Is MySpace really just your space? Are you what you post? And exactly who is looking? These are questions that many MySpace users are asking themselves in light of breaking news referencing the networking/blogging site in arrests, suspensions and even employee dismissals.
According to MySpace’s own statistics, the site had 47 million unique users in February 2006, a number that has now ballooned to 70 million. Eight hundred and six of these are current Castleton State College students.
Among these, a clearly identifiable C.S.C. student has a message mentioning the drug counseling he was required to go to and a 19-year-old student is seen doing a keg stand.
Recent news proves that some police and school officials browse MySpace profiles. It has also been suggested that employers may as well, in order to screen potential employees — or fire them.
However, out of 10 local businesses contacted in the area, including Rutland Regional Medical Center and Evergreen Substance Abuse Center, none said they check MySpace.com for profiles of potential employees. Neither do gas stations and convenience stores in the area.
“I never even thought about it,” said Marsha Singh, manager of a local Mobil station.
But some do, even if it’s not happening here yet.
According to Business Weekly, former flight-attendant Ellen Simonetti was fired in 2005 after she posted “suggestive” pictures of herself in a blog called “Queen of the Sky” in her MySpace profile.
In light of such articles and the threat that comes with them, a few C.S.C. students have removed their MySpace profiles. Sophomore Danny Boudreau is one who hasn’t and who says he isn’t careful about what he posts.
If you do a search for current C.S.C. students, Boudreau’s primary picture is among the results that pop-up. In it, he’s wearing a knit cap with an embroidered marijuana leaf dominating the frame. He also took a “What Drug Are You” survey which announced “You Are Pot,” so if you click on his picture and are brought to his page, you’re then greeted with a large picture of a joint.
Such surveys are common on sites like MySpace. Users are bombarded with advertisements from outside businesses offering surveys from the “What Drug Are You” one that Boudreau took, to “Which Movie Star Are You.”
But some say these little surveys aren’t a big deal. Jamie Cook, a junior who created a mySpace profile last December, says everyone does them.
“They’re pointless and sometimes funny,” Cook said. “The drug one makes someone look like someone who frequently uses marijuana, when in fact, maybe they’ve never tried it and the simple, general questions they answered in order to get that label just meant that they were laid back.”
But we live in a stereotypical society and some are quick to jump to conclusions.
“I do,” Cook said. “Most of the time I make assumptions about people by what pictures they post.”
And other people do too — including employers and school officials.
“I am a little worried about some information that I post on MySpace,” said Cook, “such as my sexual orientation and where I go to school. It wouldn’t be very hard for someone to find me and kidnap me.”
Cook’s probably not paranoid.
University of the Cumberland student Jason Johnson was expelled this year for posting that he is gay on his MySpace profile, according to USA Today, and in New Jersey this week, seven high school students were suspended for posting a sort of “hit-list” of students they didn’t like on a MySpace page.
Anyone, anywhere at any time can see anything that you post on the Web – and sometimes this stuff doesn’t go away. A Web site called archive.com, for example, stores “ghost Web sites,” that are no longer up and running, but have been saved and are still accessible.
And even though local employees say they aren’t checking MySpace profiles, that doesn’t mean that they don’t, or won’t in the future.
“I don’t think you will find an employer who would admit to it. Because I don’t do direct placement of students, I don’t have the in-your-face situation,” said Judith Carruthers, director of Career Development. “Imagine trying to talk an employer into hiring a grad and having a MySpace photo cutting you down?