By Ben Nadarajan
HIS favourite band was in town, and he called in sick just to make sure work did not hold him back from attending the concert that night.
Shawn (not his real name) almost got away with it, but his friends posted photographs of him at the concert on social networking site Facebook the next day.
His colleagues, who were also on his Facebook account, saw the photos, and word of it made its way to his supervisor.
Shawn, who is in his late 20s, was fired. 'I forgot that my friends would post the pictures online, and that I had people at work on my Facebook too,' he told The Straits Times.
Another professional, who is in his mid-30s, got into trouble after a Facebook status update on how he had had a great dinner at a steak restaurant.
The problem was that he was supposed to have been resting at home after he called in sick with diarrhoea.
He was ticked off by his boss, but not sacked. He has since made a conscious effort to check that anything he puts on Facebook is safe.
'Now, I update only after thinking through for a few minutes. It is not just for work stuff. Sometimes, I tell my friends I don't feel well enough to meet them, but then they realise I was out partying,' he said.
A recent survey on ethics at the workplace by Deloitte found that more than half of 2,008 Americans polled said their social networking pages were none of their bosses' concern.
More than a third never or rarely considered what their bosses, colleagues or clients would think before posting something online. About two-thirds said they would not change their online habits even if they knew their bosses were watching.
About 7 per cent said they knew of a colleague who had been sacked in the past six months for online activity.
While bosses and human resource experts said such cases are rare here, they anticipate it would be only a matter of time before more cases come up because of the increasing popularity of such websites.
Last month, an insurance company stopped monthly payouts to a woman in Canada after it saw Facebook photos of her having fun overseas and at a male strip show on her birthday.
She had been receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from Canada's Manulife Financial Insurance for a year as she had been on leave from IBM's Quebec office after being diagnosed with major depression.
Sociology lecturer Paulin Straughan said people like to update their Facebook status and post photos as they want to see who reads their posts or views their pictures.
'However, the naive perception is that they will be normal people, like your friends, and not people who will use them against you,' she said.
Associate Professor Viktor Mayer-Schonberger of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Centre at the National University of Singapore said: 'Users forget that what is said on Facebook is not something that just comes and goes, but a digital message that is kept forever.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.