Presentation: Social Media & how (students) can survive online

I’ve been lucky enough so far this term to be involved with two sets of students, both under-graduate first years (one unit called ‘Professional Studies’ even), and with both sets I have been surprised and slightly worried about the level of understanding they have about their use of Social Media, and how the little things can make a difference.

What surprised me, from a couple of informal questions to a few vocal and enthusiastic Facebook users, is that they have never considered what is viewable online, their ‘digital foot print’.

So, I asked around about what we do for the students to alert them to the risks, and how this could potentially affect their future employment prospects. I had some good answers but the one that made me groan was simply “why don’t you talk to them about it?” Me and my big mouth!

Social Media & Networks: How to survive online (or “your [next] employer is watching you”).
View more presentations from David Hopkins.

Update, 17 November 2010: I’ve been researching the United Airlines ‘breaks guitars’ example I use in the presentation above and have found some interesting figures. Not only has the original YouTube video been viewed/accessed over 9.5 million times since it was loaded last year, but it is reportedly the cause of a 10% drop in share price for United airlines, costing shareholders a whopping $180 million!

I took the class list (190+ students) and randomly searched for 10 students. I found 6 of them in Facebook easily and the other 4 had names that matched to 300+ other Facebook users, so I didn’t search for them. I used my personal Facebook account, which is not connected to my work or work colleagues in any way. This is important as I wanted to be sure there was no way I could have access through a friend of mine or theirs … this is the kind of set-up a future employer would have when searching.

What I found reaffirmed my belief that they don’t understand what they do, or how the privacy settings worked. I can say that all users had photos they’d uploaded that depicted some very good nights out, drunken behaviour, in one case smoking possibly dubious material, lots of holiday and beach pictures, and also photos they’d been tagged in by friends, so content they had had nothing to do with, but it appeared on their profile!

Naturally when I present this I can’t show them the exact photos or say who I searched (I do not have the list of names saved anywhere!) but I hope this will at least raise the awareness of their online activity and, if nothing else, these students think about their use of Social Media, their privacy settings, as well as the kind of people they befriend online.

It is also very difficult to talk about Social Media or Social Networks without concentrating on Facebook; it seems that’s all they’re interested in, and the majority of news stories I researched all concentrated on it too.

Have you got, or had, a Social Media (horror) story or have you taken a similar approach with your students? Please leave all comments below.

  • Emory

    I enjoyed the post and the slideshare – lots of good info. Did want to mention the story of the girl who outs her boss on farmville (slide 17) did turn out to be a hoax
    Perhaps that is something you address in the presentation.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Emory – Thanks for this.

    During the presentation I hint that images and stories can be made up and, when I get to the email article (about slide 25) I ask them which, out of all the stories I’ve mentioned, is fake. So far most people have figured it’s the Farmville one, but for those who think I’m capable of faking the BBC News Website they think the story about the Virgin cabin crew is fake.

    All the best, David.

  • Emory

    Ahhh that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying David.

  • This is a little bit different, but did you hear about the Foursquare stalker:

    • Thanks Ryan. I have heard of similar stories but thank you for providing a link, very valuable.

      I can only see this kind of activity getting worse, espeically as Facebook has released it’s ‘places’ system.

      At some point it will be taken too far … is that what has to happen for the general public and users of these systems to fully understand and appreciate the importance of being sensible online? I hope not.

      All the best, David

  • Hi!
    My name is Amelia Platt and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class and I was assigned to read your blog for my assignment. I will post a summary of my two comments in two weeks. I loved this post because as a student it made me stop and think about what I really have on my Facebook. I have personal had my settings set to very private since I was a freshman in college due to some events. I do not think most of us think about what we really post up on our page because we believe it is our own when truthfully it is not. Everything we post or put on FB ends up in cyber space somewhere for someone to see. Nothing ever put on on any website is personal it is out there for the whole world to see. One thing Dr. Strange told us when we started thus class was we would be Googled someday and what trail did we want to leave behind for people to find. This really made me stop and think about what I say and what I put up on my profile. I enjoyed this post and look forward to reading more.

  • Hi David

    Interested in your comment about students only being interested in Facebook. I did a guest lecture at the University of Aberdeen recently on the the implications of technology. I asked the group (3rd year undergrad) who DIDN’T have a Facebook account – zero response.

    I then went on to ask about Twitter (3) Flickr (1), FourSquare (what?). While I wasn’t surprised that they all had Facebook accounts I was surprised that so few were engaged with other social media channels – I think the perception is that this age group are au fait with all this stuff and are doing ‘it’ all the time.

    Definitely with you regarding the lack of awareness of Facebook privacy settings – scares me what you can find out about people without trying too hard!

    • Hi Pauline – I think the students were quite shocked to hear the kind of activity that is going on; shocked because they hadn’t considered the implications of their actions, not shocked that it’d happened.

      I finished the presentation this morning saying I’d searched for a random selection of users in the room last week (10 in total) and found several of them with open settings, and described the kinds of photos and groups they were openly showing. that got their attention!

      I am at odds with the whole ‘digital native’ and ‘Generation Y’ concept though, I can not see it in the students in front of me – they are living in the digital world all right, but they have no concpet of what exists outside of the iPhone / Facebook world – they canot take what they learn about MS Word and apply to MS PowerPoint (simple cut-and-paste, insert media, etc) .. is that really the Gen-Y we’re led to believe they are?

      Social Media is more than Facebook, yet they are not aware (or even care) about anything else. Even now I saw some blank faces when I mentioned Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, etc.

      All the best, David

  • Jade Kelsall

    Thanks for this, David; very useful. I’ve added a link to this presentation on our “learning in a digital age” page for students, in a section on security, identity and privacy:

    • Anonymous

      Thank you.

      All the best, David

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