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Status anxiety

Status anxiety

Bosses, and by that I mean your boss, have started using the internet too, and any day now they will log onto a website site such as Facebook or Twitter and discover what you're really up to.

John Davidson is sitting down at his desk, typing. Hi! I'm writing this week to warn you of a worrying new trend, that could cost you your job if you're not careful.

Recent scientific studies have shown that it's not just employees who are tuning into the latest internet sites.

Bosses - and by that I mean your boss - have started using the internet too, and any day now they will log onto a website site such as Facebook or Twitter and discover what you're really up to.

John Davidson wonders whether three people getting sacked due to their Facebook page really counts as a "scientific study".

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that most bosses are bumbling dunderheads who wouldn't know what the internet was if a possum climbed out of one of its pipes and bit them on the nose.

And, as usual, you're spot on. Bosses really are bumbling dunderheads.

But that hasn't stopped them gaining access to employees' websites and sacking their employees on the basis of what they see there.

John Davidson is glad his boss never reads a single word he writes.

For those of you not familiar with sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I should explain that they allow you to log on and continually "update your status" with a micro-blog, outlining whatever it is you're up to or proclaiming the latest random thought that has popped into your head.

Gmail, an email service operated by Google; Skype, a free internet phone service; and the various instant-messaging applications, also have status notifications.

Some services, such as Twitter and Jaiku, allow you to update your status with an SMS message.

There are now so many places with status notifications and micro-blogs, in fact, that it would be a full-time job just keeping them all up to date. Of course, that would mean that your status would always read "updating status", which wouldn't take any time at all, causing you to disappear into a vortex of circular reasoning.

John Davidson is getting rather bored by his own column.

Meanwhile, other sites, such as FriendFeed, allow you to aggregate all your micro-blogs and status notifications and photographs and videos and other "blasts" (as these blasted tidbits are collectively known) into one giant stream of consciousness (known in some internet circles as a "lifestream"), which your friends can subscribe to and get a minute-by-minute account of what's going on in your head.

God only knows why people find these things interesting. But they do.

John Davidson is wondering whether it was a good idea to write a whole column about this tosh.

You can see how this may create problems in an employer-employee relationship. You can especially see how it may cause a problem when an employee who is used to blasting all of his friends with the minutiae of his life decides to chuck a sickie and head off to the cricket.

John Davidson would like to go to the cricket right now.

Yes, that's right, bosses are slowly cottoning on to this internet stuff and subscribing to their employees' lifestreams.

And if the latest Flickr photographs on the lifestream aren't of the inside of the emergency ward at St Vincent's hospital, or if the latest status updates don't say "Amy is sprinting to the bathroom" and then, moments later, "Amy has her head in the toilet bowl", then the bosses are beginning to ask why.

John Davidson is thinking Robbie Williams was right in asking, "What are the holes in biros for?"

Now, many of you are thinking that all of this can be avoided, simply by not letting your boss sign up as your friend on Facebook or subscribe to your Twitter feed. But some bosses aren't as stupid as they look!

For starters, on sites such as Facebook, it's possible for someone in authority to get an inkling of what you are up to, even when you haven't agreed to sign them up as a friend.

All they have to do is get accepted by someone in your list of friends, and then they can look at the things you've written on that someone's page ("Hey, Fran, I'm off to the cricket! Wanna come?" would be a dead giveaway, for instance), and they can look at photos that the two of you have in common.

More insidious is the possibility that your boss may come at you sideways, with a bogus identity designed to sucker you into giving access.

Some bosses may pretend to be someone you like, or a minor celebrity, and they may be reading your lifestream right this minute.

So take care. The internet may be made of harmless tubes, but it's also a jungle.

John Davidson is wondering whether he should have agreed to Scarlett Johansson's friend request.

John's email: jdavidson@afr.com.au.

Fairfax Business Media

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