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Last week as I was updating my facebook status with what I felt to be a very important picture of my cats, when I thought to myself “I should change my name on facebook soon”.

As some background for those of you who don’t know me, I am currently in the long and arduous process of applying for medical school. I’ve taken some time off since graduation so I have watched many other friends go through the same process, and many go on to deal with the residency process. One aspect of these processes remained constant for everyone I knew: facebook change. Some people deleted or deactivated their accounts, others changed their names, and some removed most features like wall posts and deleted all past activity.

I’ll be honest; I don’t want to do this and I find the whole process a little ridiculous, not just for medical school and other graduate programs but also for job applications. The first big question I had was: why are we posting things that we’re embarrassed others will see or that could have a serious detrimental effect on our careers. By now we’re all out of high school and many of us are called “adults” out in the real world, why is it that we are still unable to realize that posting that picture of you and your friend smoking a bong might not be a good idea? When did we go from people who understood that if you were doing something illegal or morally ambiguous it might be best not to document it on camera or online in some way to people who happily document and talk about underage drinking and drug use?
Many people on facebook are not friends with family members because they don’t want to be “caught” doing certain things. I am friends with my parents on facebook because if there’s something I don’t want my parents to know about I sure as hell am not going to post about it. I feel like that might be a good rule of thumb; if we’re embarrassed that a family member sees us doing something online then maybe it isn’t good to have it up in the first place. The internet isn’t private, especially on social media, and we should keep that in mind.

That little rant aside, I should get back to the main reason I don’t want to change my name on facebook for this application process. I think it’s ridiculous. Let’s be realistic for a moment. How many people under 40 do you know who do not have a social media presence of some sort? Let’s just narrow that down to the group that these issues apply to the most: people in their twenties. There are very few of us without at least a facebook or a twitter account.
So what does it say when a school or employer searches for someone in our demographic and finds no visible social media presence? Well, to some people it could be a sign of someone who just does not use social media, but to most the assumption is likely to be that the account was hidden in some way. Maybe this will be seen as a good thing, suggestive of a person who knows how to keep their private life private, but to others it may suggest that the person has something to hide.
Isn’t it best to have a visible social media account that you are not embarrassed of or need to hide from an employer?

Graduate schools and potential employers look at social media now. That’s something that we’re just going to have to accept, but I think the way to deal with that is to be aware that this is going to happen and use social media accordingly.
I’m not sure, maybe we’ll just all start using fake names on our accounts so employers and schools can’t find us, but doesn’t that take away from one of the main reasons we have these account: to stay in touch with old friends?

What do you think: should I change my name so med schools can’t find my account or do I leave it with my name and the (pretty tight) privacy settings I already have to show that I am aware of how to use social media responsibly?