Social networking tool can be used for good or bad

Amy Brown

Amy BrownETC Editor

A year ago, most SDSU students didn’t know what Facebook was. Now, more than 7,900 people are on Facebook’s SD State network. But the new technology isn’t immune to problems and is raising new debates of ethics and censorship.

Originally intended to be a giant social networking tool, Facebook’s purposes are constantly expanding, which is causing some students to think twice about what they put on their Facebook profiles.

“People just need to use their head,” said Justin Goetz, a senior political science major. “Last weekend’s liquid contest might look good to one’s friends, but it could have some bad ramifications in the wrong hands.”

Law enforcement officers across the country are using Facebook to catch students in law-breaking activities.

University Police Chief Tim Heaton has one officer assigned to monitor things students post on Facebook.

“Since it is a public forum, if we see something that’s cause for concern, we will look into it,” Heaton said.

Some organizations are leery about the networking tool and are asking members to pay attention to what is put on their profiles.

SDSU student athletes are discouraged from using the Web site.

“We don’t prohibit it,” said Jason Hove, Sports Information Director at SDSU. “We strongly encourage that student athletes do not participate in those type of sites,” Hove said.

The Athletic Department currently does not have an official policy regarding Facebook or other social networking Web sites.

Although users once needed a .edu email address from a college or high school, the Web site is now open to corporations, including Microsoft, PepsiCo, Apple Computer and Daktronics. Employers are now able to research job applicants using Facebook, sometimes by asking a current employee to search for an applicant’s profile.

SDSU’s Career and Academic Planning (CAP) Center reminds students that information they post on the Internet is public domain. Susan Fredrikson, employment development director at the CAP Center, said some employers do use the networking site.

“There’s a lot of talk out there that many employers are using it, but I have heard personally from a couple that they have used it,” said Fredrikson.

Students should keep in mind who sees their information and how itmight be used, she said.

“The employer is looking at your potential to represent them in a professional manner. Even though it might be harmless and fun, it’s best when you’re in the job market to keep things professional,” she said.

Daktronics, which employs approximately 500 SDSU students, has a network on Facebook. But the company does not look at Facebook profiles, said Jan Brockel, of the Daktronics Personnel Department.

Rainbow Play Systems, Inc., uses the networking site MySpace, but does not use Facebook to look at applicants’ profiles. Rainbow employs between 150 and 200 SDSU students for their part-time night shift.

“We do use MySpace, and more and more employers around this area are using that type of tool,” said Pam Hauge, Human Resources Manager at Rainbow Play Systems, Inc.

Yet Facebook does have some major benefits. It presents another way student organizations can keep in touch.

“The mass-message function is especially handy for group leaders to contact every member who signs up for their group list,” said Goetz, vice president of College Democrats.

It can also be used as a recruiting tool. Especially during rush week, Greek organizations use Facebook to promote their fraternities.

Because SDSU’s three women’s fraternities recruit together, women who work with potential members limit their Facebook privacy to friends only, said Trisha Nordaune, program advisor to Greek Life. This hides the recruiters fraternity affiliation and allows them to “answer womens’ questions in a neutral way,” Nordaune said.

The men’s fraternities recruit individually, but are also reminded to keep things clean on their Facebook profiles. Goetz, a member of Delta Chi, said although there is no official policy on Facebook, members are reminded to use common sense when posting photos.

Still, not all student groups have jumped on the Facebook bandwagon.

“Facebook has helped students keep in touch and up to date with organizations on campus, but I still think email is a little more reliable since not everyone at SDSU is a Facebook addict,” said Margaret Liesinger, a member of Navigators, a religious student organization on campus.

Doug Wermedal, assistant dean of Student Affairs at SDSU, has heard mixed reactions from students about Facebook.

“I hear students using it as a way to connect. I know it’s been another tool for students to get to know each other,” he said.

However, Wermedal suggests that students do not post the dorm and room number they live in.

“Every little piece of electronic information you leave could make you vulnerable to identity theft. It’s good to leave those things as clean of private information as you can, things like addresses, cell phone numbers, class schedules.”