The online life

I just can’t get too worked up about this sort of thing.

Most young people know the basics of landing a job: Prepare a résumé, compile references and dress up for the interview.

But a handful of 20-somethings got a staunch reminder last month of a subtler job-hunting lesson — that they need to polish their online profiles before entering the work force. A Houston TV station searched their Facebook pages, broadcasting some questionable photos and content.

A Lee High School teacher, for example, was photographed holding a sex toy. A Fonville Middle School teacher posted a photo album titled “TAKS Sucks Drinking Does NOT.” A teacher at South Houston High School in the Pasadena district joked about his mostly Hispanic class’s pronunciation of “mister.”

The Pasadena teacher, who could not be reached for comment, resigned after the broadcast.

“He did this rather quickly, out of concern for his students,” said Candace Ahlfinger, spokeswoman for the district. “That says a lot about the quality of the young man, a lot of positives.”

Houston school district spokesman Terry Abbott said that, in most of these cases, the items were posted while the individuals were in college, before they became public school teachers. Still, he said, the teachers were upset and mortified that their online profiles were aired in public.

As a record number of Americans register on social networking sites like Facebook, these are issues that both employees and employers must increasingly handle.

Most companies acknowledge that employees have the right to express themselves — and sometimes even encourage them to network online — but also want them to avoid doing anything that might come back to haunt them.

Okay, look. There are plenty of photographs from 20-some years ago that show my college self doing stupid things, most of which involve beer. It’s called being young and foolish, something which most of us are during those years. Maybe, just maybe, as these 20-something Facebookers become bosses and hiring managers and whatnot over time, there will be less of a stigma associated with having one’s young-and-foolishness being noticed on the web, since by then we’ll all live in glass houses and the standard response will be to shrug and say “hey, I was young once, too”. I think the world will be a better place when that happens.

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