I started my Facebook page my senior year of high school as a mom-safe alternative to MySpace. Since everyone and their mother (quite literally) had MySpace accounts, I was constantly getting checked up on by other moms who would report my daily doings to my mom. I never had anything bad or offensive on my page, I was the quintessential goody-good, but it sometimes bothered me that “MySpace” was not actually my space. I was raised in a fairly sheltered and conservative home so the moments of true independence and me-time I had in my life, I could probably count on one hand. I was ecstatic to learn that you had to be a college student to use Facebook. I’d already been accepted into school so I plugged in my new email and wrote myself into my profile. Whether through photos, videos, blogs, status updates, etc, I finally had a creative outlet that I was completely free to be me – no discernment needed.
Fast forward a couple of years, Facebook opens up to high school students, then middle school students. Fast forward some more time, Facebook opens up to the general public. Fast forward again, open to marketers. Currently, I have 1,238 Facebook friends. While it is still my space, it’s not just a page I share with my friends- everything I do (sometimes even apart from Facebook) is now seen by my friends, my colleagues, my parents and family, my kids that I mentor and babysit, my pastor, my former college chancellor, that guy I met at the Library that one time sophomore year, the school mascot, and advertisers for any product/service you can imagine. Facebook may as well be a public website (technically, it is- regardless of your privacy settings- but that’s a blog for another day).
There are countless complaints regarding the lack of privacy on Facebook. People are astounded when they don’t get hired for a new job based on inappropriate Facebook photos, or they get fired for posting that they skipped work to do drugs. Their argument: “It’s my page, my life, no one else’s business.” I want to be able to live my life as I want to, and document it.
The flip side : If I’m looking to hire an employee and invest my time and finances in training and salary, I want to know that they’re not just a quality resume, but that they’re a quality person. And ultimately, if there’s a photo or comment that I am not comfortable with my mother/sister/pastor/boss/random guy from sophomore year seeing, maybe I should evaluate my actions/words. Read what employers are thinking when they look at your facebook page.
While one can make the argument that they should be able to exercise freedom of speech and expression, I’d caution to remember that all actions have consequences whether good or bad. Rather than thinking about it as censorship, consider it astute discernment. As quoted by Mark Zuckerberg’s character in The Social Network, the internet is written in ink. As cathartic as it may be, does the World Wide Web really need to see your beer pong skills or know that your boss is a jerk? Probably not. Perhaps comments like “I hate my job” or “I got sooooo wasted last night” are better left unwritten.