Walking the Social Networking Tightrope

The following is a guest post from Courtney Vaught, a Boston public relations professional and PRSA New Professionals Section member-at-large. You can read more about the PRSA New Professionals by checking out their blog.

If you’re like every other college student, you probably use Facebook to write funny comments on friends’ walls or to post pictures to keep memories alive. However, you have also probably noticed that these types of antics can hinder one of the most important goals of senior year in college — finding a job.

A blog post by Ari Adler, Faculty Advisor at MSU PRSSA, titled, “Facebook Users Show Two Faces to the World,” discussed how some Facebook users are creating separate profiles for their professional and personal lives. This makes you think about the challenges new professionals face in the expanding social media world — Facebook specifically. As Facebook’s 35-and-older demographic expands, we are seeing our parents, aunts, uncles, clients and employers join a world that used to exist only within college.

The new professional’s generation (i.e. Millennials or Gen Y) started using social media years ago in a very different environment for vastly different purposes. This is where many new professionals and soon-to-be college graduates find their struggle.

If you discuss this with some friends currently looking for a job, or already in the market, you’ll probably hear some horror stories. For instance, a former college student had an interview with a public relations agency scheduled, but was e-mailed a cancellation note a few days before the interview because of something to do with “social media content.”

While most may not have stories that drastic, many new professionals are still taking steps to protect their reputation and jobs, such as blocking pictures and allowing only selective photo albums to be viewed. Other options are de-cluttering the increasingly distracting applications on Facebook profiles to make it a little more professional.

Privacy techniques may protect you professionally, but it begs the question, is this defeating the purpose of social networking? Are you really showing who you are when you have to monitor the content? It’s a fine line that college students and graduates need to learn to successfully tread.

For PRSSA members, how do you use social media? Do you connect with professionals? What boundaries and lines would you recommend to those using social media and seeking a job?

6 Responses to Walking the Social Networking Tightrope

  1. jonesak October 6, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    I have been using Facebook since I was a sophomore in high school. When I first started my profile on the network I used Facebook all the time. My friends and I got on it during class and it was the first thing I did when I got home or the last thing before I went to bed. Now I maybe login in once a day check my wall, inbox, and see if there is anything interesting posted on my news feed. I feel like I am fading out of the trend while it’s becoming a bigger deal.

    I have my privacy settings on high. I don’t like people I don’t really know to be looking at my life. But, then why do I even have a profile to being with right? I have no idea. I have thought about deleting my account because of the horror stories I have heard about trying to get jobs and such. I know I have pictures and posts floating around that I am not proud of. What I hate is how those few bad things don’t show the real me, but how are my future employees suppose to know that?

    I have not yet used Facebook to connect with professionals. My fellow co-workers and I put together a business group to promote our company. We were a brand new tanning salon opening in a college town, and it was a great way to get our name out there. I feel like it was a successful move on our part.

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  2. Patricia B (Pat) Smith October 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    The old rule of thumb for personal and professional exposure I remember is “do you want to see it in the newspaper tomorrow?” Whether that newspaper is Facebook or traditional, I still want to conduct myself (or in this context expose my thoughts and actions) in a manner appropriate to the audience. Facebook isn’t the be-all/end-all. There is email, and if things are that private, the appropriate media channel must be used as in all situations – personal discussions face-to-face, phone, texting, email, etc. It’s when we get sloppy with our situations that we get in trouble. You have to be the master of your own life…and as another dusty saying goes: with freedom comes responsibility. I love Facebook, I love all the new social media opportunities. It’s great how FB has reconnected me with grade school chums and how it works for my clients. But I also know when not to use it.

    I also look forward to the day when I can bring on a young member to my team who deftly navigates these new media channels – and understands the same set of rules no matter what the tools.

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  3. Meghan October 8, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    I have had a facebook since my junior year of high-school and i got it to stay in touch with friends from different states. I have moved three times so facebook has been a huge asset in keeping me together with my friends. I basically use it for looking at and posting pictures. I barely go on anymore because it is becoming annoying have my relatives and parents on it.

    It makes me nervous that when i am looking for a job that they can look at my facebook, which is why i would delete it because I don’t care about it as much as i used to and i don’t want it to be a risk in me getting a job. I think businesses have every right and should check facebook to see what there employees or future employees do in there free time and if they are representing your company like they should be.

    This is why I probably will have a professional and a personal facebook. This is because i would like to keep some things of my personal life out of the work place, but it all comes down to what type of environment you will be working in.

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  4. Ari B. Adler October 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Thanks for the comment and link to my blog post about dual Facebook personalities Courtney. I wanted to note that since I wrote that article, Facebook has started cracking down more and eliminating multiple Facebook personalities. It is in their rules that you’re only supposed to have one such site. In some ways, I think it’s a good thing. It eliminates the temptation of some students to have a “good side” and a “bad side” on Facebook. After all, once it’s out online it’s out there, and you are not going to make it go away. Ever.

    It’s all about what you want people to know about you but also how you handle your own reputation — or is it a brand now? I just blogged this morning about that topic with “Are YOU a brand?” There’s been some good discussion there already and I encourage you to check it out and weigh in. The post is at http://bit.ly/2Fdmou.

    Regards,

    Ari

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  5. Joanna October 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    I have also been using Facebook since I was a sophomore in high school. I remember when I first subscribed, nobody was using it and for the longest time, I never checked it. Finally it started to catch on and now I check it everyday! It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with friends and more recently, family members. I’ve been able to stay in contact with people I met from Italy, Australia and all over the U.S. It also serves as an easy way to send personal, private messages to friends, too.

    I have always been careful with my Facebook page. I have been very conscious with what pictures I upload, what I post and which privacy settings I select. Some of my friends will post pictures that I would never put up for everyone to see. However, I do think Facebook is just a social network for friends and family. While it can serve to network and connect businesses, I’m not sure if I would create a separate page for my professional life. In the future, once I start a real job, I may change my mind! For now, I just think it’s a great way for me to stay connected to the people I care about.

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  6. DeseGeorisa February 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

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