Once upon a time, in an Internet-free world known as the early 1990's, a first love was born. A boy meets a girl, they flirt over double cocktails of Vodka made with a mere splash of cranberry juice. Boy makes girl laugh, and she takes him up on his offer to walk her home.
They kiss. They hug. They promise to call. They make plans to have dinner next weekend. Maybe, they reconsider their plans for spring break (Him: Cancun, Her: Las Vegas) to include one another in a makeshift frat/sorority encounter. He looks in her eyes, and says, "I have never met anyone like you." She blinks her eyelashes twice, and perfectly times her answer, "It is nice to meet someone totally real, you know?" He looks at her in the eyes, pausing a contrived moment, then kisses her on the cheek, hugs her, and leaves. She sighs as she opens the door to her apartment, beginning to plan for their imaginary wedding.
Fast forward a decade, and enter Facebook.
Years after inception, Facebook continues to grow in importance in terms of its relevance to society, particular in the generation of young people who use the social networking site not only to network, but to size up the person they met at the bar ("OMG - he wore a toga during Greek Week!"), to validating the truth of what they understood to be true about a person ("she told me she is single, so why does her relationship status say "It's Complicated?), or to go on a truth-seeking mission to vet friends, family, coworkers, and, of course, their significant others. Facebook offers a powerful tool in terms of finding answers, providing a clearer picture (or multiple pictures) of an individual, as well as communicating, via passive aggressive ("de-friending" someone) or subtly flirtatious actions ("poking" someone). In essence, it is a sort of parallel universe of our day to day existence, a cyber-reality.
In this reality, as in real-life, truth can be a person's best friend or worst enemy. In a recession, it behooves all to consider the latter. Facebook recently noted a 276% growth in the 35-54 year old sector, doubling ever month. This social networking site is quickly moving from collegiate ownership to a phenomenon of the masses, and those masses include employers, coworkers, and prospective clients. Expect to see more and more merging of the social and professional networks. Expect to have prospective employers search you on the Internet, including your profile on social networking sites. Expect that prospective clients will want to vet you in any way that Bing or Google allows.
Time for action. Review your profile on your social networking sites (those ridiculous pictures from your birthday three years ago are really NOT that funny anymore.) Remove anything that might be embarrassing, should it be published in the NY Times. Remove flagrant or off-color remarks, wall-postings, or photos, and limit security of those "friends" who contribute to the undoing of your career. No joke, photo, or one-liner is worth losing a professional opportunity. Finally, resist the urge to publish the state of your current Romancia (or lack thereof.) Though I personally follow the daily news feed updates of you two ("single", no, "it's complicated", no "in a relationship", wait no, "single"), professionally you might as well admit that the latest Danielle Steele novel is based on your life.
The Internet blurs past, present, and future, but the good news is that we all still own control over what cyber-scrapbooks we choose to share with the masses. If it was 1990, and our imaginary couple went through an immediate discussion on politics, religion, and exes that continue to flirt with them, a second date would be unlikely. Treat social-networking sites as such, and, remember, manners and discretion go a long way.