How to Ruin Your Life with Social Networking

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A few months ago, I brought you a round up of ill-conceived criminality with a Facebook twist: people who advertised their illegal misdeeds on the popular social networking site. Most of these miscreants eventually felt the long arm of the law. But not everything that goes wrong in this life is a criminal case; sometimes we manage to wreck our lives without getting the courts involved.

Thus, submitted for your approval, are a list of ways you can screw up your life via social networking sites, while still walking the streets a free man or woman. Many of these problems wouldn't have arisen if the Tweeters or Facebookers had taken a moment to think about how many people were reading their posts. Let them be an example, and steer clear!

Try Not to Get Yourself Fired

Here is a first tip! If your profile is public, or if you have Facebook friends you work with, try not to imply on your profile that you're a drug addict. This goes double if you work for a government or law enforcement agency. Dana Kuchler, who had worked for a Wisconsin police and fire dispatcher, announced on her Facebook page that she quite fancied "Vicodin, Adderall, quality marijuana, MD 20/20 Grape and (absinthe)." After she was fired, she claimed that the post had been a joke, noting that she also included the word "ha" in the posting; this could ultimately set an intriguing legal precedent that might eventually encompass emoticons.

Some aimless tweeting might have ended one potential career before it even began. A user known as theconnor returned from a job interview with Cisco with an offer in hand, but with a bit of ambivalence: "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." Tim Levad, a "channel partner advocate" (whatever that is) at Cisco responded abruptly: "Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web." (I love that last bit. "We are a tech company, we know all about this so-called "Internet" that you're posting these insults on.")

To these more obvious points, we add a subtler one: if you want to be a teacher, Don't put up a picture on MySpace of yourself dressed as a pirate. As Stacy Snyder discovered, Millersville University won't hand out teaching credentials to pirates, or people who may have once worn pirate hats. Who knew?

Don't Alienate Your Business Contacts

Perhaps even worse than irritating your employer is irritating your employer by irritating the people your employer does business with. That was the lesson learned by James Andrews, a consultant hired by FedEx to come in to the company's Memphis headquarters and give a presentation on social media. Unfortunately, shortly after his arrival, he announced on Twitter that he would die if he had to live in Memphis -- and FedEx is pretty fanatically devoted to its Memphis location. A FedEx VP wrote Andrews a scathing letter -- and cc'd his bosses. The gaffe was made all the worse because Andrews had come as an expert on social media.

Of course, sometimes it's the listeners, not the speakers, whose rudeness is revealed. When David Galper of the Ruckus Network, a music service for college students, gave a speech to a large gathering of college professionals, all of whom found it deathly dull; they essentially began heckling the speaker on Twitter. Of course, all their snide commentary was public, and was quickly noted on a number of blogs. Ruckus soon went out of business, perhaps due to shame.

Don't Ruin Your Political Career

When Britain's Labour Party recruited 24-year-old Stuart MacLennan to run for a Parliament seat in Scotland in this past year's election, they thought they had a rising star on their hand, a young up-and-comer who was social-media-savvy. Perhaps they should have checked his Twitter feed first, since he spent much of his tweeting energy obscenely insulting Labour's political foes and various British pop culture figures alike. Worse, he referred to the elderly -- who vote in much greater relative numbers than the young -- as "coffin-dodgers." Labour disowned him and, in a probably unrelated matter, went on to lose the election.

Of course, one can bounce back from Facebook political ruin. Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's 29-year-old head speechwriter, was famously spotted in a Facebook picture groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton -- who had been Obama's primary rival but had by that time been offered the position of Secretary of State. Favreau apologized, the scandal died down, and he kept his job.

Don't Be Too Welcoming

Of course, all of these cautionary tales involve people who are being mean. Is the solution to be nice, instead? To be welcoming to others? To make your home theirs?

Perhaps not. In the UK, at least, there have been a rash of stories of parties advertised on Facebook that got completely out of hand. One party resulted in cigarette burns, stolen cash, and egg fights; another urine-soaked beds and vandalized samurai swords. Both were classic examples of teens holding a surreptitious party while their parents were out of town -- a long and honorable tradition, but one whose potential for destruction is magnified by the ease of forwarding invites on line. Another Facebook-advertised party, this one in two unoccupied houses in a posh London neighborhood, ended with the riot police being called in to restore order and London's busiest road being temporarily shut down.

But don't think that this is a Brit-only phenomenon. A group of Nebraska teens planned to throw what they called on Facebook a "History Making House Party" while their parents were away, and assured potential guests that they shouldn't "worry about the cops because I have a police scanner so I will have the heads up if they come." Of course, the cops also have access to Facebook and shut the party down about a half hour after it started. But hey, now we're getting back to Facebook crime and punishment again, aren't we?

See also:
Facebook's most wanted
Tech bullies: Tech pioneers gone bad
Confessions of tech hoarders

This story, "How to Ruin Your Life with Social Networking" was originally published by ITworld.

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