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The Perils of the Facebook Age

December 8, 2008

I noticed something the other day that further confirms a sign of the times.  I have a Facebook social networking account (just like I have MySpace and LinkedIn accounts as well).  For those unfamiliar with the mechanism of site, one of the features is the ability to “tag” one’s posted photos with the links to the Facebook sites of the persons in the picture. 

So what was noticeable was not just the sheer numbers of folks who are in their late 20s and early to mid 30s who now have accounts.  What I found really remarkable was that for a lot of posted photos on my account or my friends’ accounts, just about everyone who appeared in photos was “tagged” to their own Facebook accounts.  In other words, a great deal of my friends who I see around (including many fellow YLD Executive Committee members) and are in photos with all are on Facebook.

Of course, the big problem with the digital age is that people can get a little too carefree about what is posted on personal sites without considering the impact.  More and more, potential employers are “Googling” candidates and checking out what’s on their social networking sites.  I have a friend pushing for a new job in the President-elect’s administration, which is using a pretty extensive vetting process.  One of the much-discussed questions is whether a candidate maintains a blog, Facebook, MySpace or other related pages.  Another one of the questions on the 7 page / 63 question long questionnaire that may impact a lot of folks is whether there are any embarrassing emails that exist from the past 10 years.  I think most people I know probably would have something to report for that question.   

Certainly, neither the maintenance of such a site nor the existence of such an e-mail would be an automatic disqualifier.  And it’s hard to imagine staffers perusing every single site.  Still, those of us out there who are young professionals who are interested in government jobs or even seeking other places of employment may be wise to clean up our sites of potentially-embarrassing pictures or posts (and request others to remove certain photos of you from their respective sites as well).  For a more concrete example, see the discomfort that the future White House director of speech writing currently faces for certain photos. . .

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2008 10:11 pm

    I wrote about this also, and found your site through a pingback over at CNN.

    You state that “Of course, the big problem with the digital age is that people can get a little too carefree about what is posted on personal sites without considering the impact. ”

    Forgive me, but besides the fact that it is mentioned ad nauseam by career minded folks of an older generation why is it necessary to pretend on social networking sites that one doesn’t have a personal life that involves enjoying the company of friends and partying? Can you cite any reasons why an employer should consider party photographs, such as the young speechwriter’s photo when applying for a job?

    For the record, I’m only posing this question for mild adult behavior such as drinking or funny sight gags, not illegal behavior.

  2. John E. permalink
    December 9, 2008 11:20 pm

    I think the main thing is that companies don’t want to be embarassed by the proverbial skeletons in one’s closet. These days, it’s all too easy to find things about people, and it’s even easier when people put it out there for just about everyone to see. If, in the case of Mr. Favreau (who, of course, has no relation to the actor), he is going to have a major job in a presidential administration, and there are pictures of him doing something that can be considered inappropriate to a major female politician and probable new Secretary of State, it can’t be considered a positive thing. In the NFL world, Arizona QB Matt Leinart got into hot water when he was seen in some party photographs holding a funnel for some women who could have been potentially underage. That did not go over well. In the law firm employment world, I can’t imagine that firms want to have attorneys who have pictures acting “unprofessionally” out there. That’s not really the image the firm wants to portray to its clients and to the legal community.

    But I am with you on “harmless” or funny photos, having been in a few myself.

  3. Stephanie permalink
    December 10, 2008 3:06 pm

    It reflects more on a person’s discretion than on that person’s ability to actually do a job. It’s poor judgment to post certain pictures and the last thing an employer wants is someone who makes poor decisions!

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