Monday, December 1, 2008

Facebook is Fun, But Could It Cost You Your Job?

Over the past ten years the internet has grown to be very different from when it was first created. Websites have gone from being just textual to including images and videos, and people can now use the internet in ways that were never thought of in the past. Communication on the internet is rising, and has come to be known as CMC, or computer-mediated communication. Many websites are utilizing CMC, in particularly, increasingly popular social networking sites, or SNSs, such as MySpace and Facebook. According to boyd and Ellison (2007), social network sites are defined as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” This is exactly how SNSs like MySpace and Facebook work. Users created their own profile, add friends, and converse. Facebook has become one of the biggest SNSs, which according to, is the 4th most trafficked website in the world and the most trafficked social media site in the world, with more than 120 million active users. Facebook is fairly new, but has seen many changes over its four years in existence. Originally intended for college students, Facebook users can now join high school, corporate, and local networks. With so many people using Facebook and so many networks, the issue of privacy is of great importance. Due to the large number of college students using Facebook, many employers are beginning to use Facebook as a tool to screen applicants, and in some cases, these applicants have been turned down because of the content on their Facebook pages. For this reason among others, privacy on Facebook is becoming a growing issue. However, before addressing the privacy issue, it is important to understand more about what Facebook is, who uses it, and how it has changed in its four years of existence.

According to, Facebook was first launched in February of 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, under the name: The Facebook. Zuckerberg got the idea for The Facebook from his high school (Phillips Exeter Academy), where The Exeter Face Book was used by students as a way to get to know their fellow classmates. Initially, Facebook was created solely for use by Harvard students, but within two weeks, “half of the student body had signed up” (, para. 1). With the help of his friends, Zuckerberg added many college networks over the next four months, thirty to be exact. Facebook was becoming a hit with college students, and in August of 2005 it officially became Facebook was also being noticed by investors. Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal, invested $500,000 into Facebook, Accel Partners invested $12.7 million, and in a third round of funding Facebook received $25 million from Greylock Partners and Meritech capital. In September of 2006 Yahoo attempted to acquire Facebook for $1 billion dollars, which was turned down by Zuckerberg, but in October of 2007 Zuckerberg struck a deal with Microsoft, where they invested $240 million dollars into Facebook for 1.6 percent of the company. With plenty of funding, Facebook was able to continue expanding. Due to its growing popularity and demand, more colleges were added and continued to be added to Facebook’s network, and by September of 2005, Facebook opened up to high school students. Facebook later opened work networks, and by September of 2006 to anyone with an email address (

Knowledge of how Facebook was created and who uses it is not sufficient to understand the site itself. Facebook, which can be found at, is a social networking site where users must create a profile using accurate information about themselves. To keep users’ profiles secure, an email address and password must be created and used to access their profiles. Once logged in, users can choose to include or exclude information about themselves, which is grouped into four different sets of information: basic information, personal information, contact information, and education and work information. Basic information includes information about a user’s networks, sex, birthday, hometown, relationship status, political views, and religious views. Personal information is more in depth. Here users can include or exclude information about their interests, favorite movies, TV shows, music, books, quotations, and are provided with a space to write a brief description about themselves. Contact information includes information on how to contact the user. Here they can include or exclude email addresses, im screen names, phone numbers, college residence, home address, and any websites they may have. Beyond this information, users can also upload pictures and videos of themselves, as well as write on others’ walls and have their wall written on. Pictures and videos can be tagged by a user’s friends, and will end up on their profile unless they untag themselves. Pictures and videos can also be commented on. These comments, as well as any wall posts are permanent and will remain on a user’s profile unless they choose to delete them. Having a Facebook profile seems like a good way to network with friends, but if users are not careful of the material that is on their profile, it may end up in the wrong hands and possibly costing them their future.

According to Hope Samborn (2007), “Employers easily find personal information about job candidates simply by entering the applicant's name on the Google home page.” This is true, and because Facebook has a very high page rank with Google, chances are that a user’s Facebook profile will be one of the first search results. Therefore, anyone looking for information on a particular person can just search their name on Google, and if they have a Facebook profile, browse the user’s pictures and personal information. This can lead to big problems. If a college student that uses Facebook is looking for work, and their potential employer finds something on their Facebook profile that is not appropriate, they may choose to withdraw the job offer or never call the applicant in for an interview. In an article in the New York Times entitled “For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé”, Alan Finder further discusses this issue. He presents a few cases of candidates that were turned down from job because of the content on their Facebook profiles. In one situation, a company president found a job candidate that looked promising, but when he checked the candidate’s Facebook profile, he found that one of the candidate’s interests was listed as “smokin’ blunts”, shooting people, and obsessive sex. This Facebook user may have posted these to be humorous to his friends, but the company president did not think it was funny and never contacted that candidate for the job. Another situation presented in Finder’s article, involved another recruiter who planned on interviewing what seemed to be a promising job applicant. The job was with a firm that taught high school students. Out of curiosity, the recruiter visited the applicant’s Facebook profile and found “explicit photographs and commentary about the student's sexual escapades, drinking and pot smoking, including testimonials from friends (Finder, 2006, para. 15).” The recruiter also found pictures of the girl passed out from drinking too much. After finding this, the applicant, like the other, was never contacted for an interview. These real life accounts show that the content of a user’s Facebook profile may be used by potential employers to determine whether or not an applicant is worth interviewing. So what can users do?

The first option for Facebook users is the obvious; don’t post anything that may get you in trouble. If users don’t upload incriminating pictures and don’t write anything ridiculous in their personal information sections, it cannot be used against them. However, there are going to be users that do not want to edit their profiles. For these users, Facebook has many privacy settings. According to Lewis, Kaufman, and Christakis (2008), users can change their settings so their profile is no longer fully accessible by non-friend same network users or no longer even searchable. The first option allows for the user to still be searched for, but other users will not be able to view their profile fully without first requesting to be their friend. This may be a good option if a user does not want people to be able to look at their pictures or read their information, but they will still be able to be searched for and companies may be to find them. The second option makes a user pretty much anonymous to everyone except for people they are friends with. A search for their name will return no results. The only other users that will be able to view their pictures, information, and wall postings will be the friends they currently have and any other users they wish to have as friends. This seems to be the best option to prevent recruiters from finding a user’s Facebook profile, and using it to determine whether or not the applicant is good for the position. If they cannot find the page, they cannot use it against you. Making a Facebook profile private seems like the second best advice for Facebook users (the first being don’t write or post anything incriminating), but is it?

According to Brandenburg (2008), companies still have ways of accessing Facebook profiles that are private. Many of the employees that are active in recruiting other students were at one time also students. They may have a Facebook account, which could aid in finding applicants on their school’s network. If they don’t, they probably still have their school email address, which is all they need to create a Facebook account. Creating this account will also help them locate applicants on their school’s network. Companies also hire current students that may have access to a particular network to get to that applicant’s Facebook profile. This seems a little extreme, but may be necessary for high-security positions, where this information is imperative.

It seems that no matter what precautions are taken, users information can still be viewed through the numerous methods presented above. Therefore, the best advice for college students is to either not become involved in social networking sites like Facebook, or monitor the content on their Facebook profile. This include what users write in their personal information, what is written on their walls, what they write on others’ walls, as well as what pictures and videos they post and are tagged in. If users do not want their Facebook profiles to lead to getting turned down for jobs this information must be monitored. Not only can what they say hurt them, but what their friends say about them may be taken even more seriously due to the relation between them. So, explicit photos and videos, incriminating interests and wall postings should all be avoided. In the event that a Facebook user is tagged or there wall is written on in any harmful way, they should untag themselves, delete the wall post, or ultimately remove the other user from their friends list.

In conclusion, the internet is very different from what it was many years ago. Websites are different and users are now in control of the information that is displayed. Computers are being used as a way to find, connect, and communicate. The increasingly popular way that internet users are connecting and communicating is through social networking sites. These SNSs give them the opportunity to create a profile, compile a list of friends, and communicate with them. One of the biggest, if not the biggest of these SNSs is Facebook. Facebook was originally intended for use by college students, but over the years has opened up to high school students, workers, and currently anyone with an email address. Anyone can be found on Facebook, and for this reason privacy is a very important issue. Most recently companies have been using Facebook as a means to screen potential applicants, and many have turned down applicants based on their findings. Users must be aware that the content they are placing on their profiles may come back to haunt them, and they should take the proper precautions of either making their profiles private or deleting the material completely if they intend on getting that job.

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.
Brandenburg, C. (2008). The Newest Way to Screen Job Applicants: A Social Networker's Nightmare. Federal Communications Law Journal, 60 (3), 597-626.
Facebook Company Profile. (2008). Retrieved December 1, 2008, from CrunchBase:
Finder, A. (2006). For Some, online persona undermines a résumé. New York Times. Retrieved December 1, 2008, from
Lewis, K., Kaufman, J., & Christakis, N. (2008). The Taste for Privacy: An Analysis of College Student Privacy Settings in an Online Social Network. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 79-100.
Press Room. (2008). Retrieved December 1, 2008, from Facebook:
Samborn, H. V. (2007). Go Google Yourself! ABA Journal, 93 (8), 56-56.

Why Facebook?

I was recently asked to choose a Web 2.0 medium to write an essay on. While going through my options, I stopped upon Facebook. Facebook is by far, one of the most popular thing among college students. Whether students are requesting that their classmates become their friends or just waiting for pictures of last night to be posted so they remember what happened, students are checking Facebook close to everyday. I have recently heard from many sources and through reading that companies are now using Facebook to screen applicants for the jobs they are offering. By looking at a few of my friends' profiles and a few of their friends', I realized that people do not really think about what they are including on these pages. A lot of people believe it is their freedom of speech to say what they want and post these pictures, but if it cost them their careers would they regret it? I believe that the issue needed more research and the topic, more coverage. For these reasons I decided that the Web 2.0 medium I would research and write about was Facebook.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Networking: Our Small World

Today I read “Fitting Our Tools to a Small World”, which is chapter 9 of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. This book was written by Clay Shirky and published in 2008. In this chapter, Shirky talks about social networking, both on the internet and in the real world. He starts off introducing the reader to a “small world” example of two airplane passengers sitting next to each other that find out they know the same people (“What a small world!”). Shirky then goes on to explain how it is not so much a small world as many may believe. There are numerous factors to why these two passengers may know the same people. As Shirky points out, they departed from and are arriving to the same places, which according to Shirky (2008), may increase the chance that they know the same people. In the rest of this chapter, Shirky goes into further detail on how social networks are organized, how the web is used in creating social networks, as well as different tactics used to create and further develop social networks.

In explaining social networking, Skirky cites Watts and Strogatz’s pattern called the “Small World network.” According to Watts and Strogatz (1998), Small World networks are made up of small, densely connected groups, and large, sparsely connected groups (cited by Shirky, 2008). The small dense networks are then connected with each other to form a large social network. The people in the small groups will know more about each other, but the whole larger network with “know of” everyone. I think this is a great show of how any social network works. Whether you are in college or on Myspace, there are these small groups of friends that you know a lot about, and then there are others that you know through your friends.

Shirky further explains this friend-of-a-friend networking using the social networking service dodgeball, which was designed for mobile phone users. Users can send a text message to the dodgeball service, which will then send it to all of the user’s friends, as well as let the user know of others that will be at the same location (either friends or friends of a friend). If a friend of a friend will be at the same location, users will receive a message with a digital picture of the person, which they can use to locate this person and introduce themselves. I find this social networking program very interesting. It is taking the “small world” theory and acting upon it.

In closing, I would like to note that this chapter by Clay Shirky was very informative. Not only was it written in a way that kept me wanting to read, but the subjects and topics were ones I could relate to. I felt very educated on the topic of social networking, and it is now clear that our world might not be that small, but thanks to our social networks it might just seem that way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Blogosphere: Where Will it Take You?

When you think of a blog what is the first thing that comes to mind? Your first thought is probably that a blog is a place on the internet where you can write and anyone can read it. This is correct, but it is also so much more. A newly created blog might start out this way, but as time passes a blog can evolve into a community. Not all blogs make it this far and this could be due to a number of reasons, such as the blog’s content, the number of readers it has, and the number of advertisements that are displayed. For a blog to have the ability to evolve into a community these aspects must be perfect. This is because there are tens of thousands of blogs created daily, and nobody has the time to look through all of them. If you choose to subscribe to a blog, be prepared to join the community. There will be many posts to read, but these posts create a place to comment as well.

Choosing a blog to subscribe to can be hard work because there are so many blogs, but there are many websites you can go visit to find the top blogs for particular topics. An example of this would be, which has a blog directory where blogs are placed into categories and sub-categories. They also have a list of the top 100 blogs. For someone new to the blogosphere this would be a good place to start in your search for a blog to subscribe to. If you can’t find a blog through a site like technorati, don’t worry. Many of the blogs I am subscribed to I have found just using a search engine. Due to the large number of blogs that are now in existence, it is no surprise that some end up on the first page of many popular search engines. The only problem with finding blogs through search engines is that there will be a lot of evaluating to do, but as the internet grows so does the need for evaluation. According to Aaron Barlow (2008), there is a need to be “neterite”, or literate in electronic communication. The more “neterite” you are, the easier it will be to find a blog that both interests you and is full of useful credible information. While looking for a blog to subscribe to I had to use my “neteracy” to sift through the garbage. It is cool to find a site that interests you, but if the information is not true, the community may not be either.

The blog I chose to subscribe to was John Chow’s, which can be found at On this blog John discusses everything from how to make money using internet marketing programs to how his trip to the aquarium was. Although the blog may seem to vary too much, it doesn’t because John is a very informative writer. He does not tell everything about his personal life, only that he went to the aquarium, it was good for these reasons, bad for these reasons, and if you want to go you can visit their website. These posts don’t happen too often either. The posts are usually about John’s life using the internet as his source of income. When looking at John’s blog you may notice that there are advertisements. A lot of times when you find a blog with lots of advertisements, the blog’s credibility is questionable. John’s blog is different. There are advertisements, but they are neatly displayed and labeled. He is not hiding anything or just placing them all over the blog in hopes that someone will click them.

In my first week of observing John’s blog, I did look at peoples’ comments, but did not post any of my own. Most of the comments are on-topic, but there a few that are not. This is another place where being “neterite” can be helpful. You will know how to spot off-topic and nonsense comments and pass right by them. Towards the end of the week I did end up commenting on a post that had been guest blogged by a friend of John. It was a post that I could relate to so I wrote what I thought and posted my comment. I included my name, as many others seemed to do also. This gave me a sense that there are people commenting on John’s blog that have nothing to hide. A few hours after I posted my comment somebody replied to it. This was when I realized how blogs can become communities. With the right content that brings enough commenting readers, a community can be created. Readers can not only comment to John, but with each other, and by doing so they can create a community. They may get to know each other by handle and follow each other’s comments. The possibilities are endless.

In conclusion, a blog is a place on the internet where you can write for anyone to read, but with the right content, readers and appearance, a blog can evolve into a community. By becoming “neterite” finding a good blog and sifting through the bad ones becomes easier. This will also aid in knowing how to create a blog of your own that will evolve and flourish. You will know what readers want in a blog, and by giving these readers what they want and participating with them, you too can create your very own community!

Works Cited
Barlow, A. (2008). Bloggin America: The New Public Sphere. Westport: Praeger Publishers.
Technorati. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2008, from

Following a Blog - Day 5 Final Observation

John continued to make at least one or two posts a day for the past couple days, but I did not find them as interesting. I had wanted to post a comment and see what reaction I got. So posting a comment about something that didn't interest me did not make sense. Also John has 40,000 people that are subscribed to his blog and can comment daily (of course non-subscribers can too). So whatever I was going to have to be recent in order to get my comment seen. On November 10th John posted How Planning Can Make You Broke. If you are like me you were probably under the assumption that it is always a good idea to have a plan. That's what business plans are for, no?

This post was guest blogged by Alex Shalman, who has a website about relationships. He talks about how he always had a plan to write an ebook that he would give away for to give away for free to promote his site. For over a year this was his plan. Until a friend at a radio station asked him for an interview. He knew on air exposure would be great so he pulled to all-nighters and finished the ebook in 3 days, just in time for the interview. The basic concept behind his post was that taking action is more important than your plan. I totally agreed. As a college student it is so easy to plan to do school work and put it off until it is due.

I wanted to be taken seriously, so when I commented I used the handle Jonathan R and included a picture of myself. I wrote what I thought and how relevant this was to me as a college student. Part of my comment included me stating, "It is great to think you have a plan, but most of the time they don’t work out, especially with things you don’t really want to do." I received a reply within a few hours by a guy whose handle was Kok Choon, which I think may be his name. He said, "Yeh, no action no gain, no matter how good is your plan!" This made me feel like my comment added to the post in that it was good enough for a reply. It is good to see that the blogosphere is not only is a place to write, but a place where the community can share their thoughts through comments. This gave me a first hand look at how blogging can create a community.

Following a Blog - Day 4 Observation

When John says he will post at least once or twice a day he means it! November 6th, and John continues posting twice a day. Today he has posts Protect Your Blogging Gear with the Invisible Shield and The Downside of Huge Traffic. In the first post he mentions a product made to protect an iPhone. It is clear and when applied to the iPone can protect it from scratches and cracks. He uses a video that shows how good it works against a key! The other post, The Downside of Huge Traffic has to do with a guy, Ken Imhoff, that spent 17 years building a Lamborghini in his basement. The story gets wild when John tells you how this guy got the car out of his basement. He had to dig a hole and blow out a wall of his house! Think that's bad, it gets worse. He created a website that show a timeline of the cars creation, and it became very popular. So popular that his web host, GoDaddy, charged him $957 in overage charges for the month!

John jokes, and is probably right, in saying that he should have contacted him about how to make money from his site. Now this poor guy has a message asking for donations on his site. If he had only heard of internet marketing before his site blew up! A lot of information can also be learned from reading the comments. Turns out that just because GoDaddy is a popular web hosting service it is not necessarily the best. GoDaddy sets a monthly limit on how much bandwith you can use, but there are others that, for the same price, allow unlimited badwith. Just shows how important it is to do your research.

Check out this car though! You can visit his website at

Following a Blog - Day 3 Observation

It's November 5th and John has posted twice again. Today he posted about A Visit to the Vancouver Aquarium and an Update on Tim's Stock Pick. Now I have always thought that is not a good idea to blog about your personal life, however, John does so in such a way that it is not totally about his life. He is posting information about the Vancouver Aquarium within a post about his trip. Readers can use this information if they intend on visiting this attraction. Decided to look at the comments on this post to see how other readers responded to it. Most of the talked about the aquarium or some of the pictures he posted. Seems like one of his posts everyday is informative, but not that interesting to me, and the other is informative and I find it extremely interesting.

The other post titled Update on Tim's Stock Pick was about another blogger named Timothy that gave a good stock recommendation on his blog. He advised a short-sell, which is where you make money when a stock goes down. Tim predicted it would drop from $4.50 a share to $2.50 a share, and it dropped all the way to $2. This would double your money! This blog was very interesting to me because I used to be into trading stocks, it's how I got my first car!, but the market is so volatile now that it is hard to analyze stock trends. Good to see people are still making money!