By M. Wei
Social networking and social media are the emblem of the contemporary online and Ipod/Iphone-networked generation. Websites for social networking like Facebook and Twitter as well as professional websites like LinkedIn are some of the most popular web destinations, with teenagers and young adults being one of the dominant users.
Students should be aware of the risks of using social networking and the importance of being careful to keep personal and professional worlds separate. Facebook has a history of making privacy changes and additional features, often without warning, which can release personal information into the general public. Many of these changes have resulted in complaints and liability around privacy.
Once information is released into the public domain on the internet and picked up by search engines, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of this information, which get further preserved through caches. Therefore, as the young student, one should be careful of what and how they post online, even years before applying to colleges and, later, jobs. Colleges, medical schools, and hiring law firms and other potential employers commonly search for potential applicants online.
U.S. News education gives some tips for college students on how to use social networks responsibly during the job search. Many of them apply to any student using these networks. Other websites warn students about pitfalls that students may make.
1. Check and customize privacy settings and use them appropriately.
It’s standard guidance to use your privacy settings appropriately and to separate work, school, and personal circles. However, sometimes it’s not within your control of what is posted. Sometimes your friends may tag you in a photo and it’ll appear on your page without your awareness or permission. The safest way is to check your page periodically and monitor what is posted about you.
2. Assess your profile picture and other photos.
Post and use photos that you would be comfortable with having a teacher, parents, or future college or employer see. Monitor photos that are posted up by your friends as well to ensure that they are appropriate and that you approve of them.
3. Use appropriate language… even on status updates.
Even when you post a status update and delete it, that information has already been released into the circle of friends and maybe even the public, depending on your privacy settings. All it takes is someone to copy and forward that information, so be aware that what you post online with the intent to distribute the information to a small group of people, it may reach a broader audience. Therefore, it is advisable to use appropriate language.
4. Limit personal and identifying information.
Identity theft and even burglars have been tipped off about when people aren’t home and where people can be found, so keep personal and identifying information off the web. This is a basic protection precautionary measure.
5. Don’t join groups that may be embarrassing or inappropriate.
Sometimes people forget that they joined a group or liked a page for fun. These groups still appear on their profile page and often appear publicly under their name. The information of your joining the group is also stored for a long time under search engines and you won’t be able to get rid of that posting, even if you leave the group later. So while it may be funny at the time, think twice about whether you want that group to be linked to your name.
6. Finally, “Google” your name every few weeks to a month to make sure that information posted online is accurate and appropriate.
If you have a unique name, then you may be able to check every month on whether new information has been posted online about you. This gives you awareness of what colleges and future employers will find about you online.