The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


Beyond your friends list

The disadvantages of sharing your life online have tamed the country’s youth.

When spending Spring Break in Florida, you expect to see some crazy things: college (and sometimes high school) students enjoying their break from scholastic stress, participating in perhaps borderline illegal activities. Last year, when my friend went to Siesta Key, Fla., the party scene on the public beach was nearly out of control. This year, when I went with her, the tame atmosphere was pleasant but unexpected.

According to a New York Times article, the locals around Key West, Fla., close to Siesta Key, have noticed that students are more reserved and are more inhibited when they hit the beaches for Spring Break. Bartenders at establishments around the area attribute the change in behavior to social media and the speed at which embarrassing, and possibly incriminating, photos and videos spread throughout the Web.

The effects that social media have on students nowadays are immense. The sites dictate our daily lives, influencing what we choose to do and what we consider a bad idea. Students are being given the ability to get involved and be informed about things bigger than themselves (for example, we all know about the atrocities going on in Uganda thanks to #Kony2012 and those viral videos circling around the Internet).

This just goes to show that because of social networking outlets, young people are worrying about things bigger than their one week of fun, which is commendable. They are also getting smarter about what they put on these outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, for everyone to see.

We have all gotten the advice that goes something like, “Colleges and employers are looking at your Facebook; don’t be stupid with what you post.” But in all seriousness, it’s something teenagers should be worrying about. According to a USA Today article, 24 percent of admissions officers from 359 colleges in the country have used Facebook to evaluate applicants.

Also, companies looking to hire have been asking applicants to hand over their Facebook passwords before they consider them for a job (in a recent press release, Facebook condemned this practice, saying that it “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of the user.”) In a 2010 oft-cited survey released by Microsoft Research, almost 70 percent of recruiters claimed they had rejected applicants based on what they gathered from the applicant’s online profile.

Once high school students make it to college, the exposure they experience on social networking sites increase. Your profile has a larger audience: everyone from your possible future roommate, your professors, your residential adviser, the campus judicial board and local police, as well as that creepy guy who has followed you to college.

Students have been decreasing their vulnerability and avoiding the problems they set themselves up for when they post something unflattering to their profile, but I still see embarrassing posts and photos that can hurt their future. Teens need to get smarter about what they put online. It’s there forever, even when deleted, and anyone is able to see it as long as they know what to look for. Those pictures from “last night” aren’t going to look good when you’re expecting your acceptance letter from the college of your dreams or a phone call from a job recruiter.

Some ideas for how to clean up your online profile are to remove or block any photos taken while you or the people around you were under the influence, photos with rude gestures (admissions officers might not find you “flipping the bird” very funny), as well as photos that are sexually suggestive or that portray illegal activity. Visit your profile frequently, and get rid of any and all unflattering photos that your friends might have posted of you.

Many things on your profile might make whoever is looking at it question your character. Make sure you permanently delete or block photos that will make an employer or college recruiter pass judgment. Also, remove your contact information from your profile: Important people will see that and wonder why you would make such a careless decision.

Make sure your profile photo is attractive and professional, because that will be the first thing they see. Photos of you doing community service, playing a team sport, making music or traveling around the world are really impressive to recruiters.

Just follow the golden rule of social networking sites: Don’t put anything on your wall or Tweet anything that you wouldn’t want these important people to see.

The point is that what you put on your Facebook or Twitter account can come back to bite you, or it could, in effect, boost your chances of getting that job or making it into your dream school. We might only think of it now as a site all about you, one that will make you famous in a way to your friends, but once the time comes for college, it will become so much more than that.

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