17th August 2007

The Darkside of Facebook and MySpace?

Facebook MySpace photoFacebook is all over the news these days, thanks to the steadily increasing growth of its membership following their decision to allow anyone to join, and a good number of media outlets, including Blogs, have written pieces comparing Facebook and its big brother MySpace – several very well written. In my current issue of Newsweek was this in-depth, balanced article, Facebook Grows Up, covering the pros and cons of Facebook in particular and online social networking in general.

But one thing I didn’t see in the article was any mention of the potential for offline negative repercussions, particularly when it comes to employment. The only single mention of any concession to possible “unprofessionalism” was in the sidebar box “…And Why I Hate It” by Sarah Kliff, who wrote that after graduating she was “….Looking to present a more professional image [she] stripped her profile of many of her collegiate interests” (and one would hope those drunken frat party photos). Hey Sarah, ever heard of the Wayback Machine? Internet Archiving? Once it’s out there, it’s out there for good.

I’m not making judgments about whether or not anyone should participate in online social networks, or even what they should, or should not, post about themselves. But I am wondering how likely it is that something you post could come back to haunt you, or worse. And how aware of that possibility are many of the members of those networks?

I know several colleagues who have checked both MySpace and Facebook to see what potential employees have to say about themselves, and yes, it has definitely effected their hiring decisions (resulting in declinations of the applicants). In fact, I’ve done it myself recently, but didn’t find anything objectionable about the person I was hiring. And I know we’re not alone in this practice – I’ve read a couple of articles in well-respected print publications alluding to the same, but I don’t have a good feel for really how widespread it is.

So I’d like to hear from both sides – if you’re an employer, do you check Facebook and MySpace, and how heavily does it weigh in your decision making? If you’re a member of a social network, do you care that someone who could hire you (or not) might see it? Does that have any bearing on what you decide to post or not post?

MySpace/Facebook Users: How Open Are You?

  • Somewhat cautious – I don’t post the “worst” things about me (71%, 10 Votes)
  • Super cautious – I know my parents might read it (29%, 4 Votes)
  • Completely open – everything in my life is on my page (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 14


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Employers: Do you look for an applicant’s MySpace/Facebook page?

  • No – what someone does outside of work is their business (64%, 7 Votes)
  • Yes – it’s a definite factor in our hiring decision (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Yes – but it doesn’t effect our hiring decision (9%, 1 Votes)
  • What’s MySpace and Facebook? (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11


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  1. Joanna, August 18, 2007, 4:32 pm

    Just wanted to say I love the facebook/myspace blog. Suffering from a severe addiction to both sites, I can share the good and the bad. The best part of both sights: you can find out what anybody is doing and what’s going on in their life. The worst part: they can do the same thing with you. I have reconnected with many people from my past and both sights help you keep in touch better then if you had to actually call and talk to people. I keep in better touch with my own sister by having myspace considering we have such different schedules and are a thousand miles apart! At the same time though, I was browsing my former quasi step-sister’s myspace and realized her mom was on there. Checked out her profile, and guess who stole a picture from my myspace of my cat sniffing around a keg at a party we had? Kinda creepy, huh? Even potential employers are getting smart to using these popular sites to their advantage, I’ve done it myself. As part of an internship that requires a panel interview in front of current interns, I’ve done my homework. Everytime we got an applicant I checked their myspace and facebook profiles. Lots of drinking pictures and comments about being hungover at work? We don’t want you. I could go on and on about these sites, but as most people will tell you, you gotta decide for yourself how you feel about them!

  2. Trisha, August 18, 2007, 5:12 pm

    Hi Joanna – thanks for commenting!

    You make a number of excellent points. I do think that sites like MySpace and Facebook will continue to play an important role in the lives of the majority of their users for many years to come, in both good and bad ways as you mention. It’s up to each individual to decide how much they want to “filter” what they present of their lives to others.