An article in the NY Post cuts to the chase about the implications of sharing personal information online, expecting it’s private, and having it searched by others we would rather never be able to see it.
In the future, John Waters has predicted, the growth industries will be gay divorce and tattoo removal. But what’s even more embarrassing and indelible than a “Slippery When Wet” tattoo on a lumpy 52-year-old inner thigh? Social networking photos and details. Today they’re fun. Tomorrow they’re info-tats.
A 2009 study concluded that 45% of employers were checking social networking sites before deciding whether to hire someone. That’s shocking: only 45%? (A similar study the previous year reported that only 22% of employers were checking. Note the trend, and how quickly it’s moving.)
“Hang on, I need to post how much I drank last night.”
The news gets worse: of that 45% who bothered to check, 80% subsequently decided not to offer a job to someone based on info found on the sites. Facebook: the great job killer of the 21st century.
But as admissions offices fill up with people who grew up on MySpace, that’s going to change. Moreover, there’s a liability issue with top universities, too. They have brands to protect. “No one wants to be on the front page of the newspaper for giving a scholarship to a murderer,” Nora Ganim Barnes, director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, told the Wall Street Journal.
High school students have begun absorbing this information — and gotten completely the wrong message. At Saratoga High in California, the school paper ran an article about all the kids who had changed their Facebook names — created online aliases — to jam the radar of prying oldsters. (Kathy Koo figured she was safe forever under her nom de Facebook Kassie Ko).
“Hang on, I need to post how much I drank last night.”
Sure, post your secrets under a slightly different name known to only 500 of your friends. No risk of that ever leaking out!
Except, note this: Your classmates are the ones who rat you out by sending admissions officers links to your most incriminating material, as David Hawkins, of the National Association for College Admission Counseling told the Journal.
A problem with Facebook, MySpace, etc. is their tendency to accelerate a trend that was already coasting downhill — to encourage adults to act like children. Last year, Quebec’s Nathalie Blanchard was on sick leave — having been diagnosed with “major depression” — when her benefits suddenly ceased. Because of Edward-G.-Robinson-in-“Double Indemnity”-style sleuthing? Not exactly. During her long dark night of despair, she posted Facebook pictures of herself cavorting in a bikini on a beach and partaking of the entertainment offerings at Chippendales.
Blanchard’s incredulous response to her canceled benefits: She was simply trying to blast away her sadness! With strippers and sunshine.
And anyway, her Facebook profile was “locked.” So, um, pretty much impossible to find a way around that.
Deleting Facebook information can be surprisingly complicated, too: The fine print of the site makes it easy to “deactivate” your account but deleting each cringemaking photo or confession requires additional steps. And thanks to cached searches, information remains findable to the Web-savvy long after the page it came from has been deleted.
It’s the age of TMI. But people learn, slowly. After another few years of being educated by their own promiscuity with information, oversharers might take a giant leap backward and become as coy, demure and modest as Victorian letter-writers. It’s almost conceivable that, in the future, people might get to know each other by meeting up for conversation.
As an employer, you’re taking a chance when you hire someone. No one wants to hire a dud, but the stakes are larger than that. What if someone has a history of, say, posting rude sex jokes about women on his Facebook “wall” and turns out to be much the same around the coffee pot at work? No sex-harassment lawyer is going to fail to tell the jury that the company would have known it was making a hostile-workplace hire if only it had Googled Mr. Rufus T. Pervinator before putting him on the payroll.
The No. 1 reason not to hire someone discovered on social-networking sites, though, is “provocative or inappropriate photos.” A picture can be worth a thousand paychecks.
Facebook is also the new BFF of divorce lawyers, who called it their favorite place to find cyber-evidence in a survey this month. “Every client I’ve seen in the last six months had a Facebook page,” Ken Altshuler of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers told The Post, “and the first piece of advice I give them is to terminate their page immediately.”
One ex-wife, who vowed in a custody case that she was set to remarry in a bid to prove she was part of a stable household, posted a Facebook message saying “She’d broken up with her abusive boyfriend and that if anybody had a rich friend to let her know,” Altshuler said.
What’s next? College admissions offices. Though a 2008 Kaplan survey showed only 10% of colleges copped to checking out the networking sites of applicants, 38% of those said such searches turned up negative info.
Some colleges think it’s a little invasive to do this kind of thing — after all, if providing a place for sex/drink/drugs away from parental eyes is pretty much the top attraction of higher education in the first place, why get worked up if the kids start early?