’ve done a lot of work-related social media posting over the years without a “smart device,” and that’s never been an issue, either).

I don’t personally care for “team-building exercises” that don’t begin and end with “do the job you were hired to do.” But even if you accept the utility of team-building exercises, no one should have to do them in public.

5 Likes

personally, I prefer using a laptop to work on social media pages for Mudita. However, you’d be surprised how many people comment on our posts asking, “If you don’t have a smartphone, how are you replying to these messages or posting pictures?” It’s almost as if the IDEA that someone can have an online presence that’s limited & purpose-driven is outside of any possibility for some people.

2 Likes

That’s so funny! Ever since I started looking for a new phone for the 3G shutdown, I’ve noticed people conflating “online” with “on a phone” in the way you describe. It’s an interesting shift - very unintuitive to me, but apparently second nature to a lot of smartphone users.

1 Like

I am grateful that I never accessed my social-media accounts through cellphone apps. This made it easier for me to close them!

2 Likes

I would have a talk with that employee, if things don’t get better, I’ll have him fired

@flowery The employee is the one being forced to be on social media, are you suggesting they be fired? or the manager that’s forcing the issue?

I was suggesting that they should fire the manager that’s forcing the issue. But I do see something shady about the manager. Perhaps they could hire a hacker iphone and see what’s going on with that manager? A hacker isn’t expensive to hire unlike most people assume. You can always negotiate the price with him before sealing the contract though. Well the term hacker my sound a bit terrifying but he’s just an IT guy, haha

1 Like

Unless it’s a company phone, don’t

1 Like

You also have some companies/institutions starting to ask their collaborators to have a more considerable or constant presence on social media. If you don’t do it, they start to “erase” you disregarding everything you may have done for them. I believe it goes to the same level as your initial post @urszula because it concerns me how the “virtual” destroy our real life and increases the lack of empathy…

PS: Hypothetically speaking, I would leave that company. :wink:

3 Likes

Wut? It can be fun lol. Btw never realized that big companies cared so much for social media. The only downside of instagram is probably the fact that they can’t or won’t help users get their accounts back, even if it was hacked. I know people who have hire a hacker to “hacked” their account to get it back though. Btw let’s just say if her account was hacked I can imagine how disappointed she was when she found out that her account was hacked. Her whole career must depends on that insta account or something lol

1 Like

@kirkmahoneyphd Well, looks like there are more & more reasons to NEVER download this app. Honestly, I don’t see the appeal of it, but I guess some people do.

2 Likes