Sunday, February 24, 2008

Facebook - your lifelong partner

Source: WikipediaI never realy knew a lot of people who were involved in social networking sites. Sure, there were few people I knew over the internet or a person here or there that I knew personally but that was about it. But when I joined the university this quickly changed and friend invitations became a daily phenomena on Facebook - as predicted by the Metcalfe's law the number of people using Facebook increased faster and faster as more people began using it and as it became a useful (or not) tool for nurturing old and new friendships.

Personally I never liked to share all the juicy details about my life or my conversations with other people - maybe some tiny paranoid bit of me was always thinking about what can happen if something goes wrong and published information end up in the wrong hands. That's probably why I hadn't joined any other social networking sites (with the notable exception of LinkedIn) before I was almost forced to.

Unfortunately it didn't took long before I started reading all kinds of horror stories about Facebook. A news that someone lost his job because he called his boss an idiot or got kicked out of school for posting pictures of drinking parties on his MySpace profile is realy becomming "business as usual". And as long as I or majority of my friends weren't using those sites the problem didn't seem important enough to bother or give it another thought - after all, everything was happening in the United States and Europe is still lagging behind in social networks usage.

Or does it?

Viadeo recently published survey data that 62 percent of British employers checked Facebook, Bebo or MySpace to see what kind of dirty things their future staff has done in the past and at least a quarter had already rejected a candidate because of their findings. With continuing trend of increased social network sites's usage the rest of Europe will probably follow - if it hasn't already.

In the end the simplest observation is to enjoy social networking sites as long as they benefit you in the collage when you still meet new people but when you grow up and get yourself a serious job the best course of action would be to just erase your Facebook/MySpace/Something profile and forget about those things you did during collage. Well, for Facebook at least, this is where things get messy. Until recently you could only "disable" your account - Facebook was hoping you would one day come back and to ease your pain you could just reactivate your account and continue where you left - which is still not good enough when you just want your account deleted, plain and simple.

Nipon Das, who faced this problem, had to start threatening with legal action against Facebook before the company got serious about it and finally deleted his account - which, acording to New York Times, still didn't prevent a reporter from sending him an email message. The deletion process did get a tiny bit better just two days after the publication of that article in NYT but a simple and obvious "Delete" button is still no where to be found.

What is then to do about your online identity? Probably the best solution is the one that was around all along and none of those involved into horror storied realy thought about - common sense. Would you show your parents how you got drunk and puked around someone's aparment? Would you want that to be seen by your boss? Probably not.