Web site an open book on students’ lives

By Katie Oldenburg

Photos of scantily clad females armed with alcohol and unconscious college-newcomers are popular images on Facebook.com. However, students are finding out the hard way that pictures from “that blurred Halloween night” and “endless pong tournament 2007” are more public than ever expected.

Sweeping the nation even faster than the MySpace.com craze, Facebook has become the most popular social networking tool among college students. As the Web site states, “Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.”

But some educators have also become quite fond of the site, using it to check up on their students’ daily activities. Shawn Kildea, adjunct professor of communication and journalism, used the site last semester as a way to foster in-class discussions.

“Facebook was a great way to network with my students and get discussion going before class even started,” he said. “If students felt uncomfortable participating in the discussions on Facebook there were alternate assignments, but overall it was really successful.”

Not only has Facebook become a useful networking tool, but it has also become a matter of concern regarding privacy and online etiquette, especially for college students who are emerging into the working world looking for jobs and internships. Employers have begun using Facebook to determine the caliber of job candidates and monitor

“If a Facebook page is set to public, it’s open to everyone [whether they are a] professor or not,” Kildea said. “I wouldn’t be looking. Personally, I feel like that would be like putting your ear up to a dorm room door.”

Facebook does have a privacy policy that allows users to choose who they would like to be able to see their profile; however, if teachers are listed under the same network as their student users, this enables the teacher to view their students’ information.

“Even if you have a private site, it only takes one viewer and your privacy is gone,” Kildea said. “A digital image is forever.”

Facebook is opening doors for all kinds of opportunities, including problematic situations and privacy issues, mainly for college students. Miss New Jersey 2007, Amy Polumbo, recently spoke to Rider students about Facebook confidentiality, and about her own struggle to protect her crown after Facebook pictures threatened to take it away.

“It’s true what they say, that a picture is worth a thousand words,” Palumbo warned students. “Privacy is an illusion on the Internet. I thought that about Facebook, and I thought I was careful but pictures I saw as harmless fun with my friends turned out to be

The problem lies in the fact that students feel their Facebook pages are secure from outside sources, including teachers and employers. But even students’ main profile pictures can be problematic and result in a negative image, according to Kildea.

“I had a student who invited me into a Facebook chat and his main profile picture was him passed out drunk on the lawn,” he said. “I knew him well enough to be like, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ because people make judgments. It was a bad decision on his part. Now that picture is available forever.”

Some students feel that there should be no ties between social behavior and what goes on in the workplace.

“What I do in my private life, 99 percent of people in the world do also,” junior Brooke Goldstein said. “If someone judges me based on my personal life, that’s too bad. My pictures and profile have nothing to do with how I perform my job or act in the classroom.”

While some have learned to manage their profiles accordingly, the University is still no stranger to “frisky” Facebook pages. As far as pictures are concerned, plenty of scantily clad students bare skin and snapshots of drunken evenings, while others prefer to publicize their wild sides through joining groups titled “Go to class drunk day.”

“Facebook representations can be very misleading,” Kildea said. “Friday night Professor Kildea is very different from in-class Professor Kildea. The Facebook world isn’t a good representation of who my students are either.”

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