April 28, 2009

Social Networks Beware - MySpace, Facebook, BlackPlanet

What has happened to the Digital Divide?
Many people are no longer confined to using other family member’s computers or sacrificing to purchase one. Computers are readily available at affordable prices
with many models to choose from and the competition between AMD (Advanced
Micro Devices) and Intel has lowered the cost of the microprocessor or brain of the computer to help make them cheaper. This has opened up a new capability for virtual traveling, online purchasing and selling, along with socializing on a global scale, literally. No longer are people confined to the “hood” (neighborhood) or mall, now there are “digital hoods”, “digital malls” and “digital playground” BUT BEWARE potential employers are looking at your job qualifications and social activities on these digital sites that you connect to and socialize on.
Digital Divide Defined
The presence of the Digital Divide as defined by Wikipedia is “the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all”. During the 80’s and 90’s many minorities were limited to the use of technology because of its high cost and lack of user friendliness. This presented a challenge to many because employers are using computer kiosks and online applications for applying to entry level jobs (Wal-Mart, Sears, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.). Because many minorities did not have access or lacked the basic skills to effectively use technology they were slowly loosing out on employment opportunities. The declining cost of technology, the miniaturization of the microprocessor, access to computers through schools, churches and public libraries has allowed minorities to enter into the digital age and compete. Access has allowed learning skills to expand and encouraged; enlightenment and empowerment to compete with others digitally. The ability to virtually apply/compete for jobs and educational opportunities by taking online or hybrid classes has allowed minorities to be present at the “table” again, not to be left behind or scrambling to keep up.
Age of Social Networking
Social networking a more recent tool as defined by Wikipedia is, “a social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities”, has allowed people of color to communicate globally; this capability is not restricted by national or international borders or time zones. The Web 2.0 has allowed anyone with access to the Internet either through a computer, cell phone, blackberry and even gaming systems to participate in “mass communication and peer collaboration” (Wikipedia 2.0, 2008).
New Meeting Tools
Networking is not just about exchanging numbers, astronomic signs, restaurant preferences or even places to shop, it includes all that and more. When joining a social network you pick the network that caters to your likes and future aspirations for business and education; (Facebook, Brightfuse, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning’s, Blogspot, BlogTalk Radio or Passion4Christ and Twitter. These socials allow you to adjust the kind of preferences, businesses goals, political affiliations, religious associations and even personal lifestyles you want to interact with. Once you join you invite people as friends that you feel “connected to” on some level. The intricacies of participation in a Web 2.0 environment, is managing the technology and your contacts as you add friends. The beauties of networking are making friends from all over the world who mostly share your interests and ideologies. Communicating is performed initially by a web site that you personalize or in some cases use web tools to “Crunk your page”. These “Crunking” tools add pictures (static) in a slideshow format, embedded videos from personal camera’s or links to YouTube (another Web 2.0 application) where videos can be accessed. Music from any genre and the capability to share music by those testing the waters to see how popular their work can be. Communication can be conducted around the clock at any location; since many digital devices now are portable you can take your access to your network with you and share photos, conversations, videos and music.
Employers are getting Wise to Social Networks
Employers are getting involved in the social networking scene as well, looking to see if potential employees have questionable social patterns and lifestyles. According to Mike Hargis of CareerBuilder.com “Twenty-two percent of employers say they use social networking sites when evaluating job candidates”, this says a lot to the youth of today that allow or put pictures that attract attention to them as being “sexy, down, gangsta, thugs, straight, gay, etc.”, but in the long run may hurt their chances of employment, military service or admission to higher education institutions. The danger of networking sites for those employed run the risk of being “let go” because of questionable behavior online and the content on their sites. M. Hargis states, “16 percent of workers with social networking profiles have modified their pages with potential employers in mind” (CareerBuilder.com 2009). The site can be a hindrance or a help when seeking employment or advancement in your career. Your social site can be used as a resume to highlight your knowledge with technology, the ability to navigate web sites that build professionalism and connectivity to the business world or your site can show immaturity, lack of responsible behavior when interacting with alcohol, drugs and relationships with the same or opposite sex.
Cultural Implications
Judgment on ones culture and character may seem invasive by those seeking employment, but from a business perspective many businesses are worried about their “reputations” in the business and social community. Their employees outside activities may reflect back on their work performance or a businesses stance on certain behaviors or lifestyles, stated by Kelly Vergara, Exe. Dir of Resource Interactive, "We can learn a little about the candidate's culture fit and professionalism, we screen for culture above all else, so this is important”. In some cases the results of inappropriate behavior has caused the firing of people. Controversial information, such as information about the candidate drinking or using drugs and inappropriate photographs, were the top reasons for dismissal (Careerbuilder.com 2008).
Friends and Associates
One of the unique things about social networks are the “linking” capabilities online. When you post something your friends and associates are sometimes notified when you have made changes to your profile, upload pictures, or music. Through your friends others can see you as well. The ability to “hide” is negated and you are still exposed unless you set your self up as “private”. Using your site as a networking device means checking out who you are linked to. You can’t wait to get to an interview to “clean up” your site, by that time your site has already been viewed and evaluated. Many employers know how to 'Google' potential candidates to see what they can find out about them -- both the good and the bad. Consistently you need to remember that social networking profiles can mean potential employers are evaluating you before you even apply for the job. When you interview you wear your best clothes, so polish your profile with the same care and tell Jaja or Mookie to stop adding those club pictures to your site if both of you are job searching or trying to get in to college. You both may end up missing the best job you could ever have or be denied entrance to a college.
Digital Age of the 21st Century
The age of digital information is an age of moving information quickly and with the speed of thought. In the book “Business At The Speed of Thought” (Bill Gates); Gates discusses that the life blood of business and networking is information. The use of technology allows us to grow, mature, and expand into other markets and learning opportunities. With social networks, IT (information technology) creates a new business and social resource where we will have virtual partnerships that potentially can enhance communication and collaboration. These formed properly can build wealth and expansion of ideas or speed up the demise of a business or individual just starting out in life.

Sean Jackson, 11th Grade Student – Palatka High School
William Jackson, M.Ed. Duval County Public Schools and Florida State College

No comments: