Overexposed: A FOX 8 Special Report - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Overexposed: A FOX 8 Special Report

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NEW ORLEANS - Social media touches the lives of almost everyone in some way or another. But what you tweet or post on Facebook and other social networking sites may come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.

"Social media is not going away, and if it did we would miss it," said Loyola University Mass Communications Professor Andrew Nelson, M.A.

The Pew Research Center's Internet Project's 2013 survey found 72 percent of adult Internet users utilize social networking sites.

But social media experts said beware, because some online posts could leave you overexposed and turn off people you need to impress.

"When you talk about social media, one of the biggest dangers is for students not to realize that in the future anything they put up on Facebook, for example, or on Twitter is going to be something that may come back to haunt them in the future," said Professor Nelson.

Loyola student Lucy Dieckhaus is very aware. She produces the Facebook page as part of the School of Mass Communication's social media lab.

"Problems that we would not allow to go up on our Facebook page would be anything that would have profanity or any obscenities on the page," she said.

Restrictions like those benefit not only the university, but students, as well.

"Very quickly you can determine what a person's likes or dislikes are based on what they choose to dislike or like on Facebook," stated Nelson.

Employers are increasingly forming opinions about applicants after checking out social media sites.

A Careerbuilder.com nationwide study this year found close to 40 percent of companies use social media networking sites to research candidates for jobs. The same survey also found that 43 percent of hiring managers who engage in online sleuthing said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. That was a 9 percent jump from last year.

"And that number's going to do nothing but increase. Today because we live in such a litigious society, checking a reference is almost impossible. And so social media becomes a way of getting a reference without asking for the reference,"said Frank Loria, owner and President of The Personnel Consulting Group, a placement firm located in Metairie.

What you share with friends on a social media site may be lead potential employers to view you as unprofessional.

"Companies do choose not to hire individuals based upon going into an individual's social media site. There you can see what this individual's extracurricular activities are and for the most part it can be inappropriate pictures, provocative pictures, information, it could be information about drinking, it could be information about drug use," said Loria.

The Careerbuilder.com survey supports that statement. Employers who rejected candidates after researching social media most often mentioned provocative and inappropriate pictures and information about the candidate drinking or using drugs as reasons for taking them out of the running.

"I don't post anything that I would really regret being read back to," said Loyola senior Erin Sullivan.

However, she takes issue with employers ruling out applicants after snooping on social media sites. She said it is hypocritical because so many people, including some employers, post online.

"And unless it's intensely obscene I don't think someone should be judged because they went to parties in college, that doesn't necessarily say who they are as a person and with more people having a Facebook [page], just about everyone can relate to having pictures," stated Sullivan.

Still, certain posts can paralyze careers.

"We are a gatekeeper to the profession, a profession that very much is about a good reputation," said David Weinberg, Assistant Dean of Admission at Tulane Law School.

He said individuals hoping to practice law, or experienced attorneys should never let their guard down when it comes to social media.

"Absolutely the goal with getting your law license is to minimize risk, to ultimately not put yourself in a position where something will be called into question, but that doesn't mean to stop using social media, that just means that you need to be very literate, it means you need to understand what the privacy settings are," stated Weinberg.

A Kaplan Test Prep Survey released last month found 31-percent of college admissions officers go to applicants' Facebook pages and other social networking sites.

The findings do not surprise Weinberg.

"In fact, some of my colleagues in law school admissions are also acknowledging the fact that sometimes they're looking at social media in determining whether an applicant will be even admitted to law school," he said.

Caustic online comments took down two local veteran federal prosecutors, Sal Perricone, and Jan Mann even though they used pseudonyms.

"You would think that people who are very involved in the judiciary system and also in public office would remember that, but we're all human, we sometimes in the heat of the moment forget where we're talking or who we're talking about," said Nelson.

Experts stress that social media is not bad and can even be used to further one's career.

"If someone does their social media sites in a strategic and a tactical way it can actually help them be ahead of the curve, it could nose out the competition," said Loria.

He said it is important to handle your accounts appropriately.

"You want to have a Facebook account, you want to have a Twitter account, you want to be on LinkedIn, but you want to pay attention to it, you want to make sure the doors are locked when they need to be locked and open where they need to be open and that which is public should be public, but that which is private should be private and shouldn't be there," said Loria.

"College students, [and] high school students really need to start thinking about social media literacy and making good decisions early on so that they're not put into a position where down the road they're going to have to clean up their profile," said Weinberg.

Nelson said often what you intend for a certain individual or group's viewing ends up elsewhere.

"Social media is like a post card. It can be considered private, but who knows who can read it," he said.

Nelson said he filters his posts and sees more and more of his students doing the same.

"I'm very conscious of the things that I put up on Facebook," he said.

"People are taking it to a level that it's taking away from it being a social network, and it's just turning into a business use to promote themselves," said Sullivan.

Nelson said it comes with the territory.

"It's a double-edge sword, so we have to be able to say yes that this is a tool we can use and then we also have to remember that the blade is sharp and can also cut us," he said.

Experts recommend that from time to time you Google yourself to see what pops up and if what turns up can harm your image you should delete it if possible. Also pay attention to what others post on your wall and look for posts where you have been tagged.

They say also monitor privacy settings on social media sites because they can change often.

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