Do Bosses Check Social Media When Employees Are Out Sick?

Most employees, whether they are teenage part time workers or adult full timers, don’t appear to give much thought to calling in sick as long as they don’t do it too often. From what we’ve seen, these sick days can sometimes be “mental health days”, when the employee isn’t sick but just needs a break.

snooWe aren’t judging people here, but we saw a thread on Reddit recently where some people commented on their strategies around whether they connect with coworkers on social media, and what has happened when things went wrong.

On connecting with people from work, the two most popular posts were:

“If you are dumb enough to give yourself away on social media you deserve it.”

and

“This has been happening for years. That’s why I don’t friend/follow people from work. That’s also why I rarely use social media, I don’t want everyone to anyways know what I’m up to.”

Apparently a lot of people feel strongly that it’s a bad idea to be social media friends with people from work, particularly your boss. What’s the downside? Well, your coworkers might stop trusting you for one thing.

“My coworker asked me to cover for her the other day because “her father in law just got diagnosed with stage iv colon cancer and she needs to be there to support him”. Then she posted pictures to Facebook of her tailgating all day and going to a football game. She asked me to cover for her again this weekend and I was like f*** no.”

and

“I had a coworker ask me to cover her opening shift one time. I happened to be on FB and saw pictures she posted from the previous night, drinking and having a good time. She wasn’t ill, she was hung over. She made her decision and did that to herself. I said no.”

You can also get into hot water for badmouthing fellow employees or the company:

“We did have an issue with a co-worker going on Twitter and posting her issues with various co-workers during business hours with it displaying prominently on her page where she worked. She got fired.”

You should avoid doing that whether you are linked to your coworkers or not.

And the people who make the mistake of posting their antics after calling in sick:

“Dude at my job said he was sick and used a sick day to go to his own wedding. Posted pics on FB. Fired next day.”

~

“A former coworker of mine got fired this way. She was supposed to be on short term disability for being in a car accident, but her Facebook pictures had her in Hawaii and other places vacationing. When my employer decided to downsize, she was one of the first to be let go.”

~

“Went to the movies to see Batman vs. Superman with my fiancée after calling in sick. I have no coworkers added but my fiancée is friends with some of mine. Well… like most women do, they have to take pictures of dates & that’s how I got my first write up.”

This mindset was prevalent throughout:

People getting in trouble for this crap are completely stupid. If you lied about being sick and instead went to Disneyland, maybe don’t post the photos from Disneyland until a couple weeks later.”

In summary, it’s up to you whether your connect with coworkers on social media, but if you do, the risks are elevated if:

  • You make negative comments about your coworkers, company or customers
  • You call in sick and post proof that you aren’t

Always post wisely, as if you assume others will see what you’re putting online. The others in this case might be your bosses. When you post publicly online, you’ve given up your right to privacy.

 

 

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Meet Imzy – A New, Kinder Competitor to Reddit

snooReddit, the social network that is actually a collection of thousands of forums (called subreddits) based on the varied interests of users, is absolutely huge. Reddit attracts 230 million unique users monthly, and those users have created over 800,000 subreddits. If you’re the type of person who likes to hunt down information, and comment on that info, whatever your interests are you will find something to like on Reddit.

The problem with Reddit, if there is one, is that there are very few rules about permissible content and conduct. Most adult content is permitted, and the site does little (but more than they used to) to combat cyberbullying and harassment. As we said last year, the last time the site made changes to its content guidelines:

“If your teen is into a very specific thing, like the video game Minecraft (446,000 subscribers) or photography (250,000 subs), chances are that there is a lot of great content for him on Reddit. If he idly browses Reddit to see what else is there, he is likely to encounter nudity and gore. If he chooses to comment more than a handful of times, chances are good that he might be cyberbullied.”

Would some, or a lot, of Reddit’s 230 million users opt for another similarly structured network if a kinder, more wholesome one were available? Two former Reddit employees aim to find out.

Dan McComas and Jessica Moreno have launched Imzy, a network that works like Reddit but aims to keep bad behavior to a minimum. This will be accomplished in part by how the site is structured – there will be no home page that attracts general interest users. Rather, users can only post in communities to which they’re subscribed.

If the moderators, who are mostly volunteers for now, are to keep the peace on Imzy, they’ll need to police the Imzy’s rules. In short, lots of things are prohibited:

  • Don’t post content that is pornographic, glorifies self-harm, promotes terrorism, or displays gore or torture relating to people or animals
  • Don’t harass, spam, impersonate, or deceive others
  • Don’t share any content that you do not have the necessary rights to. Respect the intellectual property rights of others
  • Don’t use the services to do anything illegal

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of your teen browsing Reddit then check out Imzy, or suggest that your teen do so. If they can attract enough users, it might be a great alternative to Reddit.

 

 

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Reddit Is a Great Resource for Parents

We’ve written before that social media forum Reddit is no place for the really young or faint of heart, so it may come as a surprise to hear us say that it can be a great resource for parents. The truth of the matter is that Reddit is a great resource for just about anyone and everything. Yes, the site contains more than its share of cyberbullying, adult content and general bad behavior, but all that can be avoided if you know where to look, or where not to look.

snooThe forum is divided up into user-defined categories, called subreddits, (reddit.com/r/XXX, over 850,000 strong and counting) and its 240 million plus monthly users post and comment on news, research, images, video and opinions. The reasons are many that Reddit just “works” if you’re looking for information:

  • If you’re looking for something specific, you’re likely to find a subreddit that caters to that category
  • Many power users post frequently in their area of expertise
  • Each original post and comment is sorted by an upvote/downvote mechanism that results in the most relevant information floating to the surface
  • The site updates constantly, in real time

If you’re looking for information or ideas and you take to Google, you are trusting that someone has written something relevant on that topic, and recently if it’s topical. As such, Google search results can be hit or miss. Finding a subreddit that that has up-to-date news, advice and information can be a boon for busy parents.

Here are a handful of the subreddits that we think parents should take advantage of:

r/Parenting – (90,000 subscribers) “…anything related to the controlled chaos we call parenting.”

r/AskParents – (1,400 subscribers) A subreddit devoted to answering parents’ questions, i.e. you ask and other parents answer.

r/DigitalParenting – (We started this last year and we’re just getting going) “Digital parenting information and discussion for parents. Computers, cell phones, the internet and social media.”

r/Daddit – (40,000 subscribers) A subreddit just for dads.

r/Mommit – (20,000 subscribers) “Mucking through the ickier parts of child raising. It may not always be pretty, fun and awesome, but we do it.”

r/KidsCrafts – (1,900 subscribers) “a wide range of projects for kids as well as ideas that will help challenge and guide children through whatever subject they investigate.”

r/ScienceParents – (2,600 subscribers) The goal of this subreddit is to “share learning resources geared towards kids as well as experiments you and your kids have done together. Take a hands on approach to teaching science to your kids while having fun.”

There are plenty more valuable subreddits out there if you poke around.

A final note: the search function on Reddit itself is pretty weak. If you don’t know the name of subreddit you’re looking for, you’re better off Googling “subreddit for XXX”. That works just fine.

 

 

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Reddit Ends Shadowbans, Intros Suspensions

Unless you’re an avid Reddit user, you might not know what a shadowban is. Even if you are a Reddit user, you might not know, as many users who do get shadowbanned don’t figure it out for weeks or months.

reddit-snooThe shadowban was Reddit’s thoroughly inelegant solution to deal with, among other things, abusive users. When a user is shadowbanned (usually for abusing another redditor and getting reported for it) he can keep posting, but his posts, comments and votes are invisible to everyone else on the site. In Reddit’s own words, the Shadowban “is great for dealing with bots/spam rings but woefully inadequate for real human beings.”

Reddit previewed back in May that they would be taking a number of steps to make the site more user-friendly and free of harassment. That is easier said than done, since the site is cherished by (many of) its users as a bastion of free speech.

This week Reddit is taking what we think is a very positive step forward in its delicate balancing act between allowing free speech and users who are out to harass others. Account suspensions are now a thing, replacing shadowbans. According to a related post, suspensions can be handed down by Reddit employees (not by unpaid moderators) for the following actions:

  • Posting anything illegal, Revenge Porn or spam
  • Inciting or encouraging violence
  • Threatening, harassing or cyberbullying
  • Divulging others’ personal information (Reddit is mostly anonymous)
  • Impersonating others (does not include parodies)

Suspended users with not be able to post, comment, vote or message other users throughout the term of the suspension.

Reddit maintains that the suspension is a better solution, and we agree. Suspended users will be notified via private message, and will have the opportunity to appeal. They will know what they did wrong, and have incentive to not do it again. Suspensions can last from one day to an outright ban, which is also warranted in some cases from what we’ve seen.

The fact that there is some mature content on Reddit might make the site inappropriate for some teens. There is however, a wealth of valuable content there. Both of my teen boys use Reddit, one of them almost daily. If Reddit’s efforts succeed in making the experience safer for users, it’s a step in the right direction.

 

 

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Reddit Updates Content Guidelines

Reddit, the news and discussion social media forum with almost 200 million monthly users, is getting more serious about policing the content posted on its site, and this week they updated their Content Policy. This is good news for parents of teens who frequent Reddit, and there are a lot of them.

reddit-snooThe decision doesn’t appear to have been an easy one, for very good reasons. The chief reason that this set of changes is difficult is that Reddit was built to be a site where users could post, vote on and discuss whatever they were interested in. Some people are interested in some things that are wildly objectionable to others. It’s tough to find a balance.
According to founder and newly installed CEO Steve Huffman:

“Our policies are not changing dramatically from what we have had in the past. One new concept is Quarantining a community, which entails applying a set of restrictions to a community so its content will only be viewable to those who explicitly opt in. We will Quarantine communities whose content would be considered extremely offensive to the average redditor.

Today, in addition to applying Quarantines, we are banning a handful of communities that exist solely to annoy other redditors, prevent us from improving Reddit, and generally make Reddit worse for everyone else. Our most important policy over the last ten years has been to allow just about anything so long as it does not prevent others from enjoying Reddit for what it is: the best place online to have truly authentic conversations.”

In addition to introducing Quarantines, Reddit took the changes as an opportunity to outright ban another handful of offensive subreddits, including some that were focused on racism and child porn. They took similar actions a few weeks ago.

As a parent, ensuring that your online teens are looking at age appropriate material is a tough job indeed. Reddit is an example of a site where it’s very, very difficult. If your teen is into a very specific thing, like the video game Minecraft (446,000 subscribers) or photography (250,000 subs), chances are that there is a lot of great content for him on Reddit. If he idly browses Reddit to see what else is there, he is likely to encounter nudity and gore. If he chooses to comment more than a handful of times, chances are good that he might be cyberbullied.

It’s not impossible for teens to have an appropriate experience on Reddit, even though it will never be free of objectionable (to some) material. Both my teens use it. It’s important to restrict Reddit access to teens who are mature enough to navigate the land mines.

 

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Is Voat Safe for Teens?

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably never heard of Voat, a newish news and commentary social media platform.

It’s more likely that you’ve heard of Voat-mascotReddit, a social network that is very similar (if you haven’t, that’s okay – more than a third of Reddit users are 24 or younger). It’s not a coincidence the two networks are similar. Voat is quite literally a clone of Reddit.

You may have also heard that Reddit has been having big problems lately, as users and moderators have been revolting over a number of issues. One of the key issues is censorship, from the users’ point of view. Reddit’s management views what they are doing as more along the lines of maintaining a responsible community.

Which gets us back to whether Voat is safe for teens – and the answer is no. Both sites’ Term of Service are very lax about permitted content and on both users are mostly anonymous. The rules according to Reddit:

reddit-rules

There are a few more Reddit rules, known as Reddiquette, and you can see them here.

From Voat’s User Agreement:

“Keep Everyone Safe: You agree to not intentionally jeopardize the health and safety of others or yourself. Keep Personal Information Off voat: You agree to not post anyone’s sensitive personal information that relates to that person’s real world or online identity. Do Not Incite Harm: You agree not to encourage harm against people. Protect Kids: You agree not to post any child pornography or sexually suggestive content involving minors.”

While’s Voat’s rules may look more strict, the difference between the two is that Reddit has begun battling harassment in earnest. On Voat, there is no such battle because harassment is permitted, and that is why former Reddit users have been migrating to Voat. Voat is Swiss-based, and if your teen is in North America and using Voat, you might want to ask him why he is doing so in the first place. Reddit has more content and more users. Chances are he is doing so because Reddit is policing some of the inappropriate behavior that he is interested in. For example, one of the forums that Reddit recently shut down was based solely on shaming fat people.

Because most types of adult content is permitted on both networks, neither is really safe for teens. On Voat, you have the added risk of unchecked harassment. Even is your teen is not participating, that’s not the best environment of be hanging out in.

 

 

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Downvotes, Digital Citizenship and Online Safety

An army of virtual downvoting trolls could be coming for your teen.

reddit-downvote-2A downvote is a feature used by some social networks and apps as part of a system to make sure that the “best” content rises to the top of user feeds. The definition of best, or most popular, is solely determined by the whim of users (with the possible exception of Yik Yak, which appears to downvote any mention of another social network), but it works well in some cases. The other elements of this set of “voting” features are positive indications (upvotes, Likes or hearts), a network’s reporting system for abuse and trolls, and in some cases user comments. Reddit, Yik Yak, Quora and Hyper are among the few networks or social apps that have a downvote option for users; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most others do not.

Why do sites use it? Well, let’s take Twitter for example. Many users and ex-users describe Twitter as being too “noisy”, with all content appearing in reverse chronological order, not sorted by topic or quality at all. Likewise with Instagram. Facebook on the other hand takes on the grave responsibility of deciding what is important to you, deploying their algorithm to determine which posts actually show up in your feed. Both have obvious shortcomings.

The reason that most sites don’t have a negative vote option probably relates to the fact that it cuts down on some engagement, which could lead to fewer users and less time on site. If a post that you were going to make could get downvoted into oblivion, you would be less likely to post it. If your posts consistently get negative feedback, you might leave that network entirely.

What does a downvote mean, exactly? A number of discussions on Reddit and Quora hash out what they mean and how users actually use them. To the question of whether a downvote is ever appropriate, one Quora user offered the most community-friendly answer of all:

quora-downvote

Of course, life is not that simple. Another Quora user feels free being quite a bit heavier handed:

quora-downvote-2

The above user appears to be very comfortable being the judge and jury.

Reddit’s user guide, their reddiquette section, takes a very constructive view. In their “please don’t” section:

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.26.41 AM

As a matter of fact, on the r/news subreddit, if you hover over the downvote button, a popup occurs stating “This isn’t a disagree button. Use selectively.”

reddit-news-downvote

It appears that the powers that be want the downvote used exclusively to improve the community.

In practice, if you’re the parent of a teen, the downvote thing (on Reddit and elsewhere) appears to be a kind of kangaroo court where others are quite quick to slam your content or opinion because they don’t like it or disagree. It doesn’t operate with any significant level of decorum (you don’t see when people were nice enough to not downvote), and it is something that could be impacting the self esteem of your kid. What is more, all downvotes on the networks above are anonymous, and unless a user downvotes and comments, your teen will have no idea why the negative feedback is occurring.

We’re not saying that networks that allow downvotes are bad, they actually work in most cases to elevate good content and organize opinions, but some users are just plain mean, and cyberbullying is common. Just beware that if a young user in one of these networks, he either needs to be very thick skinned about what he posts or is sure to post and comment very carefully.

 

 

 

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Reddit Has A Problem

All hell broke loose on Reddit this week, the social media site where users can post and comment on just reddit-snooabout anything. Content is organized into subreddits that are curated by moderators around a specific topic, i.e r/newjersey is user submitted New Jersey news, r/pics is for pictures submitted by Redditors. After content is posted, other users can upvote or downvote the post, which results in the “best” content rising to the top of each subreddit.

The controversy this week revolved around a well-publicized policy change by Reddit – that they are cracking down on abusive users. From Reddit’s blog last month:

“Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.”

What Reddit did this week was delete 5 entire subreddit communities, including r/fatpeoplehate and r/hamplanethatred, two communities populated by people who hate on overweight folks. Of course banning such vile communities on principle alone based on the content might seem like a good idea but that is not what happened. The subreddits were banned because the moderators failed or chose not to crack down on abusive users – users who were abusing individuals on and off Reddit. The virtual riot that ensued was led by a very vocal minority of users that oppose any type of censorship on Reddit, and many of them even decided to decamp to another social site called Voat, which reportedly has even less censorship.

mathew-ingram-reddit

Reddit, with 170 million monthly users and 7 billion page views last month, is here to stay despite its sometime horrific content. Here’s what parents need to know:

If you have a teenage boy, he could be a Reddit user – The largest demographic on Reddit is young males. I have 2 teenage boys at home who are Reddit users, as are their friends from what I hear.

The bad content on Reddit will continue – Reddit is reacting to users who attack individuals, but vile content is not outlawed. For example, the extremely racist subreddit r/coontown has been unaffected, but we presume that if a user there attacked a specific individual, the individual reported the abuse and the moderators took no action, then the subreddit could be at risk.

There is lots of bad content online – We probably don’t have to tell you this, but every variety of despicable content is available online. Reddit is not the only problem – far from it.

There is lots of great content on Reddit – From communities revolving around video games, sports and yes, pictures of cats to wildly popular AMAs (Ask Me Anything) sessions with famous folks President Obama and Bill Gates, if your teen likes to dive deep into specific topics, a Reddit community probably has what he is looking for.

Once your teen has unsupervised internet access, it is virtually impossible to tell him which sites he can visit and know that he will comply. What you can do is talk to him, frequently, about what types of content are age appropriate, and what types of interactions are positive. Reddit has a problem, but Reddit isn’t the problem.

By the way, the vocal minority of haters on Reddit is just that – a petition at Change.org to have CEO Ellen Pao ousted over this new policy has fewer than 10,000 signatures.

 

 

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Reddit Improves Safety Tools, Will End the Shadowban

A comment thread related to a blog post on Reddit today states in no uncertain terms that Reddit is working on getting rid of the shadowban.

reddit-snooIn the blog post – a good one – the Reddit admins announced improvements designed to ensure the safety of Reddit users. The company’s goal is reducing harassment by providing better reporting tools. Supposedly Reddit will also add the staff necessary to investigate and address reports of harassment, which it defines as:

“Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.”

Even if you don’t use Reddit, there is a good chance that your teens do. The site attracts over 160 million monthly unique visitors.

One feature of Reddit that as far as we know is unique to them is the shadowban. When a user is shadowbanned he can keep posting, but his posts and comments are invisible to everyone else on the site. According to reports, shadowbanned users can go months without figuring out that they’re been blacklisted.

When it comes to harassment, ending the shadowban is the correct step for Reddit and the community. When a user is shadowbanned, yes, the abuse stops, but the harasser has learned nothing about the consequences of his actions.

The announcement was made by Reddit’s founder and Executive Chairman:

“[The shadowban] was a product decision we made literally 10 years ago — it has not been updated and it needs to be. Back when we made it, we had only annoying marketers to deal with and it was easier to ‘neuter’ them (that’s what we called it) and let them think they could keep spamming us so that we could focus on more important things like building the site. We’ve recently hired someone for this task and it will also be more user-friendly.

It’s actually still used a vast majority of the time (north of 90%) on spammers/advertisers. I know it’s an easy meme to latch on to, but that’s the truth of it.

By my estimate, [some] people who do get banned and aren’t spammers/advertisers could be reformed if we just made it all more explicit — that’s what we’re going to do.”

Reddit is home to a lot of lively debate and argument, some of which devolves into nasty harassment and cyberbullying. Some users appear to be just plain nasty and perhaps they’ll never change. There is a chance that those who are acting on a short fuse, or others who are just doing it to get a reaction can change their behavior is challenged and/or disciplined by the Reddit platform. It’s an effort worth making.

 

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Reddit Updates Privacy Policy, May Focus on Stalkers and Harassment

reddit

Reddit, the controversial news and special interest-related social media site, has always been at the head of the class in terms of being transparent with users about its Privacy Policy.

New management is in place, and yesterday they made a very public announcement about how they are changing both their Privacy Policy and User Agreement, both of which go into effect January 29. We give them high marks for announcing the changes ahead of time, and welcoming comment from the Reddit community. From a NY Times reporter:

Many of the changes relate to advertising displayed on Reddit’s official app, Alien Blue, which they acquired in October. The announcement on the revised policies, made in the form of a Reddit post (of course), drew a lot of interest, and over 1,600 comments in under 24 hours. The summary:

The following is a brief summary (TL;DR) of the changes to the Privacy Policy and User Agreement. We strongly encourage that you read the documents in full.

  • Clarify that across all products including advertising, except for the IP address you use to create the account, all IP addresses will be deleted from our servers after 90 days.

  • Clarify we work with Stripe and Paypal to process reddit gold transactions.

  • We reserve the right to delay notice to users of external requests for information in cases involving the exploitation of minors and other exigent circumstances.

  • We use pixel data to collect information about how users use reddit for internal analytics.

  • Clarify that we limit employee access to user data.

  • We beefed up the section of our User Agreement on intellectual property, the DMCA and takedowns to clarify how we notify users of requests, how they can counter-notice, and that we have a repeat infringer policy.

Staff was available to answer questions/comments, and a comment that drew our interest, and the interest of a lot of Redditors in the thread, was the following:

Reddit-TOS

That’s good news. Reddit users are known to spend a lot of time on the site, and share many deeply felt personal opinions. As we saw in last year’s Gamergate disaster, some users ended up being harassed or doxed as a result of saying how they felt about the Video Game industry.

We aren’t about to weigh in on Gamergate, but want to applaud Reddit management for looking like they’ll tackle the problem head on. Balancing free speech with the safety of users has never been easy for a community like Reddit. As Reddit users and internet safety advocates, we hope they get it right.

 

 

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