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File photo dated 1/17/08 of the Facebook Web site.

Want to Hide in Plain Sight? Consider an Alias on Facebook

January 20, 2011 07:00 AM
by Colleen Brondou
As more cases come to light of tarnished online reputations proving disastrous in the professional world, more people consider changing their names on Facebook.

Facebook in the Job Market

Facebook may have started as a tool to find long-lost friends, but it has since become a way to establish professional connections and search for employment. Although business-focused social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Xing have carved a niche for themselves in the face of severe job cuts, Facebook still remains one of the most popular tools for finding a job.

That may change, however, if an “emerging national trend” continues, Andrew Katz suggests for Southern Maryland Online. Many students and new graduates are changing their names on Facebook in order to “elude snooping recruiters,” Katz writes.

Lauren Berger, a graduate of the University of Central Florida, discusses the trend on her college speaking tour. “It is too easy for them to not type in your name and look you up on Facebook when you apply for a job,” she told Katz. “If they see inappropriate content they might not interview you—they might not hire you.”

Protecting Your Online Reputation

In January, Microsoft commissioned a report conducted by Cross-Tab Marketing Services, “Online Reputation in a Connected World.” The report looked at the influence of online reputation in hiring practices. According to the report, 70 percent of hiring managers in the United States said they had rejected candidates based on information they found online. Meanwhile, just 7 percent of Americans included in the report felt that online information about them had affected their ability to find a job in the past.

How can you protect your online identity? Changing your name is one option; others suggest adjusting privacy settings, changing viewer permission settings for photos, creating a second profile just for professional networking purposes and being careful about who you “friend.”

“I cleaned out my friend list because a lot of people on there were people I had one class with freshman year that I haven’t talked to since,” Andrea Donohue, a graduate of the University of Maryland, told Katz. “I don’t know if they’re going to get a job with someone interviewing and they say, ‘Oh, you know this person? Let me look at their profile.’”

Teachers on Facebook

While job seekers and students try to shield their Facebook identities from potential employers and teachers, some think teachers themselves should do more to monitor the content on their own Facebook pages.

In February, Melissa Hussain, an eighth-grade science teacher at West Lake Middle School in Apex, N.C., was suspended with pay after some of her “students and their parents objected to comments on her Facebook page,” T. Keung Hui reported for The Charlotte Observer.

Hussain posted that it was a “hate crime” when students left a Bible on her desk, while friends made comments on her page about “ignorant southern rednecks.” Hussain also complained on Facebook about her students singing “Jesus Loves Me,” wearing Jesus T-shirts and reading the Bible in class. The comments were made on the public side of her Facebook page; when parents learned of the comments, they complained to the school.

Scribd hosts “A Teacher’s Guide to Using Facebook.” According Bernadette Rego, author of the Guide, “[T]here have been instances reported by media in the past of teachers demonstrating professional misconduct while engaging in inappropriate dialogue about their schools and their students, posting pictures and videos of themselves engaged in appropriate activity, and the likes. Some feel that being online shields them from having their personal lives exposed. On the contrary, how we establish our online identity can carry far greater repercussions than we could ever have imagined.” 

Rego offers suggestions on how to set up profiles on Facebook that “uphold your professional image.”

The Law and Facebook

In 2009, a New Zealand court approved the use of Facebook to issue a court summons.

Craig Axe, identified as living in the United Kingdom, was accused of taking NZ$241,000 (about $126,300) from his family’s business, Axe Market Garden. Axe was know to have an account on Facebook, so the lawyer for Axe Market, Daniel Vincent, asked the judge in the case to allow issuance of a secondary court summons via Facebook and e-mail. Axe had not responded to other attempts to contact him, so the judge agreed.

In 2008, American college student Joshua Lipton, 20, posed as a “jail bird” at a Halloween party just two weeks after a car accident in which he caused a woman serious injury while driving drunk. The prosecution used pictures of the party that were posted on Facebook to demonstrate Lipton’s lack of remorse. The judge concurred, sentencing him to two years in prison.

Reference: Online social networking

Learn more about the social networking phenomenon, and do some networking of your own, with findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Social Networking.

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