#CyberFLASH: Employers watch what you do online — and you should too

smartphone-2Welcome to the new funhouse called “social media,” where the lines are blurred between our professional and private lives. We put our music, movies, pictures, purchases, politics and morning lattes on display for the entire world. We present meta versions of ourselves with irony, wrapped in social commentary, often shrouded in a thin parchment of sarcasm.

For most of us, social media reflects the inconsequential fluff of life. Cat videos and memes and that amazing stir-fry you made just before you set the kitchen on fire. What could it matter? Who could possibly care? Who could possibly be watching?

Kurt Vonnegut, with his dry wit, knew better. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be,” he wrote in Mother Night (1961). We’re so entranced with our own reflection, we’ve ignored the fact that it’s a two-way mirror we’re peering into. And businesses are wising up.

Can your employer fire you for what they find online? Can you lose a promotion over a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post? Can that 2 a.m. stumble down King Street posted to Vine cost you your job? You bet your sweet narcissistic reflection it can.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “termination may be justified where the conduct: (1) is wholly incompatible with, and gives rise to a breakdown in, the employment relationship; or (2) results in real or likely prejudice to the employer.” If an employer can prove that what you do outside of work may hurt its bottom line, you’re as good as dropped.

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