Facebook has emerged as one of the most successful online networking sites in today's culture. What started out as a student-only platform for making connections has evolved into an expansive community involving professionals, parents, alumni and even whole companies. Whether you're using Facebook to get a summer job, chat with professors from your online college classes, or just checking up to see what your friends did over vacation, make sure you're using the site responsibly. Here are 25 common Facebook faux pas that college students make, and that you should avoid.
From pictures to groups to your static profile information, here are some content-specific mistakes you should be aware of.
- Putting up incriminating photos: Besides making it easy for employers, family, teachers and other friends to see unflattering pictures of you wasted, the photos you upload may serve to incriminate you when you missed work, class or another commitment in order to party.
- Venting about work and professors: Using Facebook as a revenge tool will make you look untrustworthy, immature and unprofessional. Don't use your status updates or profile information to insult professors, bosses (current and former), coworkers, or any other individual for that matter.
- Posting proof of shenanigans and damage: If you trash your apartment and put up pictures or status updates on Facebook, what happens when your landlord demands that you pay for the damages? In this case, the woman was evicted.
- Joining embarrassing groups: Remember that politically incorrect group you joined on a whim freshman year because you thought it was funny? You'd better un-join that and any other questionably named groups on Facebook before applying for jobs.
- Not monitoring tagged photos of yourself: You might be careful with the photos that you upload onto Facebook, but monitor the pictures that others put on the site. If you're being tagged in photos in which you're drinking or doing other stupid things, your friends and networking contacts can see those too.
- Forgetting to customize privacy settings: If your professor or boss friends you, you might feel too awkward to ignore it or turn it down. You can be friends with these people if you're very careful about customizing privacy settings: don't let them see your photos, for example.
- Posting prejudices and extreme political leanings: Any photos, groups or status updates pointing to your prejudices or very extreme political leanings (in either direction) may come across as rude, offensive, or even just too heavy for some. You don't want to be a liability to other group members, potential employers or even other class mates who are your friends on Facebook, so keep that information to yourself.
- Drunk Facebooking: It's worse than drunk dialing or texting, because everyone can see it, and everyone knows when your mangled 3a.m. status update, message or wall post is the result of too much tequila. Everyone can.
- Too much identifying information: To protect yourself against stalkers, random identity thieves, and other creepos, keep the specifics about where you live off line.
- Putting up inconsistent job and education information: This could be a crucial mistake, but an unintentional one as well. Make sure your Facebook profile and your resume have been equally updated so that one doesn't contain outdated information, making you look like a liar.
Networking and Communication
When you use Facebook to communicate with admissions, teachers, friends and potential employers, remember to avoid these mistakes.
- Not using your real name: Don't register the same Facebook account you plan on networking with under the nickname your fraternity gave you. Who wants to answer study questions or set up an interview with the Boozer Bruiser?
- Forgetting to proofread: Just like e-mails, Facebook messages, wall posts, status updates and profile changes all need to be proofread. Whether you're sending a private communique or are editing your employer/education information, typos, inconsistent punctuation and grammar mistakes drain your reputation.
- Being too exclusive: If you're not careful, you can get too comfortable with your network of friends on Facebook. Just as you have to branch out at actual networking events and on campus to meet new friends, you have to make an attempt to reach out to new people online.
- Not understanding Facebook's hiring potential: Facebook isn't just for college students anymore, or nosy parents. Legitimate employers use Facebook for networking, to check up on applicants, and find new recruits. Take it seriously.
- Being too aggressive: At the same time, realize that Facebook isn't a job search site. It's there to help people make connections, but you shouldn't ask for jobs outright or market yourself on other people's profiles.
- Explaining how you know your friends: When you newly "friend" someone on Facebook, choose to just Skip the "how do you know each other" option, or stick with generic, professional-sounding answers. Don't click on the "we hooked up" option, even if that's true.
- Not putting any professional information on your profile: How can you expect to network with someone if you don't include any relevant information on your profile? Whether it's for a summer job or an opportunity on campus, complete the education/work information section, and include in the interests or activities section a few items that point to your ambitions.
- Taking your relationship to Facebook: Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend on Facebook isn't just mean: it's humiliating to the other person and makes you look like a heartless, inconsiderate pig. Other relationship faux pas? Trashing your ex on Facebook, being too lovey dovey with affectionate wall posts, and airing your dirty laundry online.
- Playing too much Farmville: This Bulgarian politician was actually reprimanded for playing Farmville during a budget meeting, but even if you're playing on your own time, spamming your friends' feeds with constant Farmville or Mafia Wars is lame and annoying. Don't you have anything better to do with your time?
- Accepting or friending too many "faux" friends: You want your Facebook experience to be quality, right? For your own sake, stop friending random requests that add nothing to your news feed, and stop soliciting people out of the blue just for the sake of boosting your friend number. Stick to friending people if you have a mutual contacts.
- Not knowing when to post to a wall or send a private message: Don't embarrass yourself or your friend (or admissions contact, boss or professor) by posting something private on a public wall. Show others that you know how to be sensitive and tactful by sending private messages whenever appropriate.
Be mindful of the way (and time) you update your status on Facebook.
- Logging on when you're supposed to be doing something else: Facebook records — publicly — the times that you do things on Facebook, and if your boss or professor notices that you're updating your profile while you're supposed to be doing something else, it won't be pretty.
- Only getting on Facebook when you have something negative to say: There are the people who post too much, the people who leave annoying song quotes on everyone's wall, and the people who only get on Facebook when they have something to complain about. Make sure you balance your posts with positive updates and valuable links or messages.
- Not updating frequently enough: While some students love Facebook a little too much, others don't update their profiles enough. You want to pop up on your friends' news feeds every once in a while so they don't forget about you.
- Not posting anything of value: As this blog post relates, no one cares if you're standing on an elevator. Make sure your posts offer something of value.