Social media has become very important in today's society as a means of communication, information, and, well, judgement. Meeting all the requirements and working your hardest on your firefighter promotional exam prep and acing your exam is not enough to get promoted anymore. You must have a clean social media.
Why Does Social Media Matter?
In order to get your job with your current fire department, your superiors may have already checked out your social media pages before you were hired. Checking a potential employee's social media pages is becoming a more common practice among fire departments and can be included in a potential employee's background check. This is because when you put on that uniform you are now representing your fire station to your local community. Your job is to help anyone and everyone who needs it without prejudice. Your name is on the back of your jacket when you go on calls and you can easily be found by the general public for whatever reason good or bad.
What Not to Have on Your Social Media Pages
Avoid posting things on your social media that are offensive to others. Posting racist, sexist, or homophobic content on your social media pages is a great way to alienate yourself from the community you have signed up to help and even your coworkers. You are in a position of power and control even as a standard fire fighter, you do not want those you take care of to think you are judging them. In addition, if your employers find this information on your social media I can guarantee they will not be happy and there could be consequences. For example, when my brother was becoming a firefighter a man who does background checks called me and asked me some questions about him and was being very vague, so I asked him exactly what he wanted to know and he said, “is he racist.” Your character is important as a firefighter and will be scrutinized even more the higher up the ranks you move.
Illegal activity seems like an obvious one, but I will say it anyway, do not post pictures or videos of you doing illegal activities. For example, don’t post videos of you and your friends drinking at a bar then yourself driving home. Don’t post images of yourself burning debris in your yard in the middle of a burn ban. Just think smart before you post on social media so you can have a successful career path within the fire service.
So this one is similar to the above illegal activity but a little more nit picky honestly. You do not want to post photos of yourself drunk, doing drugs (even the legal ones), cussing, and doing things that make you seem immature and unprofessional. If you wouldn’t show your boss the post you are about to share on social media, don’t share it.
Now this one may strike a nerve with some people, and it is totally understandable. Posting extreme political opinions on Facebook has the same marganilizing effect as posting racist/homophobic/sexist content. You want your superior officers and the public to view you as an accepting person that is capable of being a leader that truly cares about everyone you serve to protect.
Why You Should Have a Social Media Presence
Now that all of that has been said, you may think “well I am just going to get rid of all social media.” I urge you not to. This is because as you move up the ranks you will need to be privy to the social media of your team. Not only that, it is a great way to stay up to date with community happenings and there are so many beneficial groups and support systems on social media platforms for firefighters. So do not delete those social media platforms all together.
Social media is a sensitive topic. It is a person’s private space but is unfortunately viewable by the general public. You need to keep your social media page clean and respectful if you want to be promoted in the fire service. So keep posting those adorable family pictures and photos of your pets, nature, and your vehicles and avoid posting anything that your future superior officers may find offensive.