By K Mattesich • June 18, 2010•Writers in Residence
The worldwide web, as we first knew it, presents us with too many options. And Facebook consists of a myriad of options. Do you accept his or her friend request? Ok, you are going to accept, but maybe you could put her on a “limited view” setting? Or perhaps a spring cleaning every year would do the trick in managing your profile…where you sift through all of your “friends” to try and remember where you know them from. Can’t recall when and where you met them? De-friending time. Or maybe…a complete Facebook detox is in order.
When Alex entered law school as a 1L, she was welcomed onto campus with a barrage of advice. From older law students, to professors and administrators, there seemed to be plenty of tips and suggestions for surviving law school and navigating the legal field. One of the first cautionary tales she heard was about Facebook. “Be careful what you put on Facebook.” Common sense. Of course! Everyone already knows that it isn’t a good idea to have anything you wouldn’t want your teacher or parents to see on your profile. It is, after all, open to public viewing once it goes into the cosmos of the online world. But Alex knew she didn’t have anything inappropriate on her Facebook that would be a cause for concern. So, she brushed off the advice and attempted to figure out how to outlines for her classes.
Interestingly, sometimes it takes a second, or even a third time, to hear the exact same piece of advice before it sets in and jumpstarts some type of action. This was one of those times...
Fast forward to November of Alex’s first year - that NALP ban on recruiting first year students had passed and so Alex decided to meet with her career adviser. She thought it was going to be a rundown of what a legal resume should look like, but she was asked at the start of the meeting where she saw herself in five years. Wait, wait! She did a double-take, glancing at her adviser again. This wasn’t a job interview. “WHY is he asking me this,” she thought. She mumbled something about “civil practice,” but the truth was she was only three months into law school and she had no clue. She will still trying to understand what elements were required to form a contract.
He then started talking about first impressions. How important they are in interviews, networking, and in the work force, etc. Her eyes started to glaze over as he continued. She realized she was in over her head because she hadn’t been thinking about these things. She had just wanted some feedback on building her resume. She was stirred from her own thoughts when he addressed her by name…
“Alex, let’s talk about facebook. Law students don’t understand the repercussions of having a profile on a social networking site. This can be catastrophic when it comes to getting an interview for a job, or for getting that follow-up phone call.” And then came the twist. He told her he was going to ask her the question students might get in an interview they may not be prepared for.
“What would I find if I went onto Facebook and looked at your account right now?” he inquired.
Silence. She would never have expected this question. She wouldn’t know what to say to this question.
“Well, you wouldn’t find anything inappropriate,” she stammered. “I make sure to keep my profile professional. Plus, my profile is set to private, so only my friends on Facebook have access to my profile to keep it out of public view.”
“Oh,” he responded. “So you have a private profile because you don’t want certain people seeing things? What sort of things to you have to hide from the public?”
She was stumped.
And with that, she realized she had better come up with a better answer in a real interview or, do a complete Facebook detox. She could remove pictures of her out socializing at bars, or being silly with her friends, and even funny links people posted on her walls. Although, none of these things amounted to a crime or inappropriate behavior, but they wouldn’t necessarily be things she would want a potential employer to see.
And so it seems…it comes down to that question….to detox or not to detox the Facebook account?
Alex chose not to deactivate her account. She kept everything in place, but did a slight detox and de-friended those whom she hadn’t communicated with in years and ensured her profile was set to private. This is one possibility.
But there is a risk that a friend of a friend will give an employer access to your Facebook page. A safer bet is perhaps to make sure you would feel comfortable letting your mother, or even your old elementary school principal view your profile. If the answer is yes, then a potential employer viewing it shouldn’t scare you.
Of course, to be absolutely safe and ensure no one gets the wrong impression of you- go for the complete DETOX. Yes, that is right. Don’t worry, you can deactivate- and then reactivate your account at a later time should you change your mind.
And ladies, no matter what route you go..in the event you get asked by a potential “employer” about your Facebook account, the response is an easy one: “Well, you would see a profile of a student in the midst of her law school career-you know, what any reasonable law student would have on her Facebook account.”
Yes, if we have learned anything thus far in law school- it always comes down to reasonableness, doesn’t it?!