To Facebook or not to Facebook – that is the question?

How can you manage your digital footprint as an international educator?

How would a digital profile help or hinder you if you went looking for a new job?

What then are the implications for students and how should educators be teaching them to have a positive digital footprint?

It is sort of a double edged sword, on the one hand the articles we read, specifically the article titled Most Companies Use Social Media for Recruiting, Says Survey by John Paul Titlow, state that social networking sites are being used more and more to either vet your behavior and see if you are ‘worthy’ or recruit you. We are told to make sure we have privacy settings set but then if you are out recruiting how can potential future employers see if you are indeed ‘worthy’? If Facebook can potentially be one of the biggest threats to a job search then the initial purpose of Facebook has or is in the process of changing. In addition, the fact that Facebook can change the terms of agreement adds another layer to how you want to use it.

In reflection, perhaps it is OK that I am very nonchalant Facebook user, I have an account, but only so that I can potentially contact friends if I need to and people can find me, but I never post anything and I very rarely read other people posts. I only view friends pages if I know there has been a big event in someone life, like a wedding or birth of a baby. Most photos of me are posted by other people, and anything I didn’t like I untagged my name or asked to be removed. So……what does my Facebook account say about me to a potential employer, well….presumably due to privacy settings they shouldn’t even be able to see it…..but if they can perhaps through teacher friends of friends then I guess they would conclude that I am i) a lazy Facebooker, ii) extremely boring, or iii) both i) and iii) and have no life. However, at least because of my nonchalance there are few inane entries – about every detail of my day. As an international educator do I need to jazz things up on Facebook to get hired? Perhaps, but I think that I would prefer to separate my professional and personal life and focus on using Linkedin for my professonal profile in the future. Although, I should add that I am glad my friends keep their Facebook updated, especially with special news as I do enjoy reading their pages on occasion.

We are also told to create a blog highlighting our professional skills and this is an area where I am lacking when it comes to a personal professional blog, my only blog is for Coetail, however, I am now considering creating a professional blog. I have only been hesitant because I don’t know how much time I can commit to it and I want it to add value to the profession and there are so many incredible librarians out there, it is hard to add a lot. However, I am proud of my school blog that I worked on with Nagarajan, our library technology coordinator. I love organizing information so it was really fun to create.

In conclusion to answer the questions above:

1) How can you manage your digitial footprint as an international educator?

i) Try to get rid of anything you don’t like that has been posted.
ii) Start a professional blog
iii) Join Linkedin
iv) Decide what Facebook is really for – personal or both personal and professional and decide on your own guidelines for posting, keeping in mind that it may be viewed by potential employers
v) Create an excellent web presence or blog on your current school site to showcase what you are currently doing.
vi) Respond to other educators blogs

2) How would a digital footprint help or hinder you when looking for a new job?

As stated above no professional web presence could hinder you because in this day and age, I presume most educators expect some online presence, on the other hand, unsavory posts or photos on your personal social network could hinder you.

3) What then are the implications for students and how should educators be teaching them to have a positive digital footprint

The implications for students are the same as they are for us. They need to be careful what they post on social networking sites especially if there is alcohol or drug use involved. However, they could also promote themselves through personal blogs and digital portfolios.

I think it would be beneficial to discuss their digital footprint with students at various times during their schooling. At AES I could see this happening in 8th grade during Advisory. In 9th grade there is time during the 9th grade seminar to review this. I also think that a good place to review it would be at the beginning of 11th grade, as by this point the students have probably been out and about and may have posted a few unwise comments or photos, so this would serve as another reminder and a chance to clean things up before they start the college application process.

In conclusion, as terms and conditions of social networking sites change and as the line between our private lives and public lives merges more and more, I think it is time to rethink ‘privacy’ , what it means, and do you really want to make it easy for big brother to watch, record and document you and if so, why? To Facebook or not to Facebook, that is the question?

Image from Flickr from Max B

3 thoughts on “To Facebook or not to Facebook – that is the question?

  1. Melinda..I have the same dilemma considering that I am a big lurker on facebook, only updating myself of the milestones in my friends’ lives. Yet, I rarely upload pictures of myself and voice my status. I do consider facebook as a personal domain and in my comments I do banter sometimes without any regret. Having a professional blog is a good idea to demarcate the fine line of free speech and thinking before speaking. I like the plan of action you have suggested where we can gradually soak ourselves in the digital waters through Linkedin, Twitter etc. and in the process catch some fish(job) or two.

  2. Melinda,

    Your comment about facebook being a double-edged sword resonates with me. Although facebook is a social network, it can be used by potential employers to get a better picture of who you are. If what we have to share is positive, then why not let the world know who we are. On the other hand, because it’s a social network and friends can post freely and tag photos, etc., it’s a possible risk to leave this site public. I think you’re right, the best way to avoid possible unflattering or inaccurate portrayals of ourselves on the public domain, is to keep professional and social sites separate. Again, this isn’t as cut and dry as it sounds, because as an employer at an international school, I would think that knowing a bit about a potential employee’s personal life could be a valuable bit of information in making a hire that “fits” with your staff. If we leave only the professional side of our lives open to public viewing, it could very well hinder chances for employment.

  3. I think in today’s world it is not as simple as whether to or not to Face Book but rather how much and what to Face Book. As adults we are certainly more cognizant of what is appropriate and what is not but our social online presence is just as necessary as our professional online presence. I feel employers need to see the personal side of us, after all we are also human not just working machines.
    Certainly a professional online presence is necessary in today’s professional climate. It exposes our knowledge in our particular field as well as the risks we are willing to take as professionals, e.g. how much technology we use in our classroom and how. I like that you got excited about the library blog you and Nagarajan created. As a Facebook user I would like to see more about you and what you are doing in your life such as photos of your trip at winter break. Some times I feel disconnected with friends who don’t post comments or photos.
    So, Melinda, let down some of your social walls ’cause we care and are interested in your social being. :)

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