Lesson learned

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What we should do with our social media accounts in the face of professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

When bodybuilder and middle school teacher Mindi Jensen received an ultimatum from her academic employers to either delete her workout/bikini pictures from her Instagram account or lose her job, it seemed like the whole world collectively rolled their eyes. Here we go again.

There was a time when I thought my teachers lived in the school after the bell rung and plotted our next quiz and homework assignments. While they might have been preparing the following day’s lecture, teaching was far from the only thing on their mind. Turns out, they do have a life outside of school and they barely thought of me after work—just like all people who make money during the day and go home to pursue their personal hobbies and projects in the evening.

Parents of all people should know that. So the fact that some parents approached North Sanpete Middle School’s administrators, the people in charge of Jensen’s career, and complained about the pictures on her personal account is a little appalling. The parents go on to claim that the images of Jensen were “inappropriate” and “pornographic.” Do those parents even know what porn is? Because I scroll through Instagram once a day and I never find “porn,” no matter how hard I scroll.

While it’s true that a professional working closely with children should remain decent on all platforms, it’s unclear where the line is drawn. Here’s how I see it: let’s say the teacher was a man and he had pictures of himself working out and in swim trunks—no!—Speedos. Would he get in trouble? Would the school board threaten to fire him if he didn’t take down those pictures? If that does happen, it doesn’t make the news. What is happening is oppression. What the parents are actually saying is: “You can’t show those pictures, because you are too pretty and you are arousing our kids. I don’t know how to discuss sexuality with them or explain that teachers are people too, with personal lives and aspirations, so I’ll just blame it on you, fit lady.”

At the end of the day, the school came to their senses, realized the legless claim the parents were standing on, and apologized to Jensen. But the question remains: how can we know if something is appropriate for the Internet or not? With nude and embarrassing pictures soaring this way and that through the air, we can’t be certain who would take offence. Therefore, we must go back to the rule of thumb: would we be okay if our mothers saw that picture of us? If the answer is yes, then share it. If no, then maybe it’s best to keep it in our private archives.

When it’s all said and done, Jensen will have a great lesson to teach to her students, one that stems from confidence and defending personal convictions. I think that’s a good lesson to learn in the social media age.

Foko Promotes Photo Taking at Work To Strengthen Communication and Solve Problems

Ottawa-based Foko understands that photographs are the new quick, text-free way to communicate.

Whether it’s sharing our vacation photos, showcasing our accomplishments or taking a quick pic of our afternoon snack, our pictures can tell a story worth a thousand—maybe—more words. And that experience should not be withheld in the workplace.

Communication within an organization is paramount to the workforce, but recent trends have shown that internal communication platforms such as Intranets garner little traction. “There is around 10% [of employees at a given company using Intranets],” said Foko’s cofounder and CEO, Eric Sauve. “If you get 20% you are a hero. I came to a conclusion that companies are really missing out on connecting their employees.”

Simplicity became Foko’s focus as they tried to understand the barriers of communication in an enterprise environment. The result is a familiar Instagram-like app that enables workers, employers and all other members of the company to recognize each other through a medium that is easy to use.

“We came to photos,” said Sauve, “because you don’t need to know English and you don’t need to be a good writer; you just need a [camera] phone and you can participate. Photo sharing is the consumer Internet, from web apps (Pintrest and Imgur) to social networks to new services—the ones that are growing the most are photo centric—like Instagram and SnapChat. So let’s bring it to companies in a way that they can get everyone involved.”

Entering an ecosystem with so many different photo-sharing platforms, Foko finds its uniqueness in terms of privacy, security, and exclusivity. In another words, Foko caters to a corporate-audience. Ones that understands that when dealing with the behind the scenes photography of Fortune 100 companies, a few potential problems need to be addressed, such as HR problems, IT leaks issues, etc. Foko builds the community around the workers; only allowing those associated with the company the ability to view activities within.

This internal communication enables stores and offices in different geographical areas to work together to strengthen merchandise sales, etc., and colleagues with different schedules to catch up and discuss the happenings at work. In addition, Foko also helps enterprises share and promote events and occasions that stems from the workplace, such as charity events, volunteer opportunities, conferences and company parties. Photos are also a friendly way of introduction and acknowledgement, especially in big companies where workers seldom see each other. The ability to welcome a new employee or to acknowledge an old one is something every company, large or small, should have the capability to do.

The use of social media and other consumer platforms are often frowned upon at workplace. If you spend your time posting pictures on Instagram at work, you are probably wasting time, but if you post something on Foko while working, you are building workplace cohesion.

“It’s all in how you used the social media,” said Sauve. “It’s the fact that it’s private that makes all the difference. If you take a picture at work and share it on Instagram: are you sharing secrets, are you sharing embarrassing stuff about the store and does it meet with the branding guidelines of how we interact with the public? But if you share it internally, nobody cares about that stuff.” Sauve added, “Sharing within a constrained group really changes the nature of social media.”

In the upcoming week, Foko is also introducing the private messaging feature to their application, enabling workers to communicate with individuals in the company. Instead of sending a photo to the entire company, you can select the co-workers you would like to receive the picture and reach out to them privately. Say, they forgot their mints at work, well what better way to notify and reassure them that it’s still there—untouched— than with a fresh picture of it?