What To Do, What Not To Do?

A rather engaging TIME magazine feature of September 2015 asked the following probing question;

Should companies monitor their employees’ social media accounts?

The story proceeded to quote CareerBuilder (in 2015), estimating that 52% of companies were checking job applicants’ social media profiles. What do you know? The world continues to change in ways some of us (senior citizens!) could never have imagined. Not even in my worst nightmare.

On sharing this story with my children, I discovered that I was not introducing anything new. Apparently, some schools in Harare are already steps ahead – they keep a tab on the social media profiles of both potential and enrolled students. How far should it go? Should it be done at all?

I think the subject is one that could best be described as vexatious. In trying to give the word its full weight, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says it refers to something that is “intended to harass.” It provides the example of “those vexatious phone calls from telemarketers during dinner.”

I view the question of monitoring social media accounts and profiles in much the same light. Necessary. (I would add very necessary). Yet tricky. Who does it? How so? How often?

I must admit that my motivation derives more of its convictions from my role as a parent. The TIME magazine article made the interesting argument that “social media promotes and encourages creativity, and by extension, a company could reap more by way of productivity.” The report reminded readers of the word etiquette.” It argued that any self-respecting company has enforceable rules which ensure that its employees do not bring shame and dishonor to its name by dabbling in inappropriate content.

However, the inflexible parent in me disagrees. In fact, I gave up on the so-called controls years ago. A DSTV technician took me “into his confidence” and left me “armed” with a mechanism that gave me unchallenged powers over the kind of viewing that took place in my house. At my first attempt to deploy the weapon, I discovered that it had been over-riden. Whilst I know the culprits, I have not stopped looking for the technician!

Having been brought up in a strict household where the black and white television set was switched off at 8:15 pm, I have struggled with the vexatious issue of the parent’s role vis-à-vis the ubiquitous social media platforms.

In my early years of high school, we were introduced to the first American soap operas which included Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty. I could have easily survived without them. My only handicap was that they soon became the conversation starters in my class on the morning after. Jeanne Elium captures my troubled state of mind when she says “the conflict between the need to belong to a group and the need to be seen as unique and individual is the dominant struggle of adolescence.”

As I have indicated, television viewing came to an end after the main news bulletin of the day which used to air at 7:45 pm then. The soap operas generally fell into the after-news slots. Try as I would, I failed to outfox my parents and I was thus reduced to a perpetual listener when the latest developments on the soap operas began the day. Today, I have to struggle with television (who remembers the hallowed days of real family viewing?) in addition to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WhatsApp and the old SMS. 

I cannot stretch myself far enough to Snapchat, Instagram (where I have but a humble presence), Shazam and the host of other platforms that I have simply decided to ignore. By the way, there is also the issue of profiles where my children, their friends – and I admit, even some of my connections – have more names than I knew they possess.

Should employers monitor their employees’ social media accounts? Schools and their students? Our children’s social media accounts?

I have to rest my case – I find the question vexatious. In the extreme!