Is Anything Sacred on Social Networking Sites?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Is Anything Sacred on Social Networking Sites?

Twitter screenshot.jpgWe all might think to ourselves “Boy I hope my dream school is not checking my Facebook page” during my application process or “I wonder if the company that I am interviewing with will overlook the pictures on Facebook of me doing a keg stand and still hire me?” But just how valid are our concerns? How likely are colleges and future employers to use our social networking profiles as reasons not to hire us?

Likely, according to recent reports.

In fact, according to a CNBC report, you better take a few seconds (or hours at this point, thanks to Facebook’s new timeline) to go through past pictures, posts, and likes to make sure you have rescinded your “liking” of  “Binge Drinking, I'll drink to that!” and deleted pictures from spring break senior year of college. I mean, even your friends shouldn’t have to see you in that inebriated, half-clothed state. And don’t forget about that video of you singing karaoke at the frat house, donning Mardi Gras beads and a cowboy hat (which you still don’t know where it came from).

Your concerns that these pictures and videos that you thought were safely protected could be used against you are founded as many employers and colleges are demanding full access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts if you want to be considered for employment or school acceptance. This is particularly true for student athletes.

Specifically, the Maryland Department of Corrections has been asking applicants during interviews to log into their accounts and show their wall posts, friends, photos and other items behind Facebook's privacy wall. And if you think that is something you would never do, consider that fact that almost all job seekers give in to this request because they are hoping to get the job, according to Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann.

When it comes to students -- particularly athletes -- they are not let off the hook either. Nowadays, college athletes are being requested to “friend” a coach or compliance officer so that the coach can have access to the applicant’s most private information. This practice isn’t voluntary, MSNBC reported. In fact, many schools are buying software packages from social media monitoring companies to take a behind-the-scenes look into the private lives of student athletes.

Thankfully, some government officials are realizing just how illegal these requests seem as Washington, D.C. lawyer Bradley Shear and other critics are contending that schools and employers have no such right and are violating the First Amendment by demanding access to private social media content.

While I would caution every individual – from those who are 15 to 55 – to be careful about what they are putting on social networking sites, because you are virtually creating a lasting legacy about yourself, some schools and employers are simply going too far.

What you glean from a Facebook or Twitter page is only a snapshot of a person’s life, and most likely not the part of the person’s life that they will take to the workplace or school with them. In my opinion, you will gather more about a person’s character and work ethic during a 30-minute interview then you could sifting through old wall posts and pictures that don’t mean anything to the applicant in question anymore.

Of course there are exceptions to this. For example, how can you really detect that your potential employee has a substance abuse problem if they choose to show up to your interview sober? And perhaps, in that case, sorting through Facebook pictures that constantly display beer and liquor bottles could have forewarned you.

But that’s part of the gamble of life. You never really know what you are going to get out of a student you accept or an employee you hire but that’s the best part. You could be taking a chance and end up with the best employee your company has seen in decades. Or you could take a chance on that lackluster student who ends up finding his drive at college and becomes the next Bill Gates.

The bottom line is that what we put on our social networking sites is often the result of us attempting to escape from the “real world,” whether that is work or school, depending on your age. It does not represent what we typically bring to the “real world.”

Years ago employers and schools never had this tool at their disposal and they did just fine with hirings and admissions. Let’s leave Facebook and Twitter for social venting and building business brand awareness and stick with the traditional few rounds of interviews.

For more on this topic and others, follow me on Twitter.






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