Facebook: Personal or Professional?

When Facebook first came out I was a sophomore in college (go ahead, do the math). At the time, the social networking site was pretty limited in its powers and was only open to college students. The “cool” thing to do at the time was post your weekend pictures to show the Facebook community, (restricted to other college students only at the time), how much fun you were having. It seemed that the crazier the pictures were, the more likely they were to end up on Facebook. Since the people viewing Facebook were the same people you were out with on the weekends, no one paid much attention to what pictures were ending up online.

Then things started to change. Facebook slowly opened up access, school administrators were getting smarter and creating alias accounts and befriending students, and eventually employers started looking to Facebook profiles of prospective employees. Rumors of people not getting their dream job because their prospective employer found a picture of them beer bonging on spring break were becoming more common, and student athletes getting in trouble because of their “Facebook image” was much more prominent. Even more recently, I’ve had friends who have changed their last names on Facebook so that they won’t be found by prospective employers.

As Facebook continues to evolve I have found myself wondering what I want my Facebook image to be. When my parents started joining Facebook I didn’t think too much about what pictures I had up because they know me, know that I like to go out and have a good time, but know that I was always responsible enough to not get myself into any trouble. As my grandparents started joining the site I started to think a little more, and then when my younger cousins started joining the site I thought a little more.

Is Facebook a personal or professional social networking site? I’ve primarily saved my LinkedIn profile for professional networking, but it seems that today the line between personal and professional is starting to blur. As people I’m networking with start adding me as friends on Facebook, and after much thought, I found myself wanting to clean up my “image”. The one side of me said “this (collection of pictures) is my past, I had a great time in college and I’m not ashamed of that” but the other side of me was saying “does the world really need to see your entire college experience and those very unflattering photos of you?” Ultimately the latter won. At this point I look at Facebook not as a snapshot of my life, but as a view of who I am now.

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