Movie poster for The Social Network, a movie based on the 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook.
Movie poster for The Social Network, a movie based on a book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, about a popular website that has ended the distinction between private space and work space. Columbia Pictures

What interests me most about this story concerning a police officer who, according to the Post and Courier, lost his job because he posed on Facebook in Confederate flag boxer shorts, is the cluelessness of the officer. In fact, we can say he was fired precisely because he revealed just how clueless he is to his employers, the city of North Charleston. This action transmitted an important piece of information about an employee: He is clueless. All of the standard and even expensive forms of screening would easily have missed this key detail, which was provided for nothing on the social network. (The book The New Spirit of Capitalism has a section on how computers make deep cuts on screening and monitoring costs.)

So, it's not so much that the officer may or may not be a racist...

The photo would make it impossible for [for the officer] to handle criminal cases involving minorities “since defense counsel can reasonably be expected to use the photograph to call into question … your motivation in making the arrest.”

...but that he certainly has no idea of the kind of world he lives in. Everyone should know by now that surveillance in the second decade of the 21st century is not just limited to secretive state agencies, but is also about citizens monitoring other citizens, and, in the case of social networks, you monitoring you. The logic is simple: If you can't do a good job of watching you, then you do not deserve to have a job at all.

The biggest impact Facebook has had on American society is on employment. You are no longer judged solely on your résumé (indeed, those might be on the way out) but on how you present yourself on the social network site. Despite this fact being as obvious to employers as the sun in the sky, many American workers are still under the impression that a real line exists between home and the job, that the time at work is for your boss and the time away from your job is for yourself. This kind of thinking is nothing but madness. That line has been thoroughly dissolved.

In the world you now live in, work never leaves you. Your boss is there in your car, your yard, your bedroom, your boxers. Also, there is no exit from this self-monitoring. Not having a Facebook account casts a serious shadow of suspicion on you. No one wants to hire an unknown, or a worker who only provides a document filled with just dates and academic achievements. They want to see the real you—at home, on vacation, eating dinner, drinking with friends, visiting family, and so on.

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders once sang: "Your private life drama, baby leave me out." The boss of the 21st century does not sing this tune.