Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Search Values

Last weekend, the New York Times published yet another story about employers using the Internet to research job applicants. The author claims this is a new development and a serious issue. I declare shenanigans.

First, let's dispense with the hyperbole. No one is being blacklisted over politics or religion. The Times cited two examples where candidates had been rejected because of their online profiles; in both cases, the students had plastered their Facebook profiles with graphic descriptions of sex and drug abuse.

I realize that intelligent people can disagree about sexual proclivities or the legalization of marijuana. I won't presume that engaging in illicit sex or smoking an occasional joint necessarily indicates a lack of personal judgment — but irrespective of the acts themselves, surely we can agree that bragging about them to strangers on a global forum does indicate a lapse of both judgment and discretion.

This discussion is revived every couple of months by a newspaper or TV magazine, and it's always depicted as "a growing problem." I get annoyed when the same reporters repeatedly declare the same information to be revelatory; but moreover, I dispute the contention that "Google screening" is a common practice. Quoting the Times:
Some college career executives are skeptical that many employers routinely check applicants online. "My observation is that it's more fiction than fact," said Tom Devlin, director of the career center at the University of California, Berkeley.
I agree. Most employers don't bother to fact-check applicants' resumés or confirm their education, so you're crazy if you think they're stalking your participation on Usenet. Like most conspiracy theories, it assumes an unreasonable degree of coordination.

It's like one of those scaremongering teasers for the local news: "Could your baby's diapers be dangerous? Tune in at eleven!!" And then you watch the report and it turns out that (1) they're talking about some obscure brand of diapers that no one buys, and (2) the diapers cause a mild rash in 0.5% of babies. That's what's happening here. Yes, if you litter your MySpace profile with Hitler jokes and references to 4:20, it's possible that a small percentage of employers will find it and reject you. But if you're worried about that, frankly, you're not the sort of person who deserves career advice from the New York Times.


At June 14, 2006 4:43 PM, Blogger Goodbye. You'll see me again, but you won't know it. said...

Well, sir, I am crazy. I just dumped MySpace in part because of the reasons cited in the referenced articles. Honestly, it was also in part because MySpace is terrible.

I feel that there is a certain wisdom to refraining from taking unnecessary risks in a time of need and desperation. I need an income. Any slight edge is worth an investment, should it be convenient and inexpensive to make.

You try to avoid paranoid thinking after watching your career dissolve without obvious reason in a difficult market like, oh, South Florida.

My MySpace account is gone (at least in substance -- it refuses to actually terminate for some reason) to shield me from the potential bigotry of certain employers. I admit that this is overkill. I also admit to a certain unease with my current level of income.

It was also destroyed for several other reasons. First among them was that the company with which i declined to work took to communicating through that channel. Even in the wake of this rampant unprofessionalism, they wonder why I was suspicious of them and declined to work with them. If anything, that kind of density on their part served to cement my certainty that the outfit is a scam of gargantuan proportions. I will not tolerate any further exposure to slime of that calibre. If that means destroying an identity that was not entirely mine anyway, so be it.

That, and MySpace is too promiscuous with my personal information and too disrespectful of my right to my own words. I believe that a certain direct honesty is important in life. I also think that carelessness is never called for. In the wake of innumerable points of failure, the rational thinker must withdraw.

So, your comment is timely. And, yes, I am one of those "suckered" into believing the hype on at least a minimal basis. I do not disagree with you in principle at all -- but do on a merely circumstantial basis.

I think I will follow your lead and make better use Blogger. Its interface is less annoying and it is more reliable, anyway.

At June 20, 2006 1:28 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

MySpace is too promiscuous with my personal information and too disrespectful of my right to my own words.

How so?

At July 04, 2006 2:42 PM, Blogger Goodbye. You'll see me again, but you won't know it. said...

First, I will address their respect for content and its ownership.

First concern is that their policy -- their "contract" if you will -- concerning the contents of profiles is vague. One wonders if it is deliberately obfuscated. Management admitted to this and is ostensibly in the process of rewording their policies. I have seen no action on this front.

My second concern is their censorship and deletion by mob vote. I understand why there is an effort to restrict or prevent the proliferation of "objectionable" content. A friend is a graphic designer/photographer, and took a picture of the aftermath of one of his frequent nosebleeds. It honestly didn't look like blood, because of the lighting he used. Someone reported it as objectionable, because all of his posted images -- ALL OF THEM -- were wiped out soon after he posted that particular image. And, it happened again. It is possible that this deletion was caused by two consequent technical blips, but it is rather unlikely.

Moreover, I've lost sections of my profile due to "objectionable content" once myself. Granted, it was my book listing. It may have been due to traffic, but I rather doubt it -- how many people visited MY profile? Your guess ought to be realistic if you consider my content. Even random searches rarely lead to me. How much traffic could I generate?

Between the fact that I am not assured with clarity that I still own my pictures or my words when I post them on MySpace and because I know that others have arbitrary veto over all of it, I don't see it as an especially good place to post anything.

The other issue is the promiscuity with personal data. MySpace cleverly figured out my sexual orientation and has been serving up ads to me based on it. That is annoying, but tolerable. What is more irritating is that junk mail, e or otherwise, has increased in frequency since I started the account. Further, there are more and more emerging reports of data-mining being done on the site. True, this kind of datamining can and does happen on any information system for both commercial and political purposes. The fact remains that my information is being sold and marketed. I don't really have a moral problem with it -- I don't believe that a right to privacy could exists in a truly just society. I concede that it is clear that justice is lacking in human society, and consequently require privacy to protect our interests. Still, it is not a "moral" issue -- it is a matter of achieving goals. On the other hand, I am annoyed by the volume. I would rather work with something that does not attempt to sell me something very indiscreetly and distractingly every time I try to communicate with others. I have things to do. I value my time. I value serenity. If I have either taken from me, it ought to be because I'm receiving something valuable in return. If others offer me more of what I want and inflict less irritation, the choice is clear.


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