Last week, I had an interesting conversation with several classes that I teach. My Juniors wrote an essay on a prompt that basically asked them if it was fair for admission offices at universities and colleges to weigh their applications based on content found in Myspace pages and Facebook profiles. I was surprised by the results.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of students felt that it was inappropriate for colleges to view their profiles or pages. Phrases like “invasion of privacy” and “they have no business” were found in almost every essay that I read. Many students wrote about how the theses pages are private places, only meant for friends and only meant for the eyes of those they want to see. Some students were downright angry that this kind of stuff was happening in schools. There were so many students who wrote along this vane, I was both surprised and a little scared. This was the mindset of the students when they posted information to their profile: whatever they posted was private.
After they wrote the essay, we had a class discussion about the topic. I was hoping to turn this into a positive teaching opportunity. I told students that whether they liked it or not, colleges were going to do this. These places where students spend numerous hours posting, chatting, liking and commenting are not private spaces at all, not even close. Instead, they are very public by nature. Most students didn’t realize that by signing up for a Facebook account and accepting the terms and condition, they pretty much sign over the rights of everything they post, or even say, to Facebook to whatever with however they want.
The most interesting thing about this whole conversation was that the students still felt like the whole thing was wrong. I don’t think they totally bought into what I was telling them. They still argued up and down that it was wrong for schools to use Facebook and Myspace as a determiner for college admittance.
They just don’t get it. This scares me a little. In their minds, whatever they do on the web is their business. The problem with this kind of thinking is that, to use a classic cliche, nothing could be further from the truth.