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Facebook use extends beyond college

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, March 2, 2009

This is the third installment of a three-part series that will explore the recent terms of use controversy involving Facebook and delve into the way interaction with and opinion of the site has changed since 2004, when Notre Dame students were first able to become users.

Senior Michael Massengale has a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

He joined the site before he was a freshman, as soon as he received his Notre Dame e-mail address.

“Basically everyone I knew was getting it and everyone who had it recommended it, so I decided to give it a try,” he said.

Initially, he used the site fairly often, logging on every day and sending notes back and forth with friends, especially those from home who had gone to other schools for college.

But the more Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg updated the site, the less Massengale liked it. The one thing that has prevented him from quitting the site, he said, is the ability to upload and share photos.

“If it wasn’t for the photos, I wouldn’t have a Facebook,” he said.

He said he’s taken personal information off the site and enabled privacy settings.

Massangale has 481 friends on Facebook, but he said he’d only count about 50 of them as actual friends. He’ll keep using the site for now, he said, but will quit it if he applies to professional schools.

“I’m planning to apply to either medical school or graduate school, and they’ve told us, mostly through friends who’ve applied to medical schools, they advise deleting it entirely,” he said.

Facebook and post-graduation plans

Facebook’s impact on employment and other post-graduation opportunities has been a worry for college users since its inception.

In mid-February, Facebook worried users anew when the site changed its terms of use, deleting language which said Facebook’s right to content would expire when a user cancelled his account and causing Facebook members to fear that the site retained a permanent license to their content. Alarm throughout the Facebook community prompted Zuckerberg to return the terms of use to the language in place before the Feb. 4 change.

In a blog post on the site Feb. 18, Zuckerberg said the site developers will be working with the Facebook community to create an updated terms of use that is more amenable to users.

Lee Svete, the director of the Notre Dame Career Center, has watched the evolution of the site from a social networking site to one that has the opportunity to be used for professional networking.

Svete, who has worked in his position for eight years, said he first heard about the site in the summer of 2005. It wasn’t until the following year that he started to hear about it from members of Notre Dame’s Employee Advisory Board, which includes companies like Accenture, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson and General Mills.

“They said that some of their recruiters had learned that student information was out there,” he said. “Our particular group did not go out to seek students to see if they were doing anything not professional. They stumbled on that particular fact.”

At the May 2007 National Association of College Employers conference, Facebook was discussed at the director level.

“We were advising students at that particular point, not to put up social related comments and pictures on their Facebook account, because it could be viewed by prospective employers,” he said.

The Career Center included a slide about social networking sites in some of its workshops, like ones on interviewing, job searching and networking, Svete said.

Notre Dame has not had an incident where a job or internship offer was rescinded because of a Facebook problem, Svete said, but he knows that Michigan State’s and Ohio State’s career centers have had these types of issues.

At the National Association of College Employers’ 2008 conference, they discussed advising students on using “common sense” on Facebook, so not posting inappropriate pictures or text about drugs, explicit sexual encounters, alcohol use or drinking tickets, Svete said.

But at the same time career centers have been urging students to exercise common sense when putting information on Facebook, some employers were realizing they could attract potential employees to their companies through Facebook

“There is a portion of Facebook evolving into that professional, career network,” Svete said. He belongs to a Facebook group composed of more than 1,000 recruiters, and he said he used it the other day to find a potential job lead for a Notre Dame engineering student. Svete said the job lead is a positive start, and one that came about because of Facebook.

“I wouldn’t have done that two years ago,” he said. “No way. This is a new phenomenon over the last year, in terms of my confidence in at least looking at this as a good over an evil. But there is definitely a downside to it.”

Gordon Wishon, Notre Dame’s Chief Information Officer, Associate Vice President and Associate Provost, has Facebook but said he does not use it often. He said he recognized the benefits and drawbacks of the networking technology.

“Facebook has proven to be a wonderful thing for students especially, but really for everyone, in many ways, to bring communities closer together, as a way for people to stay in touch with each other,” he said. “While it provides many benefits, all of these services also represent some risk, and I would just urge all of your readers to be aware of, educate yourselves about he risks and take appropriate steps to protect themselves against these risks.”