There is no doubt about it; social media is a part of our lives. It helps us connect and communicate. We use it to keep in touch with friends and family; to share information; to network; to job search; to learn. Recently, I have found it helpful in reconnecting with some of my long lost high school friends – being that our class reunion is fast approaching, using social media to communicate has been a way to catch up with people I’ve neither seen nor talk to in 20 years.

In working with college students, I frequently lecture on the benefits of social media as a powerful networking and job search tool. The students and I spend countless hours discussing how to they can use social media to present themselves professionally, and how important this presence is to potential employers.

At what point; however, does the use of social media begin to harm us? A recent article published by CareerBuilder.com talks about the misuse of one form of social media: Facebook. The article highlights specific examples of employees who misused Facebook – crossing the line professionally – costing them their jobs. When discussing this article with my students, the major response I received was that their Facebook pages were private and it wasn’t the business of their employers (potential or current) to be paying attention to what they were “doing” outside of work. To them, in fact, it was an invasion of their privacy.

We then had to have the conversation about information on the Internet being public – if the information is out there, it is no longer private. We also talked about how important image is to business, and how they represent their employers during and after work hours. This came as quite a shock to most of them, who genuinely thought their information was private, and what they do outside of work has little to no impact to their employers. Scary.

The recent CareerBuilder article, and the conversation with my students made me realize that what is sometimes seemingly obvious, is – in fact – not. The proper use of social media and the risks involved with using is, even in our era of advanced technology, a conversation that needs to be frequently had.