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Big Brother Online

Networking sites used predominately by teens and young adults, such as Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, and Friendster, have become increasingly popular in the recent years. These sites can be used to communicate between peers, find old friends, and post personal information for all to see. Many teens and young adults see these sites as an escape from the adult world – with a view that this is something adults are completely unaware of. However, the adult world is quickly catching on and using the information posted on these sites in specific ways that are creating very significant problems for many teens today. Read on to learn more….


Many young people who use networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, and Friendster, use these sites to post risqué or teasing photographs, as well as to make provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use, and sexual exploits in an arena they believe to be relatively private. However, it is important for teens to be aware that all of this information posted on the web is very public and can come back to haunt them. Two very common ways in which the adult world is using this information today is to assess character by job recruiters and by prosecutors – and it is important for teens to understand that how they conduct themselves can create very real and unwanted negative consequences.

As far as job recruiters, there are many companies today who are using these networking sites to assess the character of their applicants. If they see certain photos or comments posted it may cause that recruiter to question the applicant’s judgment, as well as to question their lifestyle and how much it goes against the core values of the corporation. Companies have quickly passed over applicants who have posted comments such as my interests include “smokin’ blunts,” I like “shooting people,” I’m into “obsessive sex,” I like “blowing things up,” or posting a picture of themselves passed out after a drinking binge. The thing to remember is that it’s not just about your resume and grades anymore – when you apply for a job, an internship, or for acceptance into an academic program – your private life, now so publicly displayed on the internet, has become a huge factor in whether you will even be considered as an applicant. 

Not only are various recruiters using these sites to assess character, but prosecutors are using them as well. Prosecutors will bring forward various facts and evidence when presenting a case, but they are also looking to prove that there is something very questionable in the character, values, or lifestyle of the person they are prosecuting. And finding photos and statements online that portray the defendant as sexually promiscuous, someone who abuses drugs and/or alcohol, someone who commits or is interested in committing crimes, or whatever other negative things are posted, all make it much easier for a prosecutor to paint a very negative picture of the defendant to the judge and jury. Take, for example, the case of Joshua Lipton of Rhode Island. He was charged in a drunken driving crash that left a woman seriously injured. Two weeks after the crash he attended a Halloween party in a prisoner costume with an orange jumpsuit that said “Jail Bird” – and this picture ended up being posted on Facebook by a fellow party-goer. The prosecutor used the picture in his case to paint Lipton as the kind of person who would be out partying while the victim was recovering in the hospital – and as someone who had no remorse for what he had done. The judge agreed with the prosecutor’s portrayal of Lipton, calling the pictures “depraved,” and sentenced Lipton to two years in prison. 

Again, many teens who use these networking sites are under the false impression that the information posted will be viewed in relative secrecy by peers out of a desire to simply kid and have fun. However, the truth – like it or not – is that this information is very public, is being viewed by people of influence, and can be used against you in a variety of settings. TeenHealthFX presents this information for our readers to think about – not to stress the importance of simply watching what you post on your own web pages – but to stress the importance of thinking about what you do and the decisions you make in general. Just because you don’t put the picture of you passed out at a party on your site, doesn’t mean someone else won’t post in on their site. Just because you don’t post information on how many people you’ve slept with doesn’t mean someone else won’t make that information public on their own web page. So rather than focusing on censoring what information you personally put on the web, think about what you are choosing to do with yourself and how you are living your life – because in the era of the internet, your actions can easily become public and can really come back to haunt you in terrible ways.