Evan Tousey is guilty
He admits it.
He’s just like everyone else of his generation.
When you grow up immersed in the digital world, you tend not to worry about the trail you’re leaving behind in the way of status messages and pictures posted online; a trail that anybody can find with a few quick Google searches.
When Tousey, now 25-years-old, was in Comsewogue High School (he graduated in 2007) or at Stony Brook University, he says he didn’t think about what his social profile would look like to potential employers or college administrators, especially in an environment of heightened competition for open slots.
At one time or another he knows he put a picture or status update on his Facebook page that in hindsight does not show him in the most professional manner. Tousey – who grew up in Port Jefferson Station and now lives in Mt. Sinai – says that a young person pounding the pavement for the first time shouldn’t be held back by a negative profile on the Internet.
“Employers want applicants to be squeaky clean,” he said.
That’s why he dreamed up his new company: Desocialize Me.
The idea is to offer hands-on, personal service to clean up a digital profile so a young job seeker isn’t held back by an errant photo of that championship beer pong game he participated in during freshman year.
But the main reason he developed it was personal.
“I’m just as guilty as anyone else who just graduated college,” he said.
And his first customer was himself.
Tousey was applying to graduate school when he questioned his own online reputation and he wanted to make sure he wasn’t being held back by his social profile.
Most college students, says Tousey, are short-sighted and don’t think about the consequences of how a certain status update or awkward picture will affect them four years down the line.
Ahmad Buker is a branch manager for Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group, a job placement agency. His company doesn’t help applicant clean up Facebook pages but that doesn’t mean potential employers aren’t looking.
“Many employers are performing online searches in an attempt to learn more about prospective hires, including their interests, hobbies and industry involvement, and more important, their ability to market themselves effectively,” Buker said.
A survey performed by his company found that 72 percent of executives interviewed said they are likely to search for information about prospective hires online. Another 59 percent review job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles and 44 percent check out their Facebook pages.
That’s why Tousey came up with his idea. He said he was toying with the concept for a few of months after reading articles about how companies are looking deeper into the public profile of job applicants. He thought that people might need the services that Desocialize Me offers. He only launched the company a couple of weeks ago and is looking for clients.
Right now he’s targeting the 18 to 24 year old range, high school seniors and students who have just graduated or are still in college.
His services include privacy maintenance, combing through a users profile manually to clean it up and adjusting settings so that information isn’t viewable to the public. He says the work is a collaboration between his company and the client.
“It is possible to run a computer script to do these types of things but there’s a judgment that a third party will make and a computer might miss,” he said. “I am a second or third set of eyes.”
Can someone do this by themselves without paying for it?
Tousey says they can but there are other factors involved. The process is time intensive, involving years of photos and status updates, physically critiquing the profile, removing messages, un-tagging photos or deleting pictures. He stresses that the whole experience his company offers is personal with feedback given by email or in a phone call.
He’s also pitched the idea to a few people.
“The general reception is that it’s a good idea,” he said.
He’s developing a business plan in his spare time. Tousey is in graduate school at New York University where he is studying Urban Planning.
Tousey says that managing your profile is first about adjusting proivacy settings, especially on Facebook.
Robert Half Technology’s Buker also offers advice on how to manage your online profile by finding out what’s already posted about you by doing a search of your own name on the most popular search engines and then seeing what comes up. You can also set up an alert on Google that will send you an email every time something new is said about you online.
He also suggested that people should use caution when saying anything about others, especially your boss or the company you work for.
“It’s easy to forget who’s in your network,” Buker said. “In fact, some posts of worker/boss tirades have become popular hits on the Internet.”
In the Internet age where everything is available online and your mistakes might be digitized forever one can ask if it’s fair that people can use whatever they find online against you. Tousey doesn't think so.
“There’s more to a person than what they post on the Internet,” he said. “It’s kind of like judging a book by its cover.”
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