The first week of school is always exciting. Classes are full, faces are smiling and first impressions are being made, whether you realize it or not.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a hard mantra to abide by, especially when everything is new — from the school year to the campus to the students. Sometimes you can’t help but take first impressions with a grain of salt.
My first journalism class Monday reminded me that not only am I feeling out my new professors and classes but they are also getting a sense of me as a student. In this case, my professor had already done his homework. He passed back a published article written by each of my classmates after he had copy edited it himself. My classmates and I shared a nervous giggle before blushing over our published mistakes.
In reality, once he received the class roster, all he had to do was type our names into Google form his first impressions of us. I Googled myself later that night and realized the article he chose of mine did not show up on Google’s first page of hits. He probably sifted through the links for my Facebook, Twitter (which is not private), where I went to high school, my time from a cross-country meet ages ago and more before finding the article and before meeting me.
He chuckled as he explained he would not be using anything against us, and the class breathed a sigh of relief. But then again, what will stop him from judging us?
What’s scarier is he isn’t the only person to Google my name. He is just the only person who told me he did.
Just as companies use Google to find incriminating details about potential employees, professors are using Google to “get to know” their students. And all they have to do is type in your name. Employers often take background screenings even further by checking popular college gossip sites such as Collegeacb.com.
So it’s the student’s own responsibility to protect themselves, and there is no time like the first week of school — full of first impressions in-person and online — to clean up online reputations. No one should be pre-judged simply by Internet content, but it is today’s reality. And what is online can make or break futures.
First of all, students should make an effort to take down pictures on Facebook, Flickr and other websites they would not want their bosses or other figures of authority to see.
Pictures are the most incriminating form of evidence next to videos, so it’s important to make sure any picture posted in public doesn’t show anything people are not legally able to do.
If the photos from last Friday’s party are “too epic” to be buried in a personal photo library, there is a solution.
Social media users can use a new resource called The Fridge. Offering a format similar to Facebook, the site allows members to post statuses and photos. The plus side is that only private groups can view the materials and comment or “heart,” Fridge’s version of Facebook’s “like.”
Creating a group is simple. All you have to do is access the home page (thefridge.org). Then enter your e-mail address, name your group and share the group’s private URL with your friends. Each Fridge user gets a profile, but the only way to discover a user is through joint or mutual groups.
So there is now a time and place for suggestive pictures. According to a Mashable.com article, Fridge representatives drove its core message home by presenting a picture of a guy smoking a bong he had masterfully created out of a Nintendo 64 controller. Although this photo could cause trouble on Facebook, uploading it to a private Fridge group would ensure laughter and applause from buddies and relief from potential penalties.
My favorite part of The Fridge is the ability to post new content to the group simply by e-mailing the group’s custom e-mail address with whatever it is you want to post. Also, have no fear — this social network will not require a front-page application space on your phone because there is no mobile application for The Fridge up to now.
College is the time for fun and enjoying the last days of minimal responsibility, but careless actions can take a toll on students’ futures.
Though it proves difficult to control rumors and gossip that surface online via others, it is possible to control what belongs to you and has your name on it. What others say about you online is going to affect your reputation a lot less than the material you post yourself, so make sure anything you post is professional and tasteful.
The first month of school involves interviews, Greek recruitment, club and organizations, scholarship applications and more. First impressions have never been more important. The Internet is the new first impression, so rock it.
Rebecca Lett is a junior majoring in print journalism and economics. Her column “Staying Connected” runs Thursdays.