Social Media and Employment Policies

Social media is now an integral part of many people’s lives, and it is becoming imperative for employers to establish a social media policy. The role of a social media policy is to provide guidance for employees so they can stay out of trouble, and also to provide a firm basis for disciplinary action. People consider their private lives and work lives to be two separate entities – using social media as an outlet for personal thoughts. However, much of the time employees overlook the importance of maintaining a private and professional online identity (Lupardi, 2014). There are an infinite amount of circumstances where employees have been dismissed because of something they’ve posted online – in many cases the dismissal has been appealed and considered unfair, because of never signing a social media policy. For example, three cases by the Fair Work Commission of employee dismissals in relation to social media use are:
Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design—unfair dismissal case, 2010.

Damian O’Keefe v Troy Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A The Good Guys—unfair dismissal case, 2011.

Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel–appeal in 2012 against a decision overturning a finding of unfair dismissal.

Faizah Imani from Global Post (2014) states that there are currently no laws that prevent employers from looking through any social media profiles you have. Many companies have monitoring policies that are in place when using their computer or wifi. This aims to prevent employees from posting anything about work on their profiles, and allows employers to monitor browsing history and web use. Monitoring policies are a reasonable tactic to use within the workplace. However, there have been cases of companies threatening employees with disciplinary action, including dismissal, with regard to personal social media use in the home – out of work hours. In 2011, The Commonwealth Bank in Australia insisted that employees must report any criticism of the bank they view on personal social media channels, and then assist with the investigation and removal of the “inappropriate” material. Subsequent to employee complaints and concerns, The Finance Sector Union demanded the bank suspend this social media policy, stating that it was an unfair restriction to individuals’ freedom of expression (Hannan, 2011). Social media culture at this time was relatively new, booming and misunderstood by The Commonwealth Bank – I feel that their social media policy was a desperate act to harness and manage the content posted on social media platforms, which is unfair and naïve. Social media policies are put in place to protect the professional reputation of both the employer and employee, meaning that it should be a fair and reasonable for both parties.
Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.03.52 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.36 PMPoor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify 2014

If your workplace does not have a policy, a general rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of a newspaper with your name, don’t post it. Particularly when seeking employment (or currently employed), it is important to be mindful of the content you post online – simply DON’T post negative things about colleagues or employers. In addition, you never know when a photo you’ve uploaded, or religious/political/sexual comment could offend a potential or current employer. Legally, employers can view your online profiles, and will often use this as a means for a “background check” before hiring new employees (Imani, 2014).

References:

Hannan, E 2011, ‘Bank threatens staff with sack over social media comments’, Australian, 5 February, viewed 10 May 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/bank-threatens-staff-with-sack-over-social-media-comments/story-e6frg6nf-1226000454432&gt;

Imani, F 2014, ‘Can Employers Check Your Facebook profile?’, Global Post, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/can-employers-check-facebook-profile-1084.html&gt;

Ritter, K 2014, Facing the Consequences: Poor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify, weblog post, viewed 12 May 2014, <https://storify.com/Katie_M_Ritter/facing-the-consequences-poor-social-media-choices&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2010, Miss Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2010fwa7358.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2011, Damian O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa5311.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2012, Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa8444.htm&gt;

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Social Media & Activism: The Arab Spring

Warning: potential unsettling content and imagery

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so distinctive was the utilisation of social media to promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. Western perceptions of the Arab Spring surround ideas of social media being the driving force. However, the initial trigger for the protests was in 2010, when authorities shut down Mohamed Bouazizi’s business and physically harassed him. As a result he lit himself on fire in front of a Tunisian government building, a form of protest or sacrifice known as “self-immolation”. This sparked immediate uprisings in Tunisia, and then spread to many other countries in the region.

mohamed-bouazizi-tunisie
A journal article by Richard Lindsey (2013) explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable. Research by Wolfsfeld, Segev and Sheafer (2013) uses the Arab Spring as a case study to define the role of social media within a more general theoretical structure. The study examines two theoretical principles; that we cannot comprehend the function of social media without considering the political environment in which they operate, and that an increase in social media doesn’t necessarily prompt significant events – but follows them.

women arab spring

Newsom and Lengel (2012) investigate the use of social networks by Arab feminist activists. The online engagement was intended to aid social change, and assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks ‘for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions’ (Kassim, 2012). It is important to understand that social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function as a significant communication tool, at present and for future revolutions.

References:

Kassim, S 2012, Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring was helped by social media, PolicyMic, weblog post, 3 July, viewed 8 May 2014, <http://www.policymic.com/articles/10642/twitter-revolution-how-the-arab-spring-was-helped-by-social-media&gt;

Lindsey, RA 2013, ‘What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements’, Small Wars Journal, vol. 9, no. 7

Newsom, V & Lengel, L 2012, ‘Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism’,Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 13, no. 5, pp31-45

Wolfsfeld, G, Segev, E, Sheafer, T 2013, ‘Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First’, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 18, no. 2, pp115-137

Devices in Australian Schools

Modern devices and software offer many educational benefits, with Australian schools opting to take advantage of the mobility that new technology can provide. We haven’t quite landed on an ideal setting that includes equal access to devices for students across Australian schools. In 2007, Kevin Rudd jumped straight into the deep end, when he proposed a scheme for all high school students to receive a laptop. The cost and maintenance of this program was well overlooked, with students consistently having issues with laptop functionality, placing greater strain on schools and government funding (Wright, 2013). Six years down the track, Australian education communities are trying to come up with their own systems for equipping students with devices, which begin to raise concerns of access and equity.

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Following Rudd’s unsuccessful laptop scheme, the Department of Education has introduced a new policy for high school students, BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device” (Smith, 2014). Many schools have adapted this new policy in various ways, with some requesting that all students must have the same operating system (e.g. students can only bring in devices manufactured by Apple). While it may be more convenient for schools to run and maintain appropriate software and Wi-fi access for one operating system, it places financial strain on families. However, schools that have an open BYOD policy then struggle to ensure the quality of resources among students, as there may be gaps between devices functionality. Additional limitations include a school’s location and socio economic rating. There is also concern that too much technology can hinder the significance of interpersonal communication and cognitive function, being a major distraction for students. High school curriculums are undergoing a dramatic transition, being consistently challenged by the tendency of IT models in learning and teaching (Foo, 2013). Devices aid learning for students, whom can also help teachers with modern technologies – ultimately, we need to create an educational infrastructure that can achieve a balance in access, as well as usage.

References:

Foo, F 2013, Schools Make a Move to BYOD, The Australian, weblog post, 7 May, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/schools-make-a-move-to-byod/story-e6frganx-1226636277661&gt;

Smith, A 2014, It’s BYO Laptop now as Schools End Free Program, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 21 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/end-of-free-laptop-program-means-its-byo-device-now-for-many-high-school-students-20140220-334bz.html&gt;

Wright, J 2013, Computer Cash in Lap of Chaos, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 3 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/computer-cash-in-lap-of-chaos-20130203-2dr65.html&gt;

Cyberpunk & Representation

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, typically set in the future. It involves predictions of overwhelming tech culture, united with some form of radical change or breakdown in the social order.  The term Cyberpunk first appeared in William Gibson’s novel, Neuromancer, in 1984. Science fiction author Lawrence Person, describes a classic cyberpunk character as marginalized and reclusive. Living in the outskirts of a dystopic society, they encounter rapid technological alterations, including modification of the human body and an omnipresent datasphere of computerised information. In the late 1980’s, a cyberpunk was also the label given to malicious hackers who illegally access computer networks. 

In Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic (1981), characters are mutated to suggest dystopic visions related to the reconstruction of social identities. David Thomas uses the idiom “Technophilic Body” to depict functional and aesthetic transformations that reconstitute the organic and sensorial architecture of a human body. Visions of future systems have been explored through cyberculture since the 1960s in literature and on screen. Many aspects of pop culture harness the ideologies presented cyberpunk realms, generating significant representations of mainstream Internet culture. An early example would be The Jetsons, (1962) a family who live in a futuristic utopia. More recently, Matt Groening and David X Cohen have adapted and explored cyberpunk themes in the TV series (and later in the videogame game), Futurama (1999).

Set on earth in the year 3000, Futurama is a classic cyberpunk parody with present libertarian, consumer and anti-corporist elements. There is a minority of low socio-economic groups that are segregated from the rest of society, a vast majority of characters with body modifications, as well as the prominence of androids, Robot Rebellions, layered cities, cybercriminals, evil megacorps, and a cyberspace… with some episodes depicting societies that are completely controlled by computers.

Visionaries and Notions of Cyberspace

Cyberspace: ‘A term introduced by the novelist William Gibson in 1984 to describe an abstract virtual space created in part by networks of interconnecting computers and in part by the human imagination.’ (Oxford Dictionary of Communication and Media, 2011)

The contemporary concern of cyberspace and virtual reality is something that William Gibson regards as a consensual hallucination. We have categorically labeled demographics, aiming to represent and stereotype behaviours associated with technology and the Internet. However, this assumption of generational difference regarding media consumption is somewhat inaccurate. Generation X and Generation Y are simply measured by the way they have adapted through mass transitions of technology and media forms. Generation Z (“The Google Generation”) may have only ever been surrounded by a digital environment, but this does not necessarily mean they are more or less dependent on technology or that their media consumption is higher.

The way I see it, all demographics are in the same boat, with a different view over the edge. Generation X has had the privilege to grow through decades of technological convergence, and whether they choose to keep up-to-date and participate, ultimately comes down to personal choice. Vannevar Bush examines past inventions in his article “As We May Think”,  reflecting that even back in 1945, scientific developments have benefitted humanity in ways never thought possible. The stereotype that Gen X is inadequate with relation to new technologies perhaps evolved from the majority being comfortable in their already non-technologically dependent lifestyles. They lived for so long without tech-savvy gadgets, and may not see the need or convenience. Gen Y have been familiarised with new technologies at an imperative time of mental growth, presumably connecting them more dependently to new forms of media, in particular social networking. The emergence of selfies is an example of Gen Y’s obsession with self-representation and the need for constant validation. Behaviours of Gen Y on networking platforms typically surround issues regarding attention-worthy online and offline identities.

GOOGLE_chappattImage source

This paves a way for Generation Z. The concern here is that without knowledge of life with no online profile, social identities are being completely constructed on social media platforms. Furthermore, educational concerns are at an all time high, as The Google Generation’s  general attitude toward online content is the infinite ability of having ‘facts at their fingertips’. The immense amount of information being scanned through immobilizes a creative and independent thought process. With Gen Z deeming search engines such as Google as an Internet brand,2014 being the fourth year in a row it has topped the most trusted Internet Brand List. Research libraries have no option but to adjust to the enormous transformation in the way that scholarly information is being sought and used electronically. Social media platforms have conditioned the young to expect dynamic and personalised content experiences, which research libraries are struggling to compete with. The shift from the library as a physical space to a virtual environment has immeasurable implications. With high demand for around-the-clock accessibility and immediate answers, librarians are anxious and threatened by having to match these services provided by Google. The materialization of social media is altering the nature and fabric of the World Wide Web. We have strayed from an Internet constructed by certain authorities to one where content is being generated by millions. This notion is of specific interest to librarians and publishers as it blurs the line between information producers and information consumers, by users having the ability to create and share their own content.

‘In a real sense, we are all Google generation now: the demographics of Internet and media consumption are rapidly eroding this presumed generational difference.’ (Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future: A Ciber Briefing Paper, 2008, p21)