With predictions that the number of active Facebook users will reach 1 billion in 2012, some may be left wondering: why wouldn’t you want to join?
While the concern about its impact on future jobs is often the most publicized reason for not having a Facebook account, many Purdue students say they simply don’t need one.
Colin O’Toole, a sophomore in the Krannert School of Management, is decidedly not one of Facebook’s 800 million active users.
O’Toole thinks too many people use the internet to maintain their friendships.
“I would prefer to actually talk to my friends and see them as a real human instead of looking at a machine and seeing them that way,” O’Toole said. “I just prefer the human interaction.”
While O’Toole said privacy concerns was probably the least of his worries, Kara Burkhardt, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said that with all of Facebook’s recent privacy issues, she’s concerned with giving them any information at all.
“They keep changing their privacy policies and information gets out that people don’t want out,” Burkhardt said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, in December 2009, Facebook changed their users’ privacy settings without announcement. This allowed users’ private information to become public, in addition to advertisers gaining personally identifiable information, all without the users’ knowledge.
Facebook reached a settlement with the commission in December 2011 with the promise to respect its users’ privacy.
However, Burkhardt remains concerned about the potential for identity theft, as well as the most well-known reason for not having a Facebook: its impact on future employment.
“Name, contact information, interests,” Burkhardt said of the information she doesn’t trust Facbeook with, “anything that could be used for identity theft or that an employer could use against me.”
Kelly Haase, a talent acquisition manager for Navistar who recruits many Purdue students, has heard of multiple cases both outside and inside her international company where Facebook has damaged a job applicant’s chances.
While she said it could be helpful for networking purposes, the overwhelming majority of cases where recruiters have found the applicant’s Facebook resulted in the page being “definitely detrimental.”
“For those who don’t use it, or are very conservative with it, or have their privacy settings set up, (having a Facebook) hasn’t been beneficial or detrimental,” Haase said. “But it’s the people who do use it and are not discreet with the things they want to keep private.”
One way students have attempted to avoid their pages being found is to change their user name, such as by changing “Jane Doe” to “Jane Marie” or “Jane MusicLover.”
Haase said that despite the fact that 1/7 of the world’s population could have a Facebook account in the near future, it would not reflect poorly on an applicant if they could not find a profile for that person.
Even if the employer were to discover that an applicant had done this, Haase said it might even appear better, because it demonstrates the applicant makes a distinction between professional and private life.
“As an employer, if I found that out, I would appreciate that a little more because it shows the person is aware they can be found and searched,” Haase said.
Regardless of these safeguard techniques, O’Toole said he doesn’t see himself getting a Facebook anytime soon.
The thought of running into a stranger who knows what he had for breakfast based on a Facebook post is just a little too scary.
“You hear these stories about, like, somebody will see somebody out in public they’ve never talked to in person, but because of Facebook, that’s their neighbor’s sister’s friend and you know all sorts of information about them,” he said. “I’ve heard stories that kind of scare me.”