As a professional in higher education, I’ve had to re-look at how I portray myself and how I use Facebook. I declined a friend request from a student in my program, not because I don’t like him, but because of what it says professionally. Do you think about what it says about you when you add a co-worker, boss, or a random ‘friend’ on Facebook? How about your future employer? Should you scope out their Facebook profile for tips before your interview? Is it wrong to add every Beta and Gamma from Seattle to Miami?
I’ve been on a quest to dwindle my friends below 500 and now I’m trying to hit 400. I will continue until I’ve reached a comfortable level where I know the individuals personally or would like to utilize the connection for business networking. This is quite the opposite of what I did when I joined in 2004 and what many Facebookers do today; but what about you, how should you use Facebook?
Today everyone from Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth to your parents are on Facebook. What you post is no longer just going to be seen by your friends but can be accessed by anyone. Think your profile is private? Think again. There are hundreds of nefarious sites that teach even your technology illiterate abuela how to view those pictures from last weekend.
Your profile should read as clean as your resume, and access to it should be limited to the most restricted privacy settings. The legality of someone denying you a job because of what is written on your profile is iffy at best, but if a future employer doesn’t like a certain Fanpage you liked, group you belong to, status update or the frequency of your updates they may hyper-focus on other reasons to excuse you from their hiring pool. Speaking of future employers, even if you are tempted most HR managers would agree that checking out their profile to bring up topics in the interview is a big no-no.
While sites such as LinkedIn were designed specifically for professional networking, Facebook is usually a good source to gather information that would help someone learn more personal information about an individual. Unless you’ve managed to live outside the world of news and updates, I’m sure you’ve read a story or know someone personally who has been reprimanded, lost a job, or found themselves in trouble with the law due to something posted on Facebook. It doesn’t matter if you delete the material after it has been posted, especially photos, Facebook photos have been known to remain on their Content Delivery Network (CDN) servers years after a photo has been removed. Even if you have your profile locked down and cleaned out, what your friends post on your walls can often say a lot about you as well.
I’m sure it takes the fun out of Facebook if you have to make it into more of an online portfolio highlighting only the best features, but in the long run it might make a difference between landing that dream career or a quick fix job that keeps you from having to move back home after graduation. However, there are always private messages to maintain the raunchy fun that used to be Facebook or on a rare occurrence you could always interact with people in real life. I think I’ll call it Web 4.0.