The trouble with Facebook

Steve Pye (Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre branch chairman-Federation of Small Businesses).
Steve Pye (Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre branch chairman-Federation of Small Businesses).
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“I HATE my job.” Frustrated workers across the world will at some point have screamed these words.

Usually though they are said in the privacy of a their own home, car, or in a private phonecall to a friend – not to a crowd which includes colleagues and a hierarchy of bosses.

But since the advent of Facebook, such a comment, forgotten seconds after it is made, can spread like wildfire, resulting in at best a red face, at worst, the red carding of your current career.

A sacked worker, known only as Lindsey, became famous last year for posting her animosity towards her job on Facebook – forgetting she had added her boss as a ‘friend’.

To make matters worse she had included screenshots branding her boss a “perv”.

It all made for uncomfortable viewing – especially when picked up by national TV news.

Blackpool Labour leader Coun Simon Blackburn discovered this week there is no such thing as ‘private’ on Facebook.

He made a grovelling apology to Blackpool FC fans after he labelled the Seasiders “donkey botherers” during the derby clash with his team, Blackburn Rovers.

One Blackpool college has gone so far as to ban the social media site, saving staff and students the shame of shocking gaffes as well as prevent accusations of improper relationships and cut down on time wasted online.

A statement sent to the whole college from Barbara Jones, director of human resources at Blackpool and The Fylde College, reads: “The College has a code of professional conduct to help staff establish the safest possible learning and working environments, to safeguard young people and to reduce the risk of staff being falsely accused of improper or unprofessional conduct.

“In view of feedback received from discussions with staff, managers and trade union representatives, we have taken the decision to remove Facebook access from all staff computers and to advise staff not to access such sites on personal devices during work time.”

Students are only allowed to access Facebook on certain PCs in the library for research.

Alistaire Green, an assessor for the college’s web-based learning team, said: “People just don’t know how private their profiles are, that’s the problem.

“When Facebook first came about, it was a question of clicking one button so only the people you choose as friends can see what you say on your status or wall.

“Now you have to go through things meticulously via your account settings, as photos, status updates and other things are automatically set so anyone can see them.”

Just yesterday, rugby league side Leeds Rhinos fined England prop forward Ryan Bailey after ‘jokes’ appeared on his Facebook page relating to the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

The alleged comments from the 27-year-old have since been removed from the website, but he has promised to pay a donation towards the relief fund.

Other famous examples include 13 Virgin Atlantic cabin crew, who were sacked after posting messages on Facebook walls referring to passengers as “chavs” and making jokes about faulty engines.

And let’s not forget American football star Larry Johnson, who was sacked by the Kansas City Chiefs after questioning his coach and posting gay slurs for all the world to see.

One of Liverpool striker Ryan Babel’s last (not very wise) acts before moving to Germany was to picture referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt after an FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford.

Steve Pye, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Small Business Federation, reiterated the warning Facebook can ruin a business if not used sensibly.

He said: “There are examples where local businesses suffered because of ill-advised remarks about the service it gives on Facebook.

“It can be an incredibly powerful promotional tool, as so many people access the site.

“But it’s amazing how quickly a reputation can disintegrate as a joke people thought was private spreads to millions of people.”

But not everyone thinks being sacked over Facebook is entirely fair.

A Facebook group, called Fired By Facebook, has been set up, with 539 members bemoaning their unfair dismissal.

On March 7, Cynthia Machowski wrote: “I got fired last month because of a post that never even mentioned any names or my company.

“I think my boss had a guilty conscience to think it was even remotely about her!”

Paula Colonna posted on February 16: “I just got fired today because I posted pictures from a company Christmas party.

“The sad thing is that I have been working there for a year and a half and posted pictures of last year’s party and never got a complaint, and I never mentioned the company name.”

And if the possibility of being sacked isn’t enough, researcher Sonya Mehdizadeh, from York University in Canada, concluded Facebook addicts are narcissists.

Those who scored higher on a narcissism test checked their Facebook pages more than anyone else. But she claims the 500 million members across the globe are in denial. She said: “I think people get sort of defensive about it – like, ‘I don’t use my Facebook for looking at my pictures’ – because it’s a label you don’t want to be slapped with.”

BE SAFE: Alistaire Green, an assessor for Blackpool and The Fylde College’s web-based learning team