How Offensive Is Your Facebook?

I was browsing Mashable the other day when I came across a page that had a list of interesting digital media. Linked was an article that was posted a month ago about a Facebook application called Socioclean that looks at your Facebook profile and makes a list of inappropriate items. I tried it myself and ended up getting “D”, however I don’t really find it very accurate. The application looks for possibly inappropriate keywords, however in many cases, the context was harmless. For example, “wasted” showed up in my report, but it was in a comment made by a friend that was expressing how she felt she had wasted her entire day by oversleeping. I also found it interesting that many of the inappropriate keywords were ones used by friends and NOT myself. Regardless, it is on my profile and I should more aware about the content being expressed on it.

This basis of this application reminds me of a previous reading for class, in which an experiment was done to gain an understanding of how users present themselves. The researchers ultimately categorized users into three categories: College Days, Dressed to Impress, and Living in the Business World. What stands out to me, however, was the description of someone in the College Days group:

DiMicco, J. & Millen, D. (2007). Identity management: Multiple presentations of self in Facebook. Proceedings of the 2007 international ACM conference on Supporting group work. Recieved from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1316682.

Three of the individuals we interviewed followed the patterns we saw in the College Days segment of profile pages. When questioned about issues of identity management and concerns about coworkers and managers viewing their profiles, these users were unconcerned because they considered Facebook to be outside of the context of the workplace. A particularly representative interviewee was Ben (pseudonym):

Ben is in his early 20’s and joined the company as a full time software engineer in January 2006. He is an active Facebook user, beginning in 2005, checking every day, multiple times a day. He primarily uses the site for maintaining friendships with close, but geographically distant, friends. He has over 200 friends on the site, 35 of which are employees he met at new hire events. When he joined the company, he did not change anything about his profile or the pictures of himself. His current profile links to many photos of him drinking alcohol (including directly out of a beer keg) and attending numerous college parties. He feels that Facebook is “for fun” and relates only to “personal life” and hopes that if his manager ever did see this page would understand that it has “nothing to do with his professional life.”

While I understand Ben’s point of view, I find it entirely naive. You may hope that your manager would understand your drunken fun-filled personal life, but that’s just not reality. To quote Mashable:

In a 2009 Harris Interactive study for CareerBuilder.com, 45% of employers questioned had used social networks to screen job candidates. Thirty-five percent of them decided not to hire a candidate based on what they found.

So regardless if an employer sees your inappropriate pictures and tries not to judge, I believe there to still be an impression made subconsciously. Maybe Ben’s priorities leads him not to care. Or perhaps he wouldn’t want to work for someone that would judge you based on your online identity. I then wonder what percentage of users in this College Days group has the same perception as Ben, and if the reason this is so is due to their own personal priorities or something else?

So let’s put it to a poll. How often do you censor the content on your FB profile?

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6 thoughts on “How Offensive Is Your Facebook?

  1. It is unfortunate that people do make judgments on what you choose to share. I can understand however, the feeling of not wanting to work for someone that judges you based on information that you share. For instance, I am an atheist and I have that set to my religious beliefs on Facebook. I know a few people that choose not to share that they are for fear of being judged. If someone chooses not to hire me based on that reason alone, then it’s their loss and if it’s that much of a problem, why would I want to work for them anyway.

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  3. There are too many instances and negative consequences of divulging too much on Facebook. I personally know people who have been not hired, and even fired from jobs over comments, beliefs (religious, political) and more. Identity management is tricky with something like Facebook, which is supposed to be to present yourself. If I can not express who I am on Facebook, then what is the point? Do I project some fake image of myself in order to conform? That doesn’t sound like a very good alternative to me. At the same time, I have made efforts to clean up my Facebook page a bit. I try not to curse much, and even if I do, they are what I would consider “minor” curse works. No F bombs. I agree with Sarah a well. If someone chooses not to hire me because I am an apathetic agnostic, or democrat, or republican, or whatever, then perhaps someone with judgments of my character wouldn’t make my job enjoyable regardless.

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