There is no off-the-record when you post online.
Valentina Lisitsa knows this too well after she was relieved of her duties as a guest pianist for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Lisitsa posted several messages to Twitter that caused a social media firestorm last week. Herself Ukrainian of Russian ethnicity, Lisitsa directed provocative slams at the Ukrainian government over what she sees as mistreatment of the ethnic-Russian minority in the country.
Her posts and disinvitation from the TSO – she will still receive her contracted pay — have caused uproar in the media about freedom of speech, and the possible precedent this case sets.
Some have criticized the TSO’s move, while others have defended it as its right.
John Campbell, Toronto Ward 4 councillor, believes in Lisitsa’s right to free speech, but also in the TSO’s right to disengage with her.
“I understand they buckled under the pressure,” he said, alluding to anger in Toronto’s Ukrainian community. “But they’re running it like a business and they have to look out for their interests.”
The example underlines the point that the real world and life online are becoming more intertwined as technology allows everyone to connect, and publish.
Kalene Morgan, Humber College program coordinator for the post-graduate public relations program, says this linkage cannot be denied.
“It’s hard to escape having an online brand these days because of social media,” she said. “We now have the tools to make it happen.”
Morgan says one’s online brand can be an important tool for people trying to start their careers.
She said headhunters and employment agencies scour sites like LinkedIn looking for suitable candidates for employment.
People should only exist online in spaces they are comfortable with, she added, suggesting the use of different social media applications for personal and professional uses.
“I’ll be Twitter and LinkedIn friends with anybody, but I am very private about my Facebook,” she said.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has a media literacy strand in their curriculum. It is focused on creating an environment where students from Grade 1 are taught and exposed to the online world. But there is little in the curriculum about the dangers of posting online, especially for future employment.
Morgan raised the case of televisions incoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Soon after he was hired as Jon Stewart’s replacement, tweets that some viewed as offensive were discovered, even though he sent them over five years ago.
In this case, Morgan said the controversy could benefit Noah’s career.
“If you are established as an online brand, you can be more provocative,” Morgan said.
For the first generation of people who grew up with the Internet their whole lives, entering the workforce could feel invasive.
“The first thing someone is going to do if they’re thinking of interviewing you, is to Google your name and see what comes up,” Morgan said.
She gave some simple advice for those unsure what to post: “Be authentic, be transparent.”
“And never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see,” Morgan said.