Do you know who’s looking at your profile?

Many college students keep in touch through websites such as Facebook or MySpace. These sites allow students to sign up under their school, create a personal profile of interests, contact information, courses they’re presently enrolled in, and their relationship status. Users can upload pictures into albums so that friends can view them, but many students give little thought to who can actually see their profile and pictures. It may surprise them to know that there are several groups of people who may be keeping tabs on them without their notice. The first group for students to be aware of is their professors. At WCU alone, there are approximately 60 faculty and 100 staff members who have a Facebook profile. Most aren’t too detailed, at least not as detailed as a student’s profile would be. So what do faculty and staff need these profiles for? It’s possible that they use sites such as Facebook and MySpace to keep track of their colleagues, but it’s also possible that they use the sites to keep track of their students. Finding out what wild and crazy things their students got into over the weekend probably provides for some great talk in the office. Yes, some faculty and staff are apathetic as far as their students’ extra-curricular activities go, but that’s beside the point. The point is that they’re online just like the students; students need to leave off information that they don’t want the whole world to know. Another group of people who might search through student profiles is future employers. Believe it or not, Facebook and MySpace profiles could be the deciding factor of whether or not interviewees get the job. It could also decide if they get to keep their jobs. A student might have an impressive resume, but one look at an online profile, and employers would get an idea of who that person is outside of academia. Or an employee might write something awful about his boss and then either be on his boss’ bad side or be canned. A profession that needs to be extra careful when using online sites such as Facebook and MySpace is educators. Since educators work with younger, usually more technologically-advanced students, they should keep in mind that their students will probably search for them online. It’d be cool for a high-school student to find pictures of his teacher at some party from last weekend, but it may not be so “cool” for the teacher, should word get around. Some parents keep tabs on their college students by looking at their online profiles. While many students consider themselves responsible and grown up, mom or dad may have a completely different view. Since the school is not legally able to give parents information of students (age 18+) without a written consent by the student, parents have another option. Putting trashy pictures online, especially if students do it while they’re drunk, is a good way to get caught. A final group students should be aware of online is old, creepy stalkers. A 35-year-old grungy guy from across the state who wants to be a 19-year-old female student’s friend either has a real problem or he’s not who he says he is. Many students try to “collect” friends online just to see how many people they can add as their friend. They simply need to be aware that there are many strange people out there who prey on students such as themselves. Changing privacy settings could help eliminate unwanted predators. Students who use Facebook or MySpace need to think twice before posting last Wednesday night’s pictures of beer pong and partying. There could be people looking at their pictures and profile content without their knowing. Online profiles can be more important than for just catching up with friends-a lot can be at stake.