Facebook and Atticus Finch

One of my mother’s favorite quotes is about Atticus Finch, the father in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

“Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”

There has been a lot of press and chatter around whether silly pictures on Facebook can cripple a new graduate’s job chances. Facebook allows me to live more publicly than my parents did, and to open up major life experiences to a wide group of friends and colleagues. As a fairly private person (who still has a LinkedIn, a Facebook, A Google Profile, and a Brazen Careerist Profile) I keep most silly pictures of myself off of Facebook and always think before changing my status (I mostly think of what my parents or cousins might comment).

What Jason Warner, who guest-wrote this post, says is that forward-looking companies won’t worry about silly pictures from weekend romps because those companies are not hiring who applicants are on the weekends–they are hiring who they are at work. He believes that companies will begin to re-clarify the line between public and private shared information, and try to ignore shared information which is private. I wonder if this is for the good.

Facebook gives me the opportunity to show that I am the same in my house as in the public street. That I am consistently the same Jessica at noon in Dupont Circle as I am at midnight in my room. Or that I am not. Facebook shows I take responsibility for all of my actions reflecting on me. Dan Savage talks about relationship resumes, finding out whether a potential partner ends relationships with scorched-earth campaigns or amicably. Facebook facilitates this life-resume checking. Every day I have to live up to what I did yesterday; Facebook just makes that accountability more public.

There are significant privacy issues surrounding Facebook-stalking someone to find out their relationship history, and public surveillance is not any way to encourage good behavior. However, with Facebook comes the opportunity to show the world we are ourselves anytime anyone should care to look.

Inspirational Quote:

“The classifieds are a public space where intensely private thoughts are  being expressed all the time […]”–This American Life: Classifieds, 6/1/09

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