It’s the stuff of nightmares, and it happened to comedian Kevin Hart late last year.
Old – and offensive – tweets resurfaced in which Hart made homophobic statements. The posts from 2011 triggered a social media outcry and Hart ultimately stepped down from hosting Hollywood’s night-of-nights, the Oscars.
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“While it is always best to think twice before posting something online, many of us are guilty of having posted something that could potentially be damaging to us down the track,” online consumer safety expert and ‘Cybermum’ at McAfee, Alex Merton-McCann said.
“It happens to the best of us, with even high profile celebrities and public figures having old social media posts come back to bite them.”
In fact, McAfee research found two-thirds of Australians have been embarrassed by old social media posts, and nearly one-quarter know someone who has had their career or job prospects negatively impacted by content they’ve either posted or been tagged in.
Another 19 per cent said they could lose their job over their social media footprint.
Despite these figures, more than one-quarter of Australians have never or can’t remember the last time they checked their old posts, while two-thirds have one dormant social media account.
“What is particularly concerning is the number of people who haven’t deleted old social media accounts that they aren’t using or checking,” said Merton-McCann.
She said old inappropriate posts don’t just cause work problems, they can also be used by cybercriminals for personal gain.
“Give your social media accounts a ‘digital health check’ on a regular basis, and take the opportunity to un-tag, report or delete any embarrassing or inappropriate content and increase your privacy settings,” she suggested.
“Not only will you reduce the chances that this content will be used against you by prospective employers or even your friends, but it will stop cybercriminals with more malicious intentions from accessing your personal information.”
The 10 most embarrassing social media posts
These are the old posts that Australians are the most embarrassed by, according to the McAfee research..
1. Drunken behaviour
2. Comment that can be perceived as offensive
3. Wearing an embarrassing outfit
4. Wardrobe malfunction
5. In their underwear
6. Throwing up
8. Kissing someone they shouldn’t have been
9. Sleeping somewhere they shouldn’t
10. Exposing themselves on purpose
While these will all send red flags to current and potential employers, according to employment service SEEK, there’s one more thing employers will be looking at that workers may not be aware of: the timing of your posts.
If an employer sees a potential hire making lots of social media posts during work hours, that will definitely cause a “question mark”.