47% of Facebook Walls Contain Profanity, but Should Employers Give a Darn?

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Well, dang.

A new survey conducted by Reppler, an online service that helps “keep your social reputation safe,” unveiled new data that shows 47% of Facebook users have profanity on their walls. Scanning 30,000 user profiles, the study found that 80% of users have at least one post or comment from a friend containing swear words.

In terms of the most used phrases, the “F”-bomb and its derivatives lead the charge, with s*** coming in second, and the “B”-word coming in a distant third.

Naturally, none of this should come as a surprise, but it raises interesting questions about online identity.

The massive success of LinkedIn’s initial public offering would indicate that, yes, there is a need for a space where users can maintain a squeaky-clean professional persona. In fact, one of LinkedIn’s primary lures is that it provides an outlet for its users to put their best feet forward while inviting the evaluations of prospective employers.

On the other hand, Facebook’s long been a proponent of openness on the web, with recent initiatives indicating that it’s looking to scale back its role as cyber police, at least in terms of free speech. But potential and current employers have long used social media to monitor and track employees, with a 2009 study indicating that 45% use Facebook and Twitter to screen job candidates, and that number’s likely similar today, if not higher.

And before everyone get’s all huffy about online privacy and the business ethics of having their bosses scan their profiles, stop and ask yourself this question first: Wouldn’t you do the exact same thing?

For Facebook users it’s obviously best to exercise caution so as not to get yourself in trouble (go to Account -> Privacy Settings, and change everything to “Friends Only” at least).

With different social media outlets popping up, every day presents different ways to manage and maintain one’s online identity. Who you are, say, on Tumblr, might be very different from the way you present yourself on MeetUp. Or Twitter.

Even though stories of teachers getting fired for using the “B”-word on their private profiles occasionally bubble to the surface, I think employers are starting to realize that their workers, like themselves, are more multi-faceted than they put forth. There’s a certain degree of behavior that–when kept to a relative degree of obscurity–should be understandable. But tolerance is quiet and hardly ever makes for a story.

Still, ethics and surveillance on the web still swirl around in a murky sphere; in the meantime it’s probably best to keep it all on the safe side if you care about things like, well, having a job.

(via Mashable)

More on TIME.com:

10 Things You Shouldn’t Do On Facebook

Bing Adds Facebook Social Features

Why Your Personal Information Wants to Be Free