By Sherry Zheng
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Colleges are becoming increasing stringent of students’ social media activity, with one particular college in the U.S. dismissing the application of a prospective student who was discovered to be making profane ‘Tweets’ about fellow attendees during an information session. Such incidents are only the tip of the iceberg.
Not only colleges, but also companies have recently begun to reveal their interest in running social media background checks on prospective employees, in addition to the more familiar criminal and credit background checks. With more jobseekers likely to have a Facebook account than a terrible criminal record or debt history, more jobseekers may be looking to face greater rejection as employers are able to access anything from hangover photos to excruciatingly embarrassing frape posts (“Facebook rape”).
So, what can we do?
Many students appear unconscious when it comes to considering the consequences despite such incidents, warnings and the obligatory, lengthy Terms and Conditions that forewarn users prior to every move. When interviewed, Tokyo University students’ responses to these new social media background checks included, “I believe it is possible, but I’m not too concerned,” and “I’ve never really considered it before”.
Anonymity has become increasingly difficult to retain online as more and more functions such as ‘tagging’ and ‘sharing’ by friends link individuals to unwelcome photos, videos or pages that they themselves may not wish to display on their own profiles.
Furthermore, particularly in Japan many student users have moved from more closed sites such as mixi, where only users with Japanese cell phone numbers and invitations from existing users could join, to infamously public networking sites including Facebook. Until only a couple of years ago, Japanese mixi users who were predominantly accustomed to adopting aliases online were introduced to Facebook after it garnered much popularity overseas. Nowadays it is becoming accepted as the norm, even in Japan, to disclose your real name and personal details including location, education, marital status.
Of course Facebook provide security settings that allow users to personalise their privacy level, however what Facebook does with our information remains unknown to us, the average user. Though many students admit being concerned about these settings, few have neither the time nor patience to test the strength of these privacy settings; “I have my settings on private, except I’ve never really gone to check what it’s like on another person’s account before.”
In the end, the lesson to be learnt here is that whilst society considers it the norm for college students to do regrettable things for we will eventually grow out of such tendencies, the Internet will not move on so easily. Though our parents’ generation were easily forgiven, and were lucky enough to destroy all evidence that could attract any embarrassment, in this day and age where Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram (…the list goes on) thrives, this generation is not so fortunate. We unconsciously track our own idiocies, so that even when we’ve moved far beyond this all twenty years down the road, the inevitable remains; our digital footprint from today will last forever.
Indeed, we should not panic and think of our career crashing and burning when we see a stupid photo of ourselves appear on our newsfeed, might as well live, laugh and untag.
Sherry is a first-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.