A part of some work we are doing we have presented this scenario to a number of students in the original English and a Japanese translation:
Maisy is a hard working student, who is involved in campus volunteering initiatives such as mentoring local school children. She has been very involved with her sports club, and does shifts at Nightline, the student run telephone support service. As a second year, she is looking to do a year in industry to top up the funds and add extra weight to her CV.
Maisy has never had time to get involved with social networks on the Internet, preferring the immediacy and dynamic nature of face-to-face conversations. She uses email and, occasionally, gets distracted by her instant messenger program when she is trying to study, but apart from that, the Internet is chiefly a resource for researching things – whether they are academic or about fashion.
One of the companies Maisy would like to work for, though, has a strong presence in one of the social networks, and has been contacting people though this medium about their plans for a year in industry. Maisy is not sure whether she wants to get involved in this – on the one hand, she could sit down and write a profile to provide an online presence, but on the other hand, she has plenty to do, with a busy second year at university.
What is worse is that she cannot work out whether a plain and straightforward profile would actually help her in this case. It may be that it would look just a bit too ‘engineered’ and put a potential employer off. Some people expect to see a ‘back story’ behind an online persona, and it may just be too late to create one now.
The students were then asked to consider that Maisy had asked them for advice as to what she should do.
Ultimately we will write up this work but since I have mentioned it is several places this is meant to clarify what the students were saying.
Lots of the students responding to the English version were pragmatic about what Maisy should do, they advised that since the recruiters were using Facebook etc, if she wanted to work for them she should create a presence, probably with the help of a friend. They went on to talk about the dangers of “drunken photos” on Facebook and the importance of cleaning sites if these may be detrimental to employment opportunities. Not all the students had the same views and there were definitely a group who wouldn’t work for a company that would be put off by a typical site.
The scenario above comes from Parslow P, Williams S, Fleming S, Hussey R: This is Me: Learning about your digital identity: Lulu; 2009, freely downloadable at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/odinlab.