Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thanks For The Advice, But I'm Not Deleting Any Facebook Photos

A young woman in college raised a topic of much debate on NPR this afternoon. She explained that her advisor told her she needed to take down all her pictures on Facebook that she wouldn't want an employer to see. She then complained about how she really didn't want to delete them. The consensus on the show seemed to be that no, you don't have to delete all your pictures, but employers don't have to hire you either.

Why are we still talking about whether potential employers are going to Google you or check out your Facebook profile? Why are we still talking about deleting Facebook photos at all? Whether they're going to check you out or not, you should protect your online identity as if they are. Which is why I'm not deleting all my "incriminating" Facebook photos or censoring my comments. I'm reading the privacy policies and protecting my account to make sure that only my friends can see my photos and details of my account.

Facebook is personal. It's the one social network where I keep in touch with family and friends across space and time. It's the one place I can talk about a messy family drama divorce; learn about my sister's engagement in Italy; commiserate with hungover friends; share and laugh at pictures of our recent beach trip. If I want to know about the intimate details of your life and want you to know about mine, then I'm gonna let you know: with a friend request. If not, don't worry, I might just connect with you somewhere else (email? LinkedIn? Twitter?).

Point being, it's personal. Why would you even let a casual observer such as a potential employer peruse your personal Facebook profile? That's like letting someone you barely know walk around your house uninvited. Put a lock on your front door (a.k.a. go set your profile information & search privacy settings)! Then you silly little college students don't have to get mad because you had to delete all your SBY2K10 photos.

Take what others advise with a grain of salt. Be your own advocate. Do your own research. BE SMART.

Sidenote: Facebook privacy aside, if you're an employer that won't hire a normal 20-something who goes out for drinks with their friends on the weekends or has pictures of themselves at a party, I probably don't want to work for you anyways. No hard feelings :)


  1. Good blog, dont delete any picture, just change the setting.

  2. I agree 100%! Employers are going to search you via social media, but if you have control of your privacy settings, it shouldn't matter!

  3. @Luay: Yea, you can even edit the privacy settings for individual albums!

    @Ashley: It REALLY shouldn't matter! I'm sick of non-facebook experts telling me I'm ruining my career by not deleting all my facebook pictures...

  4. I totally agree with your side note. I have controlled my privacy settings on Facebook. I just took off my privacy on twitter because I realized that if an employer didn't like what I had to say on Twitter, they are probably not going to like what I say in real life and I'm not going to keep the true me mum!

  5. Fantastic. It takes 20 minutes to figure out the privacy settings and to go through contacts and make the changes. It's not rocket science but people act as if they are shocked when an employer/coworker/family member sees some information that they didn't want them to.'s a public forum. Privacy is YOUR responsibility and no one else's. And kudos on your side note. Even though I'm not currently at a job that encourages general frivolity (that was sarcastic but still true), my next employer better be willing to stand a generally happy, goofballish and sarcastic personality.

    Great post, Carlee.

  6. Love the post, and agree 100%. Be authentic, you don't want to work for a SM Guistapo. Fiddle the privacy settings for different levels of access and use your best discretion.

  7. I'm going to echo what Regina said. Ditto on the side note. If an employer balks at my online persona (which is closely aligned with my real-life persona), we're probably not going to mesh well anyway.

    As for Facebook, I keep my settings private, but if you google my name, you'll still find plenty to cast judgment upon. I write about sex! Deal with it! (Even better, hire me to write about sex for you!) :)

  8. Although I do agree, and I personally keep up some crazy photos and have my Facebook setting to VERY personal, the fact still is this is information on the internet. Once you put something on the internet, it ceases to be entirely personal. If you REALLY don't want someone to find out about your life, publishing that information is the not route I would take.
    On the other hand, I am totally supportive of your "side note" about who wants to work for a company that thinks 20 somethings are constantly sober and have nothing to do but work and worry about their resume (even though that is kind of me right now).
    However, Past employer once told me that a previous intern didn't get a job BECAUSE her Facebook profile pic was of her in a bikini. I didn't find this completely fair, but also, that's the picture you are using to represent WHO YOU careful with that. Her outer representation was so important because the possible-employer was a charity organization that worked with children...They need to have a specific, unified face. These are times when I do agree with employers choosing to judge based on Facebook.

  9. There's one problem I have with this: the privacy policies don't actually mean anything.

    It's a pretty well-known (or at least publicly available) fact that if you work for Facebook, you can see everything on every user's profile, regardless of their settings. And while I understand the need for this in cases of account moderation and whatnot, there's very little to stop the site from offering this access as a paid service to employers.

    And I would argue that this can be an important part of the hiring process: it's easy for someone to hide their personality in an application or even an interview. Much in the same way as an applicant would (or should) do research on an employer before they send in a job app, employers should be allowed to do research on the applicants. It can cost companies hundreds or thousands of dollars to train and employ someone, and those costs don't yield any returns if the person did not honestly represent themself to the company.

    There are hundreds of xenophobic, racist, anti-religion (anti-semitic, anti-Islam, etc), anti-country and anti-sexual preference groups and fan pages on Facebook. If you knew that your organization was going to hire someone in one of those groups, would you be okay with it?

    I recently went to Twitter and typed in 12 different permutations of the phrase "I hate my stupid boss". Over the last three days, over 350 unique people have entered in a tweet with those words. And regardless of their account privacy settings, their tweets still show up in searches. No matter how well you may think you've protected yourself digitally, there's always a way around privacy settings, and you can bet that a serious employer can find their way around them.

    FB founder Mark Zuckerberg himself has said that he doesn't like the idea of privacy for users in the first place (, which is a strong indicator of why the privacy settings for accounts keep getting more convoluted and harder to navigate.

    I understand the thinking behind putting your social stuff up on a social network, as well as the implication that it shouldn't be held against you. But if you're serious about appearing as a professional to others, you should moderate your profile. After all, it's not as safe (or private) as you think.

  10. Would you really want to work for a company that wouldn't hire you because there's a photo on the internet of you holding a beer?

  11. I like living honestly and out in the open, but then again, I'm not a 20something anymore. I don't censor myself on any of my blogs, particularly my personal blog about the going ons of my life (marriage, pregnancy, money...) or my Facebook profile either.

    This is me, the good, the bad and everything in between. If a company wants to scrutinize one tiny sliver of my life without looking at the entire picture, then I don't want to associate myself with a company, as close-minded as that.

    Nice post...thanks for sharing!