It’s becoming common practice among my peers to hide part or all of their social media profile when applying for a new job or graduate school. Common methods include changing your profile name, creating two separate profiles (one public, one private), or changing privacy settings to be more restrictive.
They’re not being paranoid. For years, employers have been searching Google, Facebook, and Twitter to find out what kind of person a candidate really is as opposed to who they say they are in their application or cover letter. But I make no apologies for my online presence, no matter who is looking for it.
When I go out with my friends on the weekends, I wear what I want, say what I want, and do what I want. I don’t dress up like I’m going to a job interview just because I could run into one of my professors or my boss while I’m out. You might argue that you are not likely to run into your boss on the weekends. But what if you knew that you would? Should you change how you present yourself? No. Why should you? You have the right to present yourself any way you want outside of work, within reason.
Likewise, I see no reason why I should hide my social media profiles and play pretend just to impress a potential employer. Most of the people I know who are hiding their social media profiles for a job or school prospect have no particular reason to hide it. There is nothing incriminating on their profiles. There are pictures of their family and friends. Pictures of their cat. Occasionally some pictures of them holding a bottle of beer.
To hide online data from potential employers when we are just living our lives says that we are doing something wrong. It perpetuates the belief that you cannot be serious about your job or your studies and have an online profile that shows that you care about other things besides work.
This practice goes hand in hand with our country’s workaholism: individuals are viewed not as people who have fulfilling lives outside of work, but as working machines whose sole purpose is to produce.
If you are hiding your Facebook profile because you are a proponent of online privacy in general, then I am not talking to you. But if you are hiding your online presence specifically because you are applying for a job or law school, you are only reinforcing these bogus practices to which job applicants are being subjected.
Of course, using unfair criteria for hiring has been going on since hiring began: for example, attractive people get more job interviews. But social media and the transparency of your identity on the internet takes the game to a whole new level.
When so much information is available with a quick Google search, the solution is not to scramble to try and hide it. It won’t be long before this will be all but impossible anyway. Our only true option is for employers to accept that we are all people. We do unproductive things. We make mistakes. We have opinions. It doesn’t mean we won’t be good medical students or employees. It just means that we are human.