Thinking twice about Facebook groups

Here at the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, we were graced this week with a visit from Joe Grimm, the longtime recruiting editor for the Detroit Free Press, a Poynter columnist and one of the nation’s experts on newspaper careers. Since leaving the Freep 19 months ago, Joe has moved much of his voluminous advice for internship seekers and job hunters onto his Web site, http://www.jobspage.com/. And he’s expanding his bailiwick beyond newspapers to news careers of all sorts. (No fool, he.)

Joe is a witty, warm, nice man. We kept him busy for two days, meeting with faculty, meeting with our seniors and speaking to classes. I’ll have a lot to say about his visit over the next couple of days, but for now, I’d like to reflect on something he said about Facebook.

When Joe met with our graduating seniors, someone asked him what he wanted or didn’t want to see on a job applicant’s Facebook page. Stupid pictures are bad, of course, he said, the ones that show you crazed from booze or flaunting assets best left to the imagination.

We’ve all heard that before.

But then he mentioned Facebook groups, and that was one of those this-is-so obvious-how-could-I-never-have-thought-of it moments. I’d never thought about how groups I’d idly joined, whether out of interest, to show solidarity or to please a friend, could so easily reflect personal opinions, political leanings or beliefs that I might not want to share with every “friend” I have on Facebook. As Joe said several times, anything you put online is ubiquitous–everywhere–and forever.

I’ve dropped some groups from my list now. No doubt there’s still a way for anyone determined to dig up the names of those groups to do so, but few people will bother, I’d be willing to bet. Monitoring one’s online persona is a constant responsibility, and now I’m going to avoid joining groups that reveal more about me than I might wish.

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    • Jay Riemenschneider
    • March 11th, 2010

    Man, whoever asked him about Facebook must be an absolute genius. I wish I was as smart that that guy. What a sweet dude.

    • Rachel Shapiro
    • March 11th, 2010

    This occurred to me a while back when I was looking for journalism jobs and I did go in to my FB account and delete some of the silly, wild, maybe a little offensive or provocative groups I had joined spur of the moment. I still have a few groups that display my feelings about certain things but not to the degree that it had. Good idea.

    • TC
    • March 12th, 2010

    Very interesting insights; however there is one caveat to this blog entry. You have written it on WordPress.com… one of the most SEO friendly sites on the web. The caveat is that you wrote a blog entry that has popular keywords like Facebook and Joe Grimm that also talks about (essentially) how you were in Facebook groups that may or may not have shown political leanings. You go on to say that you removed them to keep certain opinions of yours a secret and that people probably won’t bother to dig to see what they were. Here’s the caveat… now people have a reason to look. I think this adds to what Mr. Grimm said about how UGC is ubiquitous–everywhere–and forever.

  1. Hey, Jay, I can SEE this, you know! I had a seriously great time visiting SBU. The journalism students at Stony Brook rock — and roll.

  2. I really wish Facebook would go back to what it was originally: a college networking site. The “professional world” can take Twitter.

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