Online Social Networking Dangers and Benefits
Social Networking Site Dangers
One of the most popular social networking sites is Facebook. While Facebook restricts members to those who use a ".edu" email address, this may give you a false sense of security.
- There are hundreds of thousands of active ".edu" email addresses of current students and alumni in just the United States and many of them can gain access to your site.
- Some colleges and universities will grant free email addresses to alumni; however, they do not always follow-up to check whether the individual is an actual alumni—therefore making it relatively easy to create false ".edu" accounts on Facebook and gain access to the site.
Because students often post detailed and specific information on Facebook (including phone numbers, addresses, class schedules, social plans, etc.) you can be more easily stalked by strangers (or even acquaintances).
Impact on Schooling and Employment
Students are getting in trouble with University administrators for incriminating and inappropriate information or pictures on their social networking profiles that are violations of school policy or the code of conduct. (Note: Administrators are not monitoring social networking sites; however, if information or pictures on a student's account that violate policy are brought to their attention or are reported to them, they will follow up and investigate further.)
Students are being turned down by employers for jobs, internships and even interviews because of the information employers are finding out about students on their social networking accounts.
Compromising and inappropriate pictures, statements or other information on student social networking accounts can hurt students' chances to gain (or even be considered for) employment. Employers take the images that students are portraying on social networking sites very seriously as a reflection of personal character.
Benefits of Social Networking Sites
A social networking site can be a good way to make connections with people with similar interests and goals. They can be a way to connect with or "meet" people that a student may not have had the opportunity to before—including other students, staff, faculty and even alumni.
Thanks to social networking sites, meeting someone in person has become a thing of the past. "Poking" has become the new handshake. Making friends and renewing old ones is easy. Thus, meeting people and staying connected with classmates and friends is a major benefit of social networking sites.
Social networking sites offers campus surveys, "party" or event listings and other information that communicates the "pulse" of a campus culture. Therefore, they can be a great way to understand and stay connected to your campus community as a whole.
Some social networking sites offer advertising to its subscribers. Whether a student creates a "party" for an upcoming event or pays the $5 for 10,000 "hits" for an ad, Facebook is a great way to advertise as a student organization, club, Greek chapter, team, etc.
Most importantly, social networking sites offers students the opportunity to create a positive self-image. The profiles gives you a chance to create the image of themselves that you want people to see by putting you best qualities "out there." This shows that you care about you reputation and (to a certain extent) what people think about you—whether its you peers, University faculty and administrators, or future employers.
How to Stay Safe
Evaluate your social networking account and postings—how do you feel about your employers seeing what you have posted? How about your parents or grandparents?
Do not post private information, including your cell phone number, home address, class schedule, social plans, etc. unless you are prepared for anyone to find you/track you down, any time of the day or night. Do not post anything that might be embarrasing to you in a potential employment situation. People have been denied work because of information found on social networking sites.
Utilize the "Privacy" settings on your Facebook account—you can adjust your privacy settings so as to control who has access to your personal information.
Google your name to see how your name or identity is being used. Search for your name on sites like WhitePages and SuperPages. If you want to remove your listing, look for relevant links usually towards the bottom of the page.
Be prepared to answer questions about your social networking page or other social account in job interviews. It has become common for interviewers to ask applicants, "Are you on a social networking site?" and "What is on your profile?" Be prepared to either decline the question or answer honestly because employers will most likely look at your social networking account themselves… if they haven't already.