We are fast becoming a nation of social networking addicts, and no group more so than students. But where should we
draw the line between our professional and private lives? And what are the potential risks we face when we log on? There are
some high-profile cases of careers being ruined because of inappropriate content found on social networking sites. In October
last year, Philip Clarke, a Tory aide, was suspended after a “blacked up” Tory co-worker was posted onhis Facebook page.
Whether it was sheer stupidity or not, it is a scary reminder that what we post online could be seen by anyone.
Arguably, it is graduates who are at greatest risk.Facebook was created by a Harvard University student to help people on
campus keep in touch and was originally based around university networks. Mass demand for the service has led it to be opened
to all, with networks now based around cities rather than universities. This makes it more difficult for graduates to decide when,
if ever, it is time to end their relationship with social networking.
Continuing the student lifestyle through your profile may seem the best way of avoiding having to growup completely.
But student accounts can be particularly explicit and although uploading photos from a 48-hour post-exam bender might seem
like a great idea at the time, you never know who might be looking at them a few months down the line.And it could be to the
determent of your fledgling career.
Throughout the press there have been reports about employers snooping onapplicants’ accounts before they even make it
to interview. Research has shown that one in five employers use social networking sites to check up onhow candidates project
themselves, with almost two thirds admitting that details found online affect their decisions. So, when the boundaries between
your private and professional life become blurred, is it time to walk away from social networking?
Many young people entering professions such as teaching or youth work are “guided” towards leaving networking sites
because of concerns that younger people under theirsupervision could easily find them online. In professions like these,
concerned as they are with the boundaries of decency between adults and children, the risk of using such sites can be high.
For the majority of us, perhaps it is not a case ofending your relationship with social networking, but instead simply time
to “clean up” your account. Deleting those drunken photos, and removing the “What serial killer are you?” application takes
little effort and could spell the difference between getting your dream job and not.
There’s also no reason why potential employers won’t be impressed by your ability to have an active social life as well
keep up with work. Despite this, however, in a world where first impressions count, being a member of a social networking site
leaves you open to being judged by other people, but the vast benefits of membership shouldn’t be overlooked either.
In the transition from student to graduate, stayingin touch seems more important than ever, and thesesites offer an
efficient tool for communicating in an information-hungry world. Perhaps the key to successful social networking is an
awareness of your surroundings and how your actionsaffect these … without forgetting to have a bit offun along the way.