When you’re young you’ll probably do some stupid things, but think twice before posting them online. That’s the advice delivered Wednesday by U.S. President Barack Obama to a 9th grade school child who asked for advice on how to get the most powerful job in the world.
“Well, let me give you some very practical tips,” Obama said during the photo-op event at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, near the U.S. capital. “First of all, I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life.”
“And when you’re young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff. And I’ve been hearing a lot about young people who — you know, they’re posting stuff on Facebook, and then suddenly they go apply for a job and somebody has done a search and — so that’s some practical political advice for you right there,” he said.
Some recruiters and potential employers are using social networking tools like Facebook or search engines like Google to check online profiles and screen out candidates who they deem unsuitable. Sometimes its to look for signs of excessive drinking or drugs use and other times to make sure candidates have not posted embarrassing information or views that could tarnish the reputation of the company that could employ them.
The boundaries between where someone’s personal life and freedom of speech ends and professional life begins are blurred with such sites and the legal boundaries have not been tested in many countries. Some recruiting consultants also warn against using social networking sites as taking information out of context can lead to errors of judgment.
Obama himself felt the heat during his presidential campaign when speeches by his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright were posted to YouTube. In the wired and digital world in which we live both he and politicians worldwide must now be constantly aware that anything they say could be recorded and uploaded to the Internet to later come back and embarrass them.