If you are over the 30 you have probably said these words out loud or in your head to someone younger thanst thyself,

Don’t post any picture of you drinking and carrying on because someday, a potential employer is going to see it and not want to hire you.

What if I said that I think folks may want to think twice before deleting, untagging or “sending to trash” those unfortunate images of their wild youth? Well, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Before I begin, let’s get a few things straight.

  • I am not . . . advocating for people to start plastering their social media profiles with pictures showcasing the recklessness with which they may have lived their younger days . . . or older days for that matter. The fact that what we share on the internet can never really be taken back is always a good filter to use.
  • I am not  . . . glorifying or encouraging drinking by the pictures I have chosen to share, but I acknowledge that, along with sexually explicit images, “beer in hand” pics are often the ones that generate the most reactions and admonitions.

So . . . for the love of God, I do not want to check my news stream tomorrow and see any of you in compromising soft porn pics, photos of you engaging in any illegal activity or tags of you acting a fool in ways that truly would make you unhireable by anyone or would embarrass your grandmother.  Because while, I am advocating for a shift in how we approach the sharing of some parts of our lives, I am not advocating a total rejection of social norms and appropriate behavior. As my mother tells her children all the time, “I love you, make good choices.

I still remember seeing the first few pictures of younger folks that I knew – youth group and relatives – as they began documenting their college and young adult life. Yes, I jumped back a little when I saw one or two pics of them at a party, red cup in hand and looking less than study ready. After my initial “they are too young to be out past 9:00” moment, I stepped back to appreciate the gift that it was to be given a window into their lives. If we are going to build strong communities in this social media age, we must treat  social media access with great care, as we add content to the larger story as well as when we peer into the lives of our friends and family.  Tensions about privacy and appropriateness will and should always be there, so let me offer a few thoughts on the changing nature of the “Don’t put that on Facebook” conversation that might help us navigate these new waters a little better.

“Old” people like me might only be right for right now – I realize that this is a slight generalization about age, but for the most part, those who make these overarching decree about social media appropriateness probably come from Generation BFB, Before FaceBook. While we may be offering good advice from the perspective of past and current employment practices at the early stages of using social media to vet candidates, I am not sure that the same counsel will be helpful in the future. Understanding our generational and technological location in this conversation is important because, while most of us will stay firmly rooted where we are, the rest of world will continue to shift and change.

Hiring lenses will eventually change – At some point, the very people whom we have been warning about the evils of beer party picture posting will be in charge of the very hiring practices that so many of us are weary of today. I suspect as this transition happens, potential employers will not be looking for a complete absence of party pictures, but will be more likely to give an understanding “pass” for what they may see because, well, they remember doing the same thing and will not hold it against the applicant. What I suspect they will be looking for is a nuanced approach to how an applicant currently interacts online as well as his/her understanding of appropriateness and privacy. This transition will, no doubt, be a slow one, but just as employment lenses are changing around gender, sexuality, race, etc. the ways future explores will judge a person’s social media life will also take on a more nuanced approach.

Social media shares the fullness of our story – A few years ago, when I standing/running for an office in my denomination someone asked me if I was going to go back and “clean-up” my posts so I would not attract any negative reaction. After first responding, “If I did that then there would be nothing left to read.” I said, “Nope.” There was no way I was going to go back and try to sanitize my blog because, one, it would take too long, and, two, my posts help to tell the fullness of my story: the good, the bad, the unfortunate and the awesome. In fact, if I were to take all of that out, I would look like I was more interested getting elected than being a real person. I think this same kind of shift will begin to happen as we think about employment culture. On LinkedIn, one’s profile should have an unapologetically “Look at me and now hire me!” vibe, but when it comes to Facebook we might want to rethink applying that same strategy. If one’s profile starts to look like a resume, devoid of an individual’s personality, he/she will come across as fake, and in a hyper-cynical culture, this can be a non-starter.  To some extent it has already begun as I have looked up people on Twitter or Facebook to get a glimpse into their life only to find a sterile and empty version of a person who I KNOW has more to them than what they show on their social media profiles. Again, I don’t need to see the intimate details of your life if you don’t care to share, but the whole point of having a social media presence is to let the world know that you are living.

Again, as you think about this for yourself, please do not read this post as any kind of encouragement to vomit images of your wild side all over the interwebs. What I hope this post does, thought, is to gently challenge us to rethink our understanding of what gives people a broader sense of who we are . . . including those times when we have been caught on camera enjoying life with a little flair.  You never know, that picture that at one point would have stopped you from getting hired, might just be the one that gets you the job.

PHOTOS: Much thanks to those who answered my call to offer pictures for this post. Please follow them on Twitter and/or subscribe to their blog as a small reward for their self-exposure.

  • Four guys drinking on the couch – A. Williams – Twitter | Blog
  • Two-fisted beer drinking – Megan Dosher – Twitter
  • A shot and a flamingo – Lauren Gibbs Beadle – Twitter | Blog
  • Drinking from a coconut – Ryan Kemp-PappanTwitter
  • On the floor – Abby King Kaiser  –  Twitter

Unfortunately – and thankfully – most of my borderline youthful behavior took place before the onset of all this social media madness. So unless some of my friends have taken the trouble to turn that film in into digital images, I have no incriminating images to share online.

The best I can do is this one of my stuffing my face food truck shrimp from the back of my sisters’ car during a recent trip to Hawaii.

Not pretty. At. All.

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