I will be the first to admit that I’m completely addicted to facebook.
Personally, I see facebook as a game and a challenge. Within ‘7 degrees,’ I can trace my social network to everyone at my school and even all across the country. I can find my classmates to ask a question about a paper or send a message to an old friend back home. I can connect with my residents or let my staff know when our next meeting is.
Obviously there are many positive reasons to join the online community, and these reasons, I argue, cause students to overlook some of the negative consequences that may arise in the online social world. Although many of us students consider ourselves technologically competent, laws have not been able to keep up so here are a few things to consider before clicking ‘submit’ and adding your profile to an online social network.
To search for someone’s profile because you see him or her in a class or because you found out that you are working with them next semester is harmless, even positive most of the time. It can make you feel more comfortable about meeting someone in person and if they have pictures posted it can help you make sure you’re looking for the right person when you do meet them face to face. Jokingly, many people call this ‘facebook-stalking’ and most of the time, it’s meaningless.
However, it can be a scary thing at times. There is a feeling of invincibility online. As if simply putting information on a computer screen makes it less real and therefore people are willing to offer far more information online to complete strangers than they would if they were meeting someone in person for the first time. This level of self-disclosure can be dangerous. Someone with less than honorable intentions and a little bit of knowledge of the campus that a student is at can take advantage of this, resulting in disastrous results. I don’t want to scare people into completely abandoning facebook or any other social networking sites, but putting your address, phone number and official email address online can make you very vulnerable.
The hookup isn’t even about someone who might look you up to find you, but it can be someone who requests you as a friend. You begin talking to them online or call them, and they entice you to meet them, and of course you feel comfortable doing this because, after all, they have 279 ‘friends’ and 38 photos posted. You feel as if you know them because they “are a friend of a friend”. But people aren’t always what they seem. Especially when it’s so easy to post a lie on-line.
Imagine this, you’re 3 weeks before graduation and you’ve got all your credits in order and your internship was successful. You’ve got a new suit on and your resume is strong. You walk into an interview confident with a huge smile. Not so fast… about 2 seconds into the interview, the person interviewing you plops down in front of you pictures of every stupid college thing you’ve ever done. There goes that dream job. There’s no way to explain these pictures away. Everything you’ve worked for in the last 4 years just blew up in your face.
Can this be legal? The answer is a resounding yes. The way that laws are being interpreted at this time is that potential employers are allowed to do Internet searches of their job applicants to find out any potential information that is out on the web about the candidates. If pictures and or written information are being willfully posted in public forums, it can be brought into evidence in professional settings. Sites like facebook make people ‘tag’ pictures of their friends and these pictures have to be accepted and can be taken down by a person who does not want these pictures of themselves up. If these pictures are left up, the consequences can be quite harmful. The scenario of the job applicant being faced with their facebook photos is actually true. The student was an education major.
This is the question every time something goes wrong. Well this is a complicated matter to say the least and should be answered with careful consideration. It is obvious that an individual who willingly and willfully posts personal information of themselves and pictures of immoral or objectionable activities they are participating in should share a good deal of the blame. However, in this current age of changing technology and litigation, there is something to be said of universities educating and warning students about the potential effects of these online networks. Legally, there is a category called ‘duty to care.’ This means that if a university knows about a problem amongst a student or a group of students, there is a certain level of liability if there is no system in place to educate students about how to avoid these problems or to prevent the repercussions of these problems.
Resident advisors and hall directors have a difficult role in this matter. We are university employees and thus have a certain duty to fulfill to the university. We also live with students who are putting themselves on facebook and have often formed very close friendships with many of these students. We all hope that our students make wise choices and mature in the college setting without facing these negative repercussions. So, what can we do?
How far can we go as university employees in discussing theses personal issues with the students we have a duty to educate and protect? Once again, technology and trends are moving faster than we are able to train staff members about these emerging facebook folleys. It can be a difficult and awkward conversation to ask your residents why they have chosen to post these pictures and its even more difficult to discuss the possibility of bad things happening to students who are too liberal with their personal information on websites.
But it is something that we need to do.
Submitted by Jennifer Page, Resident Assistant, Bowling Green State University