Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Motivated citizens need not apply

I just read a spooky article on the perils of a would-be employer googling you.   But it's not frightening to me in a personal sense.  Rather, what I find truly scary is one of the proposed "defenses" against the likelihood that you will be googled by a future employer.

The article proposes "five ways to build a digital footprint that won't scare away future employers"   Point four, "Avoid joining groups or engaging in online activities that could embarrass or restrict opportunities," states:
Of course, during a job hunt you should consider your overtly controversial activities such as political, religious or social movements, Merritt says.
No, the above paragraph was not translated from the Russian out of a 30-year-old issue of Pravda.  I found this article on CNN's website!   "Point four" continues:
It's all part of the online picture of you, so make sure it is the most accurate and flattering view. And it sounds obvious, but travel tips, book reviews and online gaming advice might not paint the picture of a "nose to the grindstone" kind of person, Merritt says.
During a job hunt. Not exactly a rare event in most peoples' lives these days. The phrase is a practically meaningless qualifier.  Moreover, since just about every movement gets organized online these days -- remember BarackObama.com -- the offline world increasingly seems like an adjunct of the online universe.  In fact, the meaning of the warning couldn't be more clear:  stay clear of political groups, and avoid social movements or causes. 

Needless to say, to the extent citizens take this advice to heart, society loses.  Sociologist Robert Putman's book, Bowling Alone, published in 2000, defined the peril. Putnam observed that with each passing decade, fewer Americans were choosing to join groups of any kind.  The consequence was a loss of "social capital" -- the glue that had made American civil society so prosperous in the post-war era.  The bonds of trust between individuals were growing weaker according to most of the social surveys which Putnam analyzed.  A leading indicator: Americans were no longer joining book groups, bridge clubs, political associations, etc.

For a time, the Internet seemed to hold the promise of reversing this trend.

One can no longer feel assured of that.


  1. It's sort of funny to read "most accurate and flattering". There's is hardly such a thing as "most accurate and flattering" - I'd say it's doublethink ))


  2. Great reminder. We all need to be wary of our "footprints".



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