Sure, social media sounds like something that increases quality of life, but two recent stories out of the U.K. demonstrate just how easily the opposite could be true: Facebook apparently has the power to not only end your marriage, but also get you fired. Be very afraid.
According to a report in The Guardian, Facebook is partly responsible for the sacking of at least two police officers over the past four years. It’s also let to seven resignations and 150 officers facing disciplinary action after posting inappropriate pictures or comments. An official review into police corruption found there was “significant blurring” between officers’ professional and private lives on social media, and that it was potentially damaging to the reputation of the police force in general. According to Roger Baker, who led the investigation, “Social networking is seen as a risk by all forces and authorities, but there are limited or inconsistent policies around what is acceptable, what you should do [and] what you shouldn’t do.”
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Also under fire: Facebook and marriage, lacking “consistent policies around what is acceptable.” A new study by Divorce Online discovered that 33% of divorces in 2011 implicate Facebook in some way, a significant rise from 2009’s 13%. Reasons cited incude: users making inappropriate comments or messages to members of the opposite sex, and users making unpleasant messages or comments about their spouse and Facebook friends reporting on a spouse’s behavior. Mark Keenan, a spokesman for Divorce Online, suggested that Facebook’s increased importance as a communication tool was behind the rise, saying that “If someone wants to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex, then it’s the easiest place to do it.” (It’s certainly the most common social network: Twitter was referenced as a reason in only 20 out of the 5,000 divorce petitions surveyed, perhaps illustrating how difficult it is to flirt with 140 characters or less.)
Both stories have one thing in common: They’re less about the dangers of social media than they are about the thoughtlessness of those using it. Yes, Facebook can get you fired or cause a divorce, but only if you use it to post stupid comments.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.