(Whitney Forster) - Did you know that social media could cause you to get divorced, fired, or even killed? The dangers of social media are front and center this week in several news stories.
In the latest New York Times' “Tech Talk” podcast, Bill Milani, a lawyer and instructor at Cornell University’s school of labor and industrial relations, outlines some of the potential business issues resulting from the use of social media, from a highly qualified job candidate who posts a salacious video online to a laid off employee who cites a positive LinkedIn reference from a manager in a law suit.
Social media can also be too much temptation for marriages, according to New Jersey’s Reverend Cedric Miller, who has banned his congregation from using Facebook based on of the number of couples he counsels whose marriage has been rocked by inappropriate online contact.
And in the most serious of the news stories, the U.S. Air Force is concerned about troops' use of geolocation services and the possibility that it could reveal the location of U.S. forces in war zones.
With every advance in technology, the bad can distract from the good. On the marriage front, it is unlikely that the technology creates infidelity – more likely that it is easier to catch and call out bad behavior. If you are going to criticize social media as a detriment to marriage, you have to also acknowledge the thousands of marriages created by dating and social networking sites.
As for military operations, there is no doubt that protecting our soldiers is serious and important business, but we also need to harness this intelligence against our enemies to protect our soldiers and our own homeland security. The Department of Defense had considered banning the use of social media, but changed their mind when they realized that social media can provide valuable information-gathering and communication tools.
And in business, encouraging employees to actively engage in social media can be a great way to promote and build a company’s brand. Tom’s Shoes, for example, is a great example of a company built on social networking, and companies like IBM actively encourage employees to engage online. 463 even encourages us to post our ideas on the company blog!
What is clear is that we need social media policies, because they set the boundaries of relationships, allowing people to know how they are expected to behave. Couples should have clear agreements about what constitutes acceptable online behavior and the forming or re-forging of relationships. The military MUST help warn soldiers on the risk of being identified and help them to manage that risk. And companies need policies to help employees fully understand the benefits and the risks of the social media tools available to them.