Not Safe for Facebook:
The New NSFW

When checking out my News Feed on Facebook the last few months, I have noticed an increasing number of names I don’t recognize.  When I click through into those profiles I realize that I do in fact know these people, they have just changed their display name on Facebook.

Many use their middle names and drop their last names while some even spell out their name phonetically to throw people off that could be searching for them.  All of these friends are usually looking for jobs and don’t want potential employers to find them.  What are they hiding?  Maybe inappropriate pictures from a Halloween party in college or crazy nights out drinking or a friend posting on their wall to come over and smoke a joint.  Who knows?

For better or for worse, Facebook has become such a big part of our culture that it actually affects our everyday actions and can influence our lives well beyond just the online world.   People are getting fired, finding true love, reconnecting with long lost family and even getting hired all because of Facebook.

Facebook has truly become a staple in society that I fully expect anyone I come into contact with on a friendly or professional level, minus my grandparents, to have a profile on the world’s biggest social network.  Most people would probably admit that they are even a bit surprised when they come across someone that is not on Facebook, and why not when it boast a user base of 500 million and counting.

The New HR Department

Human resources now channel their inner Sherlock Holmes when checking out potential job candidates on the social web.  I’m not saying that is right or wrong, just a reality in today’s competitive job force.  Germany is in the process of passing legislation that makes it illegal for employers to find out information on potential employees via Facebook. Google CEO Eric Schmidt even said that in the future teenagers should be able to change their names automatically when reaching adulthood to “disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.”

If I was a HR representative checking into prospective employees and can’t find them via any social networks, I would think they had something to hide.  Privacy is honestly not that hard to control these days on social networks with all the press and importance put on the matter.  Large social networks have no choice but to make privacy settings easy to control because it’s such a hot topic.  And if someone does find them confusing, there are so many resources on the web to make privacy settings easy to understand and set up.

You Are Your Own Privacy Settings

But frankly, users need to be their own privacy setting before they post anything, tag a friend or write on a Wall.  I cringe when I see friends make posts complaining about their job or quote an inappropriate movie line or song lyric.  Or the person that is trying to be funny and posts an inside joke on a friend’s wall that can easily be taken out of context.  Try to be rational since you are actually broadcasting your comments to millions of people and not just your friends.

You have to assume anything you post on the Internet, and especially social networks, can and will be discoverable to anyone.  No matter what you set your privacy settings to, you should take the mindset that anything has the potential to be seen by people whose eyes you are trying to avoid.   Before you hit a submit or post button ask yourself “Why am I even posting this in the first place?”

Facebook is here to stay and anyone that is pointing to past social networks like Friendster and MySpace’s fall from grace are not looking at the obvious.  Facebook has far too many users, and more importantly, way too much marketing dollars committed to it to just fade away anytime soon.

But more significant is the fact that social networks are apart of our lives now and have forever changed the way we communicate and view the people around us.  Think before you post because you are getting judged on your online presence whether you “Like” it or not.

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