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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ghosts of Facebook Past

In my writing class, we had a textbook with an exercise designed to help students identify problems with audience and tone--or maybe it was just meant to be humorous.  Anyway, this exercise featured sentences from (supposedly) actual job application letters, all of which demonstrated problems.  The students were supposed to explain where the applicant had gone wrong.  The problems ranged from misspellings and grammatical mistakes to inappropriate comments (e.g., "I don't do well working in groups"; "While I have held fourteen jobs in the last two years, I have never been fired"; and so on).  One of the inappropriate lines I always appreciated was: "References: None.  I have left a trail of destruction behind me."

Now, I understand why the textbook authors included this sentence, and I get why it's technically inappropriate.  But I have to say, if I were an employer, and I got a cover letter with that sentence, I would want to meet that person.  After sifting through piles and piles of standard, inoffensive, perfectly appropriate applications, I would be intrigued by this person who is either a complete idiot or someone who took a chance on a fundamentally unconventional approach.  Either way, it would make for an interesting interview.

All of which, I guess, is basically my way of saying, Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

I thought of this today as I was reading about Facebook's new "Timeline" feature, which will apparently allow you--and, by extension, anyone who has access to your profile--to view everything you've ever posted on the website.  Many people are up in arms either because (A) some people have made a hobby out of complaining about any changes to Facebook--which is kind of stupid because it's a free site; (B) they worry about privacy issues--which, again, is kind of stupid because the things you post on your Facebook are, well, things that YOU post on YOUR Facebook; or, (C) because they fear repercussions when, say, potential employers or sexual partners can look at things you posted five years ago when you were younger and stupider and which make you look bad now.

That last concern is understandable, especially for people who first joined Facebook as, say, hedonistic college freshmen and who are now applying for jobs in the Republican Party.  OK, bad example, but you get the point.  Remember, though, that employers are people, too, and they will come to understand that a few youthfully indiscreet photographs posted years ago are simply examples of the kind of rambunctious shenanigans in which anyone might take part.  Indeed, they might become wary of applicants with suspiciously innocuous online personalities.

Remember, employers, you may have to live with this hire for some time.  You might consider going for people who seem like they'll be fun around the water cooler.

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