Monday, May 19, 2008

All Social Media Networks Are Not the Same Regarding Privacy Settings

When giving career advice on safeguarding a positive image on the internet, I often warn that you must be very careful what you post on social media networks such as MySpace and Facebook. More and more potential employers are checking out these sites and others such as LinkedIn before offering interviews to potential employees.

From an employer’s point of view this makes good sense. If an employer finds a compromising picture of you that you have posted on the web, he/she will think twice about entrusting you with company knowledge. What might you post about the company – photos and all?

The grey area that probably many high school students and college students wonder about is not compromising pictures (such as scantily clad photos) but photos that show you having “fun” (okay, drinking and partying) with your friends.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the book I’m currently reading -- “Facebook for Dummies” by Carolyn Abram and Leah Pearlman -- that there are different privacy settings available on Facebook. You can even block an official friend on Facebook from seeing all of your profile by using a privacy option called “limited profile.” (This means you can be a friend with your boss and still block her from seeing certain things on your profile.)

This seems a great middle ground solution for young people who don’t want to forgo putting any “fun” pictures on the internet. There are still some risks – for example, if you decide to change certain settings on Facebook you can unknowingly automatically reveal this blocked info.

As I’m now learning, there are major differences between the top social media networking sites. As I understand it, on MySpace you can see anyone’s profile by doing a search for that person. On Facebook you can only see someone’s profile after that someone has accepted you as a friend.

The “Facebook for Dummies” book emphasizes that your profile can only ever be seen by a very small percentage of people on Facebook. This statement is not true for all social media networks.

Before putting “fun” photos of yourself on the internet, the first rule of thumb should be to find out which sites prevent anyone (such as a potential employer) from looking at your profile without your knowledge. That should be the number one criteria for where you put your photos.

The second rule of thumb should be – if you do put “fun” photos on a social media network that allows you to block unwanted views of your profile, be sure you read all the instructions for this blocking feature carefully. You don’t want to accidentally remove the blocks just when you’re up for an interview for a job you really want. And, oh no! – the potential employer has just seen that photo of you dressed as a Martian and chugging a beer.

I still stand by my warning that, for complete positive identity protection, you should put nothing on the internet you wouldn’t want a potential employer to view. Yet, if you really, really want to post some “fun” photos, do this on a safe site with individual privacy controls – and set those controls!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! So glad you enjoyed.

- Leah