Several towns have been in the news recently due to employees’ behavior on social networks and on their own time. Celebrities also are not immune — Ted Nugent, for example, has recently been in the national and Bangor spotlight for public comments he made about President Barack Obama.

Navigation of social networks and employer attempts to regulate personal opinions of employees have led to discussions nationwide about what is appropriate. Some employers have begun asking for employees’ login information for sites like Facebook during job interviews to gauge what type of extracurricular activities people share with friends and family.

A Midcoast state representative has reportedly received death threats for nearly year-old comments he made about former Vice President Dick Cheney.

So where does free speech end? Should anyone who may ever consider serving as a public official remain guarded at all times for fear an offhand comment could come back and bite them? Can employers require employees to keep mum about their personal opinions?

Some of those questions have recently been asked in the town of Searsport, where officials there are now hammering out an amendment to the town’s existing computer use policy regarding employees’ use of social media. That discussion stemmed, in part, from a Nov. 16 posting that appeared on a Facebook page that was in use by members of  Searsport Fire Department, where Fire Chief Jim Dittmeier offered his personal thoughts about the ongoing debate surrounding the development proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream to construct a 22.7-million-gallon LPG tank at Mack Point. In that posting, Dittmeier described local opponents of the development as “a few people that just want the town to stay this way and die” and suggested, “maybe we should have a sign that says ‘Searsport, Town of Complainers who are against everything.'”

In a subsequent letter to the editor, Dittmeier reiterated his feelings, but stressed that he was expressing his opinion as a taxpayer and not as the town’s fire chief.

The explosion of social media site in recent years has moved too quickly for employers to create policies that remain relevant. Some employers may not have any policy in place at all, instead opting for a “common sense” unspoken policy — an issue because common sense is objective. The fact is, what one person finds acceptable, another does not. These days there are countless stories of people who have lost their jobs due to social media snafus — due to either written comments or “inappropriate” photos that an employer was unable to overlook, perhaps due to their own perception of what is appropriate.

The answer to these questions remains unclear because the topic is a relatively new one. What is clear to us, however, is that employers — particularly public ones such as municipalities and school districts — would be wise to include specifics in their policies about the dos and don’ts regarding the use of social media so that everyone is on the same page, as Searsport is doing.

Once those policies are in place, there is then little room for speculation about what is, and is not, acceptable.