The other day, I went over to my boss' desk to find her and my other boss hunkered over the computer, scrolling through some young woman's Facebook profile. Yes, everyone is guilty of checking Facebook while at work, but... really?
Well, actually, Facebook stalking fits the job description for all bosses. Turns out, they were vetting a prospective candidate for hire.
"She's from Seattle!" My boss declared. "And she speaks Italian!"
Color me naive but, my jaw hit the floor. Oh my god. My dad was right. This actually happens.
When in college, a handful of friends sporadically changed their Facebook names when applying to internships and jobs, motivated by a paranoia that potential employers would track down all those red-solo-cup-era photos.
Gizmodo's Sam Biddle dubbed this use of pseudonyms on Facebook as "stupid, irritating, and misguided. And it's making [Facebook] worse for the rest of us." Until today, I agreed. I mean, how stupid and narcissistic, right? You honestly think that some working adult is going to take time out of their day to search for you on Facebook?
Yes. Yes they are. Because, you know what, it's not hard and much can be gleaned even from the most private of profiles.
Everyone with a pulse has a Facebook and the search function is pretty damn exceptional. All you need to find a relative stranger is their name and maybe a tidbit about where they went to school or grew up.
Is there a way to hide from the all-seeing Facebook eye? Yes, and it's just as annoying as bulwarking your profile into a stagnant privacy fortress: you could change your name.
"Were you able to find me when I was applying?" I sheepishly asked.
"Actually... no. But we tried."
Turns out that because I go by my more commonly used nickname on Facebook, their search for "Rachel Ryan" failed, despite even having personal details from my resume, such as where I grew up, went to college, and studied abroad.
But should all the world's prospective employees really be expected to assume an alias when on the seemingly endless quest for employment?
Good god, NO. Talk about a dystopian social media hellhole. Want to catch up with your old friend John Smith and maybe stalk some photos from his recent vacation to Scotland? Hah! "John Smith" who? You mean, Smitty Johns? Or maybe you'd like to include Jane on the Facebook invite to your housewarming party. Too bad for Jane that she is now "J Paige" -- no Facebook invite for her!
"So what if there's a picture of you with a beer in-hand on Facebook," said A Boss who is in charge of hiring people. "We've all been to college."
Of course, this common attitude doesn't dismiss basic Facebook decorum all together. Obviously, you should have the good sense not to feature a photo of yourself soaked in vomit, passed out on a frat basement floor next to a keg... or something. But if you have two brain cells, chances are the content of your Facebook isn't going to eliminate you as a prospective candidate.
We are living in a time in which everything we think and do is substantiated by social media. Every. Single. Thing. It never happened if it didn't make it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or Google+. The non-stop chronicling and monitoring applies to everyone, from middle-schoolers to politicians. The novelty of a less-than-flattering glimpse into someone's personal life has worn off. It's 2013. Few things are private or shocking.
That's the virtual real world we've created, people.