Facebook—a term that college students use countless times daily—used as a noun for a social networking site and a meeting place, “I’ll see ya on Facebook.” Other times Facebook is a verb, “I Facebooked her yesterday, and in some cases Facebook is simply the thing we turn to for all aspects of our life. Whether it be for work, play, chatting, or “creeping”, Facebook has become a crucial part of our day-to-day lives as college students. Most of us look to update our statuses with the latest gossip, complaint, or success story. Most of us look forward to Monday mornings when our Facebook Friends upload documents of the weekend prior, and for most of us we participate without a second thought. Facebook has become a societal norm, but have you ever thought about who else might be viewing those statuses or viewing those photos of your wild weekend? And for most of us, that answer is no.
We post for our friends, our family, and for our self-expression. Not often do we think that what we post could have negative repercussions. As I spoke with students here at UW-Green Bay, I found that most students don’t think about what they put on their Facebook profiles. “It’s a personal profile,” one student stated, which is true, however once posted on the World Wide Web, rarely is anything left “personal”. The internet offers little protection in the realm of security. The technology available has only made this much more real.
One out of the ten students I spoke with said that they regularly think about what they post online and regularly censor their posts to avoid negative associations. Many students stated that they’ve thought about it often, but it hasn’t changed what they post online, and a mere few students stated that they have adjusted their profile’s privacy settings to help deter unwanted viewers. However, for the most part students and young adults believe that Facebook is a personal entity, almost a form of online scrapbook and journal that documents our lives and allows us to keep in touch with those who are important to us. “Facebook is some people’s best friend to which they tell everything, others choose to keep Facebook in the friend-zone, but without giving away too much,” one sophomore student so cleverly put it. How much does your Facebook know about you??
What do employers think about Facebook? What about professors? To answer these questions, I turned to the web; according to a study done by CareerBuilder, 45 percent of employers social networking sites as screening tools when selecting applicants for hire. Many of these employers admitted to disregarding applicants due to the information collected online, but just as many employers lobbied that social networking sites have helped some applicants get the job. They recommend “cleaning-up” your social media profile before starting the application process. They commend creativity, well-roundedness, and evidence of skills as traits that will benefit your application. Another report published in BusinessWeek attempts to weigh the ethical rights of employers to make hiring and firing decisions based on online content. One argument in favor of these employer rights is the fact that a public profile is, well, public, and that anything posted to that profile is fair game. Furthermore, the fact that Facebook, as well as many other social networking sites, allows you to privatize your profile, limiting access to everyone but those you want to see the information. Many argue that not taking the time to limit your profile access constitutes the right of employers to view your content. On the flip side of things, arguments against employers logging in and viewing online networking sites state that online content is not ethical to be used in a professional setting. Those traits that may be apparent online, most often have nothing to do with the user’s professional skills. This content could be misinterpreted and/or completely invalid all together.
No matter which side of the argument you stand, beware of the potential dangers online. Keep Facebook at a distance when it comes to your personal life, and take advantage of the privacy settings that are offered. Protect yourself and your friends as precaution, not to mention, take one less worry and hassle out of applying for that job.