Think Before You Post: Social Media in the Age of COVID

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social media

When I was a kid, my mother offered me unsolicited but wise counsel that I have yet to heed: Never put anything in writing.

Since the dawn of blogging, vlogging, and social media, people have been putting not just anything but everything in writing and in video recordings. People pour their hearts out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and personal blogs about the most intimate details of their lives for all the world—including employers—to see. While it is illegal for an employer in Illinois to demand access to a candidate’s or employee’s personal social media accounts, if your profile and post settings are public, then employers can see them. (It’s always a good idea to consider this before posting.)

Before COVID drove office workers into their homes during the work day, people didn’t appear to post much about their personal lives on LinkedIn. LinkedIn posts seemed to focus primarily on professional networking and development. They were not rife with intimate details about personal life the way posts on platforms geared toward personal life are.

Over the many pandemic months—now years—at home, employees’ work and personal lives began to converge. Small children and dogs alike yowled with abandon during workday Zoom calls. People engaged in deep reflection about their relationship to work. Those who, before George Floyd’s murder, hadn’t previously thought much about the way inequities in our society present themselves in our workplaces starting thinking about it—and posting about it. The overall tone and content of LinkedIn posts changed. A lot.

I found this change enormously refreshing. It gave me a window into my LinkedIn contacts’ lives as whole people, not just Directors of Marketing, IT Managers, and General Counsel. Naturally, having ignored my mother’s sage advice about not putting anything in writing for 40 years and counting, I hopped on the bandwagon. Having been responsible for social media at a previous job, however, I am aware that employers often have social media policies that employees are obliged to adhere to or risk adverse consequences, including termination.

While posting about labor conditions at an employer may be considered protected speech, employees should always think twice before posting on social media, especially on LinkedIn, which is still considered a professional channel. Why? Because many employers’ social media policies include language that prohibits employees from posting as if they’re speaking as their employer rather than themselves, revealing internal information and trade secrets, and expressing negative opinions about their employer. So, if you like your job and want to keep it, take a moment to review your company’s social media policy. And the next time you post on LinkedIn or elsewhere, ask yourself first whether you might come to regret it.