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.