Learning To Be Selective With Who You “Poke,” “Kik,” and “Tag”

As an official one year Blackberry owner, I’ve come across yet again another intriguing “App” that I just need to have… “Kik.” Similar to Blackberry’s BBM instant messaging application, Kik diversifies itself by allowing all Smartphone users to virtually “Kik” each other and send instant messages similar to the function of BBM, but without the limitations of being exclusively between Blackberry owners. After it finished downloading, an extensive list of my old long lost friends from High School and random friends of family members popped onto my screen … somehow found by their emails or links to their personal Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. “Creepy” was the first word that entered my mind.

It was then that I thought about how I had just sent out my resume to a few employers, who just might decide to look up my Facebook profile, and just might be able to see any other social media account of mine and all of the personal and random information going along with it. Kik is just one of the new applications that are being created every day to enhance instant messaging services, email, and social networking. Although these applications are trying to put users “in touch” with old friends and acquaintances, they can be somewhat invasive. I feel that students are learning this very quickly, and unfortunately for some, it has proven to be costly. A question arises when I think about the effects of such “smart” applications- just how far will they go to find these connections? Will it get worse?

With all these new phone applications and online social media sites becoming a huge presence in the virtual world, I find it hard, as do many students, to decipher what personal information I can afford to “leak” out to others. The fact is, the growing population of the “others” category, such as my grandparents, includes employers as well. As a student spending a substantial sum of money to attend a well-established University, this is where the status of your future career enters the equation. The payoff between spending thousands of dollars a semester versus the two seconds it takes to post a questionable picture on Facebook is almost incomparable. Readers, I’m not the first one to tell you that you should be wary of the content you post online– but let me tell you- it is definitely getting easier by the minute to find more and more information about others through interfaces like these. You never know who might pop up on your “You Might Know This Person!” listings. The discovery could not only severely damage your social reputation, even serve as a brutal ending to a pending job application.

“What do you expect me to do about it?” is the next question. I’m not saying that you should filter your entire profile to the point where it doesn’t represent you as an individual- but do take precautions with pictures and wall posts in particular. Enable security and safety measures such as putting your profile on “No Search” capabilities, and make sure your profile is set to “only friends allowed to view.” Better yet- signing up for a LinkedIn account is probably the best way to go. LinkedIn gives users the ability to create an online professional identity for themselves, in order to network with others and showcase their qualifications. Making the distinction between what information goes on social media outlets such as LinkedIn versus Facebook is critical, and definitely worth your time.

My point is this: New phone applications and Facebook are fun to use, and definitely something that college students should enjoy if they choose to. But be selective when the moment comes to decide which phone applications to download, or which new social network to join. You never know who might be watching from the other end.

For more information on social media and your online reputation, see the Career Services Social Media page.

Caitlin Rogers is a Junior working towards her double Marketing/ Operations Major and International Business Minor at University of Delaware. As a Student Assistant at the UD Career Services Center, she provides feedback on student resumes and helps students work to achieve their career goals.

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