by Matthew Sparkes
July 12, 2014 (TSR-Telegraph) – When 17-year-old Axelle Despiegelaere went to support her native Belgium at the World Cup she wasn’t expecting it to lead to a job offer. But a long-distance photo of her went viral on Twitter, where she was labelled the “most beautiful” fan in Brazil, and L’Oreal came knocking with a modelling contract.
The competition is not even over and the company has already shot a video where Axelle is doused in its products, uploaded it to YouTube and received over two million hits. Such is the speed at which marketing now works.
But the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long: Axelle’s fledgling modelling career is already finished, after images of her posing next to dead animals on the African savannah with a rifle and a smile as big as she wore at the football.
She defended her actions, sort of, by posting: “Hunting is not a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that.” But Twitter and Facebook have been alight with criticism from animal rights campaigners.
Now, L’Oréal Professionnel Belgium has not said explicitly that it dropped her because of those images, but it told The Independent that it had simply “collaborated with her on an ad hoc basis to produce a video for social media use in Belgium. The contract has now been completed.”
If the pictures played a part in that decision – and it seems strange that L’Oreal would rush to sign her up and then drop her so soon after such a successful video – it would be far from the first case of someone losing work over an online indiscretion. In fact, it’s become a common cause of dismissals.
Even a cursory search of The Telegraph‘s website turns up the woman who complained that she “hated her job” and called her boss “pervy”, forgetting that she had added him as a friend and that her posts were therefore visible to him. Another office worker was fired for calling her job “boring”. Waitrose fired a worker for writing “F**k the Partnership” on his Facebook page, referring to the trust which owns John Lewis and the supermarket.
And many employers will be proactive and vet potential workers online before they are even interviewed. This means that your Facebook page could not only cost you your job, but stop you landing it in the first place.
Think back to your last interview: was there a candidate with more experience, confidence or talent – or did HR just find that picture of you leant over a toilet cistern in a dodgy Soho pub with a rolled-up £20 note?
A 2010 report from Microsoft said that social media checks were already as important in the job selection process as a CV or interview. Some 70 per cent of HR managers at the top 100 companies in the UK, US, Germany and France said that they had rejected candidates because of their online behaviour.
And protecting your account offers little protection. Research shows that the average 22-year-old Briton has over 1,000 Facebook friends. Do they really know and trust all of those people? Embarrassing content has an unfortunate habit of spreading, regardless of barriers put in the way.
This latest social media faux pas shows that teenagers have still not learned the lesson that your behaviour online casts a permanent shadow which can have serious repercussions. Either that, or it shows that some people don’t see anything wrong with using a technological advantage to track and kill animals for fun. I’m not sure which is most depressing.