I don’t have a Facebook account and I’ve never used Twitter. Does that make me unemployable and socially inept? A bit weird even? And as a communications professional, am I wrong to not embrace the social networking tools that will increasingly dominate the internal corporate communications environment? Should I be worried? Apparently, employers are increasingly using Facebook to check on the ‘back story’ of job applicants … to see what they are ‘really like’. In the US, some employers have made staff hand over their passwords or ‘friend’ their bosses so they can be snooped on. Some commentators are even suggesting that people without Facebook accounts are loners and potentially dangerous, based on the apparent fact that a number of recent serial killers, including the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, didn’t use Facebook. Oh, how lovely. In my defence, I am a big user of LinkedIn for professional networking purposes, and as you can see, I do blog … so I’m not a complete Luddite (actually the English Luddite movement of the 19th century is misunderstood. The Luddites weren’t anti-machinery for the sake of it, they were protesting against the exploitation of workers and the lowering of standards caused by the introduction of textile machinery). It’s just that Facebook has never been an attraction to me*. I really value friendship and so maybe there’s a part of me that worries that having lots of virtual ‘friends’ will devalue the currency of my ‘proper’ friends. I dunno, I’m no psychiatrist. So is there something wrong with me? A recent study in Australia examined the personalities of people with and without Facebook accounts. People with an account were found to be more extraverted and narcissistic, whereas those without an account were found to be more conscientious and shyer. They found that those without an account experienced more social loneliness, but those with an account experienced more family loneliness. I can see the logic there actually. So what are we to deduce from this? If you use Facebook, chances are you’re more outgoing and sociable – probably quite confident and maybe even a little egotistical. For some employers, that’s a good set of characteristics. On the other hand, if you don’t use Facebook, you may be more hard working and more focused on the job – equally attractive qualities. So should us non-users be stigmatised or celebrated? Personally I don’t care, but as social networking increases its profile in the workplace, I do think we need to remind ourselves that organisations, like communities, are made up of many different personality types. The integration and mix of channels will be just as important in the future as it’s been in the past.
* Mind you, if I did use Facebook I’ll be telling my ‘friends’ that I went to see the brilliant movie Argo yesterday and I’d be urging them to go see it. I’d try to resist telling them what I had for dinner, how cool I must be for having so many friends and sharing my views on the election of police commissioners zzzzzzzzzzzzz.