Tonilee: In a world with instant access to the World Wide Web and knowledge about what the person sitting next to you is doing, we see social media as both a blessing and a curse. Instant communication and the opportunity to express our views can be great things, but when we use them inappropriately we may find that it can affect us both in school and/or in our careers. Because of laws, or the lack thereof, employers and school administration can exercise the right to ask for our social media account information.

According to an article by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), some employers and public colleges and universities are asking employees and students to “turn over” their account information for social media sites. While some employers can argue that it is necessary to protect their trade secrets, financial information, and other information, many see this as a major invasion of privacy. There are now laws being put into place all over the country regarding these privacy restrictions and/or grants, but none of the states seem to agree.

Employers use social media often to do more than protect their company’s private information. They use it to check out future and current employees and make judgments about them based on statuses and photos they post. The same goes for students, whose eligibility for school or sports teams may depend on their social media usage. The questions we need to consider are Who has access to our social media accounts? and Where do we draw the line?

Aaron: When you apply to a college or a job it is important for that organization to know what kind of person you are.  The New York Times reports that numerous small universities now use social media to “scout” their applicants that are applying to the school.  Schools need to know that you will fit in with their environment and their current students.  They want diversity but also need stability.  This has also become very common for employers to have their human resource people use social media to gain more familiarity on the applicant.  These future employees need to mesh with the current employees and the management.  There have been many instances where these departments have found that the applicants are very different from what was on their application.

There are also a large number of instances where people have lied on the application and the HR person has found this out while probing them.  Many people feel that this is an invasion of privacy.  I see that it is important for organizations to use this because an interview or an application is not always enough.  You cannot find out enough about a person to make a good judgement decision from just an application and an interview.  These decisions are to important to not take advantage of every piece of information.  This is even more true when you consider that people now often lie about the qualifications that they may or may not have.  It is important for these people to try to find the truth.

Tonilee: Although interviews may not be enough to know a person, and a lot of dishonesty can be hidden through them, that is where the need for personal references come in. When applying for a job, a reference should provide that outside source from either someone the interviewee has previously worked for or someone else who knows the interviewee personally. While, yes, there is a potential for bias within this, it provides a deeper look into his life without invading his privacy by going through every message he has ever sent on Facebook, every post on Twitter, or looking at every stupid picture he has ever taken with his friends. These all say something about a person, but does it all speak directly to how a person will perform at the job they are interviewing for? Do spelling errors on a social media profile really indicate that someone would be incompetent and unable to be professional in a job where he never has to write out a word? As much as I cringe at the incorrect usage of “there,” “they’re” and “their,” I still have faith that a person who writes these things incorrectly online could be great at his job.

While I do agree that as the age of non-existing privacy continues and worsens that people need to be more careful about what they post, I also think that everyone makes stupid choices and deserves some grace. Like the two Famous Dave’s employees and Taco Bell’s contest gone wrong, there are many people who make mistakes using social media in regards to their workplace. It is important to have consequences for your actions, and I firmly believe that stupid choices need punishment to help establish to the doer the stupidity of his actions, but should we go as far as to take away a person’s job that potentially provides for him and maybe others in his family because of one stupid choice? The punishment seems a little harsh.

Aaron: The problem is it is not usually spelling errors and minor things that these Human Resource departments are finding on social media.  There are an increasing number of people that are posting pictures of themselves drinking (even underage kids), doing illegal drugs, or even posting things of a sexual nature.  Recently Facebook changed their privacy settings so that more people will be able to view things that you post or comment on.  There is no way to stop this unless you undo these settings.

These setting changes are letting more institutions and HR people view your profile without you knowing it.  While grammar errors were still a reason for them to reconsider the applicant (which I see a little extreme) the highest percentages, which can be found in the previous article, for reconsideration was illegal drug use 83%, sexual post 71%, and profanity at 65%.

If I was running a business I want to make sure I am hiring someone that will represent my business in the best way.  I do not want someone that could be taking pictures of himself, doing illegal activities or putting other things on social media that I don’t consider proper.  What if this person was wearing a company shirt or some other item that might show that the person works for your company?  Imagine the negative publicity that would bring to your company.  It would be bad for business and bad for you.  I would not want to risk my reputation or all the time and money I put into my business for it to go all away with a bad employee on social media.

I understand sometimes when you are hanging out with friends you sometimes do stupid things and post things you should not.  Things like this happen that is why it is important to make sure that you do a “spring cleaning” on your social media profiles. It is important to do this several times throughout the year but even more important when applying for anything that might use social media to check you out.  Some people have even taken down their social media profiles during these processes. Then once you have been hired/accepted you can put your profile back up.  I have noticed more and more older college kids doing this with there social media sites.

Tonilee: When thinking about “spring cleaning” and taking down social media profiles, I wonder how much of the items actually go away for good. Although mistakes happen, I think we need to start educating people to avoid certain things on social media all together because, as pointed out in an article that provides tips for students who are using social media, “your online reputation can live forever.”  Making wise decisions about what we include in our social media profiles to begin with can avoid the need for “spring cleaning” and deletion as well as embarrassment or trouble later on in life.

Once a picture is online it most likely never can truly be private again, and it also can spread like wild fire. One teacher took a picture to teach her students internet safety and how quickly photos can spread, but they learned an even greater lesson when the picture got passed around and edited inappropriately by others.

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Once something is out there that people can use, it is a free-for-all. People can manipulate it and turn it into something that it was never meant to be. If it isn’t manipulated, an inappropriate picture can still come back to haunt you even if you deleted it.

The issue to address may be more of the need for education and prevention rather than cleaning and deletion.

Aaron: I agree in going forward it is critical that we instill in people how to properly use social media.  Almost all professional sporting leagues now have all of their incoming rookies take a class to teach them the importance of properly using social media.  But I feel like this is too late and is only the smallest percentage of people.  I think that this should at least be taught in college and maybe even in high school when it all really begins.

You may have noticed many college players have started to get in trouble over the past few years for tweets they have been sending out.  No one is more known than, Heisman trophy winner, Johnny Football, who has been under much controversial the past several months. He has sent out many controversial tweets and was later forced to delete them. There are several players that have just completely deleted their accounts because they were scared about saying something wrong.

I think that high schools should teach a mandatory class on the suitable use of social media.  This would be good because it would teach a lot of people about the magnitudes of a single post.  But then again I sense that many students would not pay attention to this.  It really comes down to self-responsibility and often times people think that a single tweet/post really will not have that big of an impact.  They do not take the time to think about after a few shares/retweets the number can quickly grow to thousands.

Tonilee: Having classes on proper use of social media would be beneficial in any arena, but when children are starting to use social media at younger and younger ages we see the need to start education even earlier. Research has shown that many children between the ages of 11 and 15 lie about their ages on social media. A child may indicate that he is 18 years old without any need or means for verification. Shouldn’t we start educating children about social media, how others can access their information, and the consequences that can come from improper use of it?

Some argue that we should monitor children’s use of social media. While this may be appropriate at times, I believe that education may prevent the need for the invasion of privacy and monitoring. There are stories of children committing suicide from cyber-bulling, and other students indicating on social media that they are going to end their lives. There is now technology that schools can use to track certain key words on social media in order to prevent cases like these and possibly even save a student’s life. CNN asks the question, “Does monitoring social media violate student privacy?” Maybe it does, but saving a life is saving a life. So it all goes back to the question of where we should draw the line. Should parents monitor their own child’s social media accounts? Should schools? The government? To what extent? Should no one monitor them?

As with everything, there is a cost to monitoring social media. As easy as it seems to just watch over and protect everyone, (disregarding privacy rights,) there is also a very high cost to doing so. Many school districts and universities can’t afford to have each one of their student’s social media accounts monitored, nor can businesses constantly track their employees’ online behavior due to the extreme costs of hiring companies to do this or buying the technology to do so. Government tracking costs money as well, and the money has to come from somewhere. If online safety has a cost, what does this say about the cost of our privacy? Are we going to have to start paying for people who monitor us and then pay again to get our privacy back?

Aaron: We live in a society where people will post very in depth information about their lives and then will complain about not having any privacy.  It is time for us to say that we no longer have the privacy that other generations had.  It is something we will never be able to enjoy.  According to Peter Cashmore, CEO of Mashable a widespread blog writes on CNN that Today privacy is dead and social media is the one holding the gun.  Flickr photos are public for everyone,  On Twitter you will very rarely see anyone with a private account, and Facebook is pushing more and more to public post.  There is even a company making a camera for someone to wear around their neck to capture the person’s whole live.

Whether we like it or not, we do not get the luxury of privacy.  It is now the social norm to share more personal information with a larger group of people online, according to the found of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.  These changes have just happened in the last five years.  When Facebook was first created people asked why would I want a website and share information on it. Today you would be considered a caveman if you did not have some type of a social media account.

It is not just regular people violating other people’s privacy nowadays.  Recently people found out that the United States was spying on American citizens and even on major political leaders around the world, with the NSA program.

We now live in a world that is pretty much completely transparent.  Back in the day if something bad happened in a business or school they would try to keep it in house.  Today that does not fly because everyone has a cell phone and social media accounts.  If one gets on Yahoo and just clicks through some of their stories one will see that there is an increasing number of these that are first reported through a social media site.

Tonilee: I believe most people would see privacy as a privilege, but it shouldn’t have to be a luxury. In our discussion we have seen many different situations where the right to privacy is questioned, and even the amount of that privacy. Because of this ever-changing world and increases in the availability of instant communication, social media users need to be educated about how to use it appropriately and the effects that inappropriate use can have on their lives, as well as have caution when using it and what they are using it for. Using social media accounts does limit our privacy whether we like it or not, so if we choose to use it we must accept that we are putting our privilege to privacy at risk and may be turning it into a luxury.

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