5 Red Flags for Students Using Facebook

Modern technology has made it easier than ever to conduct up-to-date research, collaborate with peers and network with professionals. Being a student in the 21st century is a rewarding and innovative experience, but some of the best resources come with big risks.

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Before students enjoyed constant Facebook access via smartphones and tablets, they didn’t have to worry about their youthful indiscretions affecting their careers. Today the landscape is very different, and you need to be savvy about your uploads, likes, shares, pokes and tags. Social media is here to stay, so in order to protect your future professional reputation and make sure your academic career goes as smoothly as possible, watch for the following red flags of student Facebook use.

1. Pretending To Be Someone Else

It’s always a good idea to be yourself, but that’s never more true than when you’re using Facebook. When you click that “accept” box to sign up for a new profile, you legally declare yourself to be the owner. Perhaps more importantly, if you create a false account to harass or pose as someone you know in real life, the consequences can be very dire for both of you. Cyber-bullying is an emotionally charged issue with legal repercussions that could follow you for the rest of your life. If your actions lead to more serious crimes, Facebook could even be forced to reveal your identity to authorities.

2. Posing and Posting in the Act

Self-incrimination laws once protected people from revealing information or providing evidence that proved their participation in a crime. If you have a Facebook profile, you no longer have that luxury. Don’t pose for photos while drinking underage, trespassing on private property or doing anything else a cop shouldn’t see. And before you upload group photos, check to ensure you aren’t incriminating anyone else.

3. Being Too Casual

With so many familiar faces and names on your newsfeed, you might be tempted to strike up a casual tone and treat your status box like a close friend. Don’t get too comfortable. Before you post any status update or photo, think about the people in your life, and whether you’d be comfortable sharing it with all of them. If not, don’t share it with the Internet. Even if you don’t engage in illegal activity, your rants and messages could come back to haunt you. Set privacy filters to weed out unwanted attention, such as the prying eyes of bosses who don’t need to know whether you’re really sick.

4. Starting Study Groups

What could go wrong? Classmates get together online before the big exam, to easily coordinate last-minute study sessions and exchange ideas, notes and frustrations. Well, if you take the lead and start a Facebook group for one of your classes, you might be the only one who doesn’t pass. Words tend to fly freely when you’re all sleep-deprived and stressed, but even if no one says anything insensitive about your instructor or institution, it might be against school policy to collaborate on year-end assignments.

5. Deactivating Without Deleting

After a major misstep or even just a bad breakup, you might be tempted to click that “deactivate” button immediately and quit notifications cold turkey. Not so fast! Thanks to caches, screenshots and Facebook’s own labyrinth of cloud-based archives, scrubbing your digital footprint is tricky. Before you actually delete your account, take the time to delete individual photos and messages. If you tagged friends in a photo but don’t delete it before leaving the website, it will remain, waiting to be traced back to the reasons you left in the first place.

About David Brandt