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Can Facebook Get You Fired?

Better think twice before you post that Facebook rant about your job: According to a new study, 8 percent of U.S. companies have fired an employee due to social-networking shenanigans.

According to Adam Ostrow, who wrote on about the study by Proofpoint (an Internet security firm), that's double the firing rate of last year. Says Ostrow:

"There have been a number of cases where an employee's misuse of social media has lead to their dismissal. However, it appears that these aren't just outliers, but the result of a serious crackdown by corporate America on tracking their employee's online activities."
What's going on here? Ostrow theorizes that it's a combination of employers more closely monitoring social-media sites and employees continuing to not use common sense.

But I think there's a third factor at play. We've reached a point where social media is no longer a novelty to most of us -- and it's become part and parcel of everyday life for many. Along with checking e-mail and RSS fields, I also regularly peek in on Facebook, check out who's tweeting on Twitter, and keep tabs on LinkedIn. I also contribute to all three of those sites, as well as adding comments to my favorite blogs and discussion boards.

With social media so integrated into our lives, it's easy for the lines to get blurred. Ostrow cites as an example an employee who got fired for griping about her boss on Facebook -- while forgetting that he was in her friend list.

Stupid? Sure. But if you've got any co-workers or colleagues on your own list, you need to realize it's not just the overt stuff that can get you in trouble. Suppose you were supposed to be "working at home" on a gorgeous Friday, and you post an update about your newly burnished tan from hitting the links or the pool. All it takes is one snide comment at work on Monday to get you skating on thin ice.

How to avoid these traps? Well, you have a few options. You could skip social media altogether. You could silo your outlets -- you know, LinkedIn just for work, Facebook just for friends.

Or you could adopt a policy once applied to e-mail (back in the day when people didn't realize their words would resonate in cyberspace forever): Don't write anything you wouldn't want shouted from the rooftops for anyone to hear.

Any other suggestions for avoiding fatal Facebooking? share them in the comments section.
(image by snofla via Flickr, CC 2.0)