Hey SER-AMTAS Students!
I wanted to share with you about an interesting and relevant session I went to presented by Dr. Joke Bradt. I’m often fascinated by the increasing presence of social networking in our culture, and I was drawn to this presentation. It turned out to be quite eye-opening, and with technology blossoming as it is, it’s important to make sure our new found internet tools turn around and bite us in the you-know-what.
Most of the session focused on Facebook, seeing as it’s become so widely used, and how it’s affecting the professional world.
Dr. Joke began with some stunning statistics from a study done with medical students at the University of Florida. Of the profiles assessed:
– 37.5% had their profiles private
– 46% showed users drinking
– 45% showed users engaged in unhealthy behaviors
– 43% showed users relationship status
– 37% showed users sexual orientation
– 16% showed users religious views
– 10% showed users drunk
Consider the possible ramifications of having inappropriate content on your Facebook. Many of us are Facebook friends with graduate students, current or past teachers, practicum advisers, etc. on Facebook- what information is available to them? These are people that don’t need to know your personal business, and unfortunately, Facebook has a way of making the lines between your personal life and your professional image blurry. Also, these people could become future employers… do your future employers need to know your religious preference, relationship status, and what you did today? Not really. And those things are more or less inviting people to make judgements about you based on incomplete information. Who wants that from anyone, especially from a possible future employer?
In a 2010 study, 67% of employers said that they had used social networking sites to check out possible future employees, and 8% of companies have actually fired people based on something found on the internet. Whether you think it’s appropriate for companies to be searching the internet for information about you, they can do it, and that evidence will hold up in court. You don’t want to lose your job or lose a possible job opportunity because of something online.
It’s important that make sure we have thoroughly checked that our profiles are not accessible to the public. Facebook changes a lot, and the privacy settings do too. Unfortunately, the default setting when something is changed is to make part of your profile public, so you need to be aware of these changes. Go through the privacy settings thoroughly (click on all the buttons, make sure you know what every setting means).
Another, more difficult thing to be aware of is content posted by your friends. Not only are your friends a reflection of you, but everything they post on your wall or about you on their wall is visible to your friends, and much of it is visible to all their friends too.
What all of this boils down to is that trying to distill a person into a Facebook (or any other social networking site) profile is just not practical, and the result is a skewed representation of that person. In a normal relationship, you may know a person for awhile before revealing your political affiliations or religious beliefs, and with a client or employer, you may not reveal them at all. The internet creates a false sense of security- it’s all too easy to put personal information on the internet and not think about all the possible ramifications of doing so.
So, some recommendations. Dr. Joke suggested you make a clear distinction between personal and professional content. She even went so far as to unfriend all professional contacts. Thanks to Facebook lists, this may not be entirely necessary, but it’s certainly the safest route. I personally have a list on Facebook labeled “Professional” on which all my professional contacts are. They cannot see much of the content on my page, but I’m still able to contact them and vice-versa. I also chose to make a separate, private twitter account for my personal friends in addition to the one I have for MT contacts.
Next, exercise restraint. Think about what you’re posting. Does everyone really need to know or see what you’re about to post? Be selective with your friends. If you have a friend that likes to write crude things on your wall or rude comments on pictures, consider unfriending them or deleting any inappropriate content they associate you with.
Take care and happy networking!