Posted by: Dana Kelly | May 24, 2011

Profanity in the age of transparency

Following a link from the @mashable Twitter account, I read an article titled “47% of Facebook Users Have Profanity on Their Walls.” This came as no surprise to me because I can guarantee that I fit into this near-majority demographic. The study comes from Reppler, a firm that offers online reputation strategies, and it surveyed 30,000 Facebook users. The results show the most common curse words used, etc. However, what I found most interesting from Mashable’s article was the following statistic: male undergrad students reference alcohol in their profiles 85.5% of the time. For the purpose of this blog post, I will assume that females undergraduates have a similar if not equal percentage.

If the vast majority of college students display their alcohol use on social media, how will our future employment be affected? I make a genuine effort to control the content I publish on social media sites, but I cannot say the same about my friends. If a friend posts a picture of me drinking and adds a profane comment, I have lost control of my individual brand. However, I don’t think that I should have to change my lifestyle in order to hide from Facebook’s grips.

It is a lesson I hear everyday in my three journalism classes: monitor your Facebook! I am aware that future employers will Google me prior to an interview and my digital footprint will be on display. Are they seriously going to judge profanity and/or alcohol references when the majority of college students inching closer to graduation have these vices on their profiles? I maintain a private profile for a reason, but I remain anxious about what my friend’s post. The study reveals that 80% of our users who have profanity on their Facebook Wall have at least one post/comment with profanity from a friend, meaning despite my precautions, others have not yet caught on.

I’ve adapted professional Twitter and Linkedin accounts, but will these suffice? I am struggling to define the line of appropriateness on a social media platform such as Facebook when the majority of users my age are guilty of the same cardinal sins.

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