When Facebook Makes You Public Property
There are certain jobs where it is reasonable to expect a high standard of behaviour. Politicians for example who represent the people really ought to know their facts, stats, and have enough sense to stay out of someone else’s bed lest they make you and me look bad (they are supposed to be us on some level right?). I mean that is just plain embarrassing. But these are public figures who literally represent the public, having been voted in by us (or at least the majority of us).
Priests and rabbis hold another role in the community where it is more than reasonable to expect an honorable code of conduct. This expectation works around the clock, 24-7, and rightly so. You can’t neglect your vow to your God or Star or whoever you worship when the robes come off. Come to think of it have you ever wondered if priests swear when they’re alone? Can you picture a priest bringing a hammer down on his thumb and saying “oh gosh“. Just a passing thought.
On the other hand you may have noticed lately the influx of stories about naughty schoolteachers who get busted (literally by the police) and find themselves out of a job due to “unprofessional misconduct”? I have to take issue with that.
Certainly extremes in behaviour cannot be tolerated. The old Mary Letourneau drama, wherein she hooked up with a 13-year-old boy (ick) is a good example of how not to behave around children unless you are in a hurry to disrobe (pun) yourself of the label “teacher”. Male fantasy or not, Ms. Letourneau was a pedophile and that makes her a mentally sick woman. So many people (men mostly) made light of the story and it fed the serial joke mill for at least a year. Yet I wonder how the world would have reacted if it had been Mr. Letourneau and a 13-year-old girl? He’d probably be in lockup to this day and I daresay no one would be snickering about that. But I digress…
My issue is this: when a person takes on a particular job does the public have the right to expect that person to wear that hat every waking minute of his/her life? Is it fair to hold up that person to constant scrutiny? Can I not be a teacher from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and then just plain old me until bedtime, free to live my life and do as I please? Now I don’t mean gross, illegal stuff (such as the aforementioned). I’m not talking criminal activity here obviously. What I mean is, can I not go onto Facebook to catch up with friends or head out to a pub without losing my job?
Take for example Ashley Payne, the attractive, young schoolteacher from Barrow County, Georgia who was fired from her teaching job (without due process) as soon as she posted pics of herself on Facebook holding (not drinking) a beer. Holding it! She wasn’t drinking and she clearly did not appear to be drunk. She was fired for that. As another schoolteacher and btw a teacher who doesn’t even drink, I find that outrageous. Who cares if there is a picture of her holding a beer on Facebook? In fact her Facebook page is private, not public, yet somehow her private pics became public property. Watch The Music Teacher and the Parent Part 2.
Therein lies one of the many mysteries of the internet. How people manage to swipe your posts or your pics when they are supposedly protected with the special computer voodoo called a password is beyond my understanding. I mean hackers are obvious but those sorts of psychos (and they are another story for another day) seldom waste their time on postings like this one or pictures like Ms. Payne’s. They use their evil doings to go after people’s credit and bank accounts, and other nefarious acts. Once again I digress…..damned English majors…
To be certain the law states that once a person posts a picture of themself voluntarily on the internet it does become public property. That means another person can get a hold of the photo and do whatever they will with it and this is legal! It would seem more sensible and legal to me that if another person doctored your picture or used it to make inflammatory statements about you, that that action should be illegal but so far as I am aware that isn’t the case (of course civil suits do come out of these situations, but no criminal charges I have heard about).
Facebook in fact has been known to shut down people’s profiles when they harbor hate-filled, inflammatory or racist messages. Unfortunately those same people can simply re-open a profile under a new name and email. I’ve heard of a student who wrote grossly inflammatory statements about a teacher she hated calling her a “bi–h” and a “lesbian” and inviting her friends to express their hatred for the teacher on her site. She was shut down twice but still managed to open a third account on Facebook.
When a person’s career and life becomes public property on Facebook is this fair? It’s not Facebook’s fault clearly. Slander and infamy is not the purpose of Facebook and they automatically delete such profiles out of fear of legal action against their site. Having said, it is always a good idea to read the fine print as they say, especially on a social network. In particular take a good look at #1 under Sharing Your Content and Information.
Perhaps the bottom line here though is not just about the purpose of Facebook or the right to use it to post harmless party pics of yourself on vacation. It really begs the question as to whether or not teachers, doctors, police, nurses, whoever it is that holds a community helper type job should be upheld to a higher standard when not working than the rest of the community. I disagree. Certain behaviours do not belong in public to be sure. Getting drunk at a public restaurant? Stupid move. Getting drunk at home with a few friends over? Your business. What if it’s one of your work colleagues? Possible trouble on the work front. That’s bogus.
Yet however I see things, it is what it is and since I am one mere person I cannot fight the public relations machine or the rumour mill. And since one bad apple in the barrel can ruin it for the rest of us by opening her/his big mouth and running to a person’s boss or administration about the slightest of slights, anyone with a community position had better learn to enjoy their life completely under wraps and never forget they are stamped as public property even well after they retire.
They call that democracy which is all about fair play.
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