Warning: Students, What You Post On
Facebook & MySpace Could Haunt You!
Well... it happened again.
In January of 2008, almost 100 students from one high school in Minnesota were suspended or kicked off of sports teams for photos that were posted on online websites like MySpace and Facebook that showed them engaging in various forms of debauchery. So, if you’ve been working hard to get into college—busting your hump to get good grades, studying late at night for the SAT, polishing and perfecting your essays, and preparing for campus interviews—you’re not done just yet.
Now, don't worry: I'm not going to lecture you about your moral code. You guys already know where I stand on that stuff. What I do want to talk about is how NOT to let a stupid photograph or blog post ruin your chances of getting in…or worse.
First, let’s talk about the current state of affairs: it’s reported that up to 85% of the students at any given school or college post to at least one of the major social websites, whether it’s MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, LiveJournal, Friendster, etc. The problem is that, while some students believe that what they post should be private, or that they have the right to ‘express themselves’ and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else, the reality is every post you make online is public, and in some cases...permanent.
And it does matter.
Think back on how many celebrities like Vanessa Williams, Cameron Diaz, and untold reality TV contestants have had embarrassing photos resurface once they became famous.
Well, your college may be searching online for you, and there is nothing you can do to stop it!
Charles Samuelson, the Executive Director for the ACLU, was quoted as saying, “Anyone who thinks that something posted on a social website is private is an idiot. A student’s civil liberties are NOT being violated if a school or college uses such information to discipline a student or to make admission decisions.”
The good news is this: most colleges are not surfing the web for your profile. Admissions officers from both Stanford and MIT recently claimed that they were among those schools that did not look up students online. However, many schools do; and many potential employers will as well. According to a 2005 study by ExecuNet, 75% of head-hunters and recruiters use web research as part of their screening process. And more than one employee has been fired for what their employers found online.
Penn State recently used a Facebook group called “I rushed the field after the OSU game (and lived!)” to charge two students with criminal trespassing. And the police busted an underage drinking party at George Washington University after they found the invitations online.
Further, even if you remove a page or post, it never really goes away. It can be copied and saved to anyone’s computer, found as a residual page/image file on metacrawlers like Google, or archived, more or less forever, on sites like WayBackMachine.com. Let me say that again: it never really goes away!
So, let’s discuss some ground rules for posting on social websites, so nothing comes back to haunt you later.
Again, I’m not trying to rain on your parade. I’m merely suggesting that you review your online websites and blogs for anything questionable or damaging before your submit a college application or resume, and think twice before you post in the future. I do NOT want to see all your hard work go to waste because of some photos of you getting...well...wasted.
- For safety’s sake, NEVER post personal information like your address, your schedule, phone numbers or anything like that. Ladies (and Gentlemen) there are waaaaay too many crazy, would-be stalkers out there already. You don't need to give them cause to fixate on you, or make it any easier to find you.
- Make your profile private so strangers can’t look you up, and be careful about allowing new ‘friends’ that you don’t know personally to access your website (see #1 above). Even if you act cautiously, remember what I said above about nothing really being private!
- Here is a great tip from Nicole Verardi about what you post: She calls it the "Grandma Test", which basically means if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, then you don’t want other adults to see it either. Your grandma may not know how to use a computer, but more and more seniors are taking classes to help them use this "newfangled" thing called the internet; and you do NOT want to be responsible for giving your grammy a heart attack, now, do you?
- Be careful about what your friends post about you on their sites as well. If there is anything damaging, make sure they remove it ASAP!
- This last one isn't directly related to social networking, but I felt it was relevant. Think about the email address you use to communicate with a college or potential employer. I promise you they will not be impressed with a letter from the likes of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. As boring as it may seem, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org will work just fine.
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