Social media has been around for a while now and new platforms like Instagram and so on are growing steadily. And, of course, Facebook now claims to have some 1.2 billion active users. So you would think by now that people would know what to share and what to keep private. But apparently they don’t. The degree of the problem became crystal clear as long ago as 2011, when Ashley Payne, an elementary school teacher in Barrow County, Georgia was fired because of the images she posted on Facebook while on vacation. Worried that she may not be fit to be a teacher, concerned parents sent those images to the school board.
Out of hundreds of photos that were posted about Payne’s vacation, ten of the images included alcohol. School teachers can no longer drink on their vacations? Payne resigned but she could have lost her teaching license. And even with high-profile cases like Anthony Weiner, the congressman who was forced to resign because inappropriate texts he sent surfaced on the Internet, people STILL DO NOT GET IT. According to a recent study, 10 percent of young job applicants have been rejected for a position to which they applied because of inappropriate content on social media sites.
And age is no excuse. The New York Times reported this fall that students have been rejected from institutions of higher learning after college admission officers peaked at the applicants’ social media pages. Colleges are using students’ social media pages as a reference to see if they are who they say they are on paper. Schools believe that the content posted on a student’s page is a reflection of their character and provides a clear depiction of their ethical beliefs. According to a study by the Kaplan Test Prep, around 30 percent of colleges have admitted to looking at applicants’ social media accounts. Unfortunately, students don’t seem to care.
Theoretically, social media provides a space that enables freedom of speech. The question is whether our professional lives will allow us to take advantage of that freedom. Right now, increasingly, the answer is no.Brittany Brin, Graduate Student Master of Arts in Emerging Media Loyola University Maryland