Students Should Keep Low Profiles

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Published: April 3, 2008

In our salad days—those days when the sound of AOL dialing up was an almost-essential beginning to our online experience—the Internet seemed to be a place where young people worldwide could hide their secrets: we made up names, ages and locations in chat rooms; we sent our friends dirty jokes, and we may have even kept oh-so-private Live Journals. Essentially, at one point, it seemed as if while online, we were safe from the watchful eyes of parents and authority figures.

But for better or for worse, the Internet is no longer a place where the experienced youth can escape from an uninformed, naïve adult world, a point made clear by the sources quoted in “‘With Public Actions Come Public Consequences,’” Ashley Tedesco’s article in this issue. Now, the adult world is often just as in tune with technological advances and online culture as is the world of their adolescent and teenage children. If you were to ask around, it would not be unlikely that you have at least one friend with a parent on MySpace. With this kind of entrance of online culture into the adult mainstream, it is essential for college students to realize that, because of our place in a transitional period—we are not the overprotected youth who need escape anymore, nor are we generally the ones in any position to do background research, outside of dating—we must learn to abandon our youthful Internet tendencies and approach a more wary and cautious e-existence.

That being said, we believe that there must be a bit of a trade-off when it comes to privacy, appropriateness and professionalism within online communities. One of the sources quoted in Tedesco’s article has the title of executive search consultant. Obviously, companies are employing people who specialize in performing the kind of modern background checks that Facebook, MySpace and Google searches have made possible. If these employers have their companies’ best interests in mind, though, they must realize that the drunken pictures they find are not, necessarily, an indication that a student would make an irresponsible intern or employee. Instead, they should keep in mind that, because we are the first generation that has faced these widespread issues of online privacy and the availability of personal information, we are, admittedly, still working out some of the kinks.

The fact that we as students, as evidenced by the student quotes in the article, have begun to think a bit more about the consequences of attaching our names to digital materials is a good sign. It means that we are learning how to correctly present ourselves in the online communities that are, more and more, the basis for first impressions. But until we become professionals at crafting our online images, employers must know that, by delving into our profiles and photo galleries, they may be lured into making snap judgments of otherwise ideal candidates.