It happens innocently enough; you’re scrolling through your social Facebook feeds, looking at the various pictures and posts shared by your friends and then you see it. There on your screen is a post you find offensive but one of your friends has clicked on the ‘like’ button. You think, “How could they like something like that?!”
I’ve come across two such posts within a few days of each other, liked by two different people I count among my friends, and I’m perplexed in both cases. Both posts were similar in that they both were derogatory and directed at welfare recipients. The first one I saw read in large print, “Welfare isn’t meant to be a career choice.” The second said, “Welfare applicants should have to take a drug test. ‘Like’ if you agree.”
Both posts got shared with me because my friends had ‘liked’ them and they passed to me. In both cases, I see some bitter irony. One man has a family member whose full-time job is assisting welfare recipients by providing them with financial support. In the second post, the friend who shared it with me has a family member who is in a senior municipal management position and the municipality distributes social assistance. Are both these men’s opinions theirs alone or are they also opinions held by their family members? Oh and one of the two has himself been a recipient in the past of financial support!
Obviously the people or person who first created these posts feel that those on welfare should be restricted from receiving aid if they have drug issues, and everyone should have restrictions on the length of time they can receive benefits at all. I understand the idea of free speech; the principle of being able to share what’s on your mind and have your views heard. Here’s some more irony however; I replied to the first post about people making welfare a career choice, and the original poster must have decided my dissenting voice should be silenced, as my post was deleted from the thread. Free speech goes both ways or it’s not free speech. Is the person deleting my view so insecure that they can’t tolerate a debate or differing view?
But it’s easy isn’t it; this clicking of a ‘like’ button? Sometimes we move so fast on the scrolling that we read something and click, ‘like’ without stopping to really think about the implications. That’s a possibility for sure, and maybe my two friends did just that. On the other hand, they’ve made their views known, and this is one piece of information I learn and add to others that forms my overall opinion of them. When we see under posts, “John Doe” likes this we might even feel compelled to ‘like’ it too because John Doe is our friend. This is a lemming-like mentality however; we may want to be liked so much ourselves that we’ll do something as innocent as clicking, ‘like’ to be seen to be similar to our friends; peer influence and pressure.
There will always be people who post these things believing that they are only saying what ‘all of us’ feel. They get a lot of ‘likes’ too. I wonder though if the people who clicked ‘like’ were actually asked in person to comment on such statements if they would answer the same or differently? What if Facebook evolved to the point where you could click on a feature that showed you all the things you and your friends liked? Imagine your profile included not only your name and picture but a summary section titled, “Here’s all the things John Doe ‘likes’”…
Somehow I think to see a summary of all the things we ‘like’ might be very revealing; revealing to us, our friends, perhaps employers too. Suppose that as a general hiring process employers visited social media, keyed in your name with the intent of seeing what you believe, what you stand for and your perspectives. After all, social media isn’t some private thing we all engage in; social media is public. So if it’s public, you knowingly consent to having your views, beliefs and ‘likes’ seen by anybody – and you’re comfortable with that. It hardly seems intelligent to say that it is somehow unfair for employers to screen your Facebook page, but anybody else is free to check out the things you make public.
So, following this logic… If the people who ‘like’ the idea of welfare applicants having to take a drug test before they qualify, I’m guessing they also, ‘like’ the idea of employers trolling their personal but public Facebook pages to see what they really believe before they qualify for the jobs they apply to. Seems perfectly logical. Do you agree or have I missed something?
What we post online that could come back to bite us is generally referred to as Digital Dirt. If you have pictures, comments and content that you think might be looked upon badly and you wouldn’t want an employer to see your views, clean up your own digital dirt. Just making something private on your own page doesn’t make it private if shared by your friends on their pages. Oh and if you think employers don’t have the right to check out your public social media pages you’d be wrong. They do have the right, and they do.
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