4 social media truths every firefighter must know

Follow these steps to be safe and successful when sharing


By Justin Schorr

The internet. It is a giant ball of information swirling through the cosmos without a filter.

You can see photos of President Kennedy and Elvis working a convenience store in the late 1970s, get a recipe for shark-fin stew and even catch up on the last season of "Celebrity Wife Swap."

(Photo/DigitalGov)
(Photo/DigitalGov)

It can also be your best friend or worst enemy in the fire service.

When trying to get hired many of your friends may have told you to delete all your social media accounts and become an internet hermit. "They‘ll Google you” you were told. “They‘ll want your login info,” they shouted. Hopefully you didn‘t listen to them.

As a supervisor, I find few things more suspect than a sudden media blackout. If you‘re not telling me anything bad, you‘re also not telling me anything good. Follow these steps to be safe and successful when sharing, and also get more out of it than you put in.

1. We can see you. Know how to change that.

No matter how hard you try to hide your shady past, there will always be someone over-sharing. This has been true since the dawn of time and wasn‘t invented when Twitter flew onto the scene. In the old days there was an embarrassing photo shown around school or work.

It‘s no different now, except it gets passed to everyone you know and everyone they know all at once. However, you have the power to control who sees it. Use this power.

Become very familiar with the sharing settings on your apps, programs and feeds. Ensure no one can share a picture or video with your followers without your permission. You‘ll still have to deal with your old pal Jimmy and his blackmail photos of that week in Cabo you wish would go away, but you can control whether your friends see it.

2. Social sites are not the problem, you are.

Social sites do not control your device, only you do. No one at Facebook is sitting on your shoulder requiring you to share that political rant from your weird Uncle Charlie or that video of the girl twerking upside down. You did that, you idiot.

When you share something you are passing it along as your own. Only do so with things you truly agree with and your entire history will be something you can stand behind and explain. Don‘t try to blame software for your bad ideas, just get better ideas and share away.

3. Not every fire video needs comments about how you would do it better.

I‘ll be the first to agree that there are firefighters out there I wish would just take off their coat and helmet and blend in with the crowd. Sometimes these folks get caught on video doing something absurd or foolish or dangerous. Others simply do things their way and catch all hell for it in the comments.

For example, my service trains that the first engine in goes into attack mode while the second and third secure water supplies. The second engine backs down the block and reverse lays out to a hydrant.

This clears the block for the truck since we have narrow streets. In a video of this practice, dozens of firefighters chimed in about how that was wrong and that we needed to “come to my station” to learn the right way.

Those folks not only prove their immaturity but stamp “idiot” on everything else they touch. If you see a video that is different than what you do, ask, don‘t tell, what is happening. A conversation is far more enjoyable and respectable than a one-sided shouting match.

4. Don‘t share your login info with your employer.

If they want to see your feed, tell them to sign up. The terms of service of most social sites specifically state that allowing other persons to log into your profile, or the dissemination of your password, is a violation of said terms. By sharing that information you are specifically violating an agreement you made with that organization/.

Any employer who asks for your social media passwords is completely unaware of how social media works, and asking you to break a promise.

While the former does bother me, the latter is far more important. If a prospective employer wants my log in information I will respectfully decline, citing the terms of service agreement I have with the developers and remind them that I will answer any and all questions honestly and truthfully. I will also add that if they really, really want to see inside my social media all they have to do is follow me.

Years ago, when this whole social media thing started to get big, employers were rumored to have laptops open and ask prospective employees to login so they could fish around. Early on I had the opinion “I have nothing to hide.”

As I matured and stories began to be confirmed, especially in law enforcement circles, I realized that employers weren‘t looking for a gotcha in my feed, they wanted to test our response to the question. If we hesitate or say no, are we hiding something? Of course not.

Don‘t delete your Facebook account if you get hired; that raises even more questions. Just pay attention to what you‘re sharing. Whenever I share I think about three people who may see it: my dear sweet departed grandmother, my boss and the interview panel at my next job.

If I have even the slightest hint that one of the three would not like it, I don‘t share it. It really is that easy.

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