Beer Blanket Beer Blanket

I was nowhere near an early adopter of FaceBook.  I believe I was 28 years old when it started to gain traction.  Actually, at TLA, we lost our first full time developer to go work for FaceBook.  I vividly remember thinking, in my head, ‘why in the world would Rebekah want to go work for some MySpace ripoff geared toward college kids?’  I think now it may be fair to say she made a pretty sound decision!!   The reason I bring this up, is that I thought I was “too old” to join FaceBook and held out until the summer of 2008, whereas I know there are millions upon millions of people who got involved much sooner than I did.  When I know go back and look at my posts in 2008, nothing jumped out at me as being too crazy, maybe a few terrible Halloween costumes, but as I said, I was already in my 30s.  All I can say, is thank goodness they didn’t have something like this ten years prior!

These days, just about everyone is on Facebook, and some have been sharing photos, opinions, etc. for upwards of eight years. A person can change dramatically in that time frame. What may have been your values or priorities when you were 19 may be very different when you are 26. More and more employers and/or recruiters are going out and performing online searches when looking for a candidate. While the ‘beer blanket’ seen above may have been funny your freshman year in college, it’s probably not going to help you land that job at the respected law firm in town.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I’m not concerned, only my Facebook friends would be able to see that photo, and if the HR director at BenJarvis Green-Ellis started searching for my name, they would never find that photo because it is private.” That logic would have made sense prior to January 25, when Mr. Zuckerberg launched Facebook Graph Search. Facebook’s logic was understandable — they want to give their billions of users easy access to information regarding their ‘friends’. Facebook ultimately believes that it would be beneficial for you to do a search to see your friends’ favorite restaurant in Albuquerque, or see what pediatric dentist your friends use in your town.

As users begin to hone their skills with this new tool, it will probably result in more ‘likes’ to businesses, as well as eventually provide the infrastructure for the most targeted advertising of our time. Right now, Facebook Graph Search is still in its infancy, but I’m sure the Powers That Be at Facebook have a solid plan for down the road.

One side effect of the Graph Search is the ease of Facebook users finding photos of other users they are interested in. While there has been a significant amount of backlash in regards Graph Search insinuating it was a violation of Facebook’s privacy settings, it technically is not. That said, here is an example as to why you should take the time to look through old photos that you may not want floating around.

As I’ve said numerous times, as far as social media, I’m old. I’m in my mid 30s and have a measly 312 friends on Facebook. (On second thought, maybe referencing my age is just my excuse for me just not being a likable person…but I digress.) Now, my lovely sister-in-law, who is eleven years younger than myself, has a whopping 1,315 friends. I’m going to use Allie as my hypothetical example.

Allie is relatively new to the working world after graduating from ASU and working for a few advertising firms in Chicago (all true thus far). Let’s say I’m trying to form a partnership with an offline Public Relations agency in New York to assist their clients with online reputation management issues. It turns out Allie has a college acquaintance who is now working at the same hypothetical firm. This fictitious person, “Jane,” is also Facebook friends with the CEO I’m trying to close a deal with, doing my best to try to get him to understand what a respectable person I am.

Mr. CEO does a search of my name on Facebook Graph Search and somehow finds a picture of me at an Arizona State House party four years ago playing beer pong with eight fabulous female co-eds (one can always dream, right?). Since Mr. CEO is friends with “Jane,” who was at the house party, and “Jane” is friends with Allie, and Allie tagged me in that photo, it shows up immediately on Mr. CEO’s screen.  Before the release of Graph Search, he would only be able to see my profile photo since I was not ‘friends’ with Mr CEO, but now, upon seeing this photo, he is quite certain that I am a creep!

I’ll be the first to say that this is irritating. You should be able to express yourself on Facebook as if you were only speaking to your ‘friends’, but with the advent of Graph Search, that web of people who could find information about you just grew exponentially larger.

While Graph Search isn’t the end of privacy as we know it, everyone should take this new tool from Facebook as a reminder to go back through all of your social accounts. Whether it is a tweet you sent out at 4 am over three years ago, a YouTube video seductively singing an Enrique Iglesias song, or ruining a fake deal because of photos from an amazing college party like my hypothetical example, it would be in your best interest to go through these accounts on a monthly basis. Especially with our current environment of nearly 8% unemployment in the US, it only makes sense to be sure there is nothing out there that may sway an employer away from hiring you.