If every questionable decision you made in college was documented and permanently memorialized on the internet, would your life have taken a different path?
That’s a question many students are having to ponder less frequently, as it’s become reality. And a new trend in which dedicated Twitter accounts disseminate photos of college students lip locking at campus parties is adding more fuel to the arsenal of potentially compromising information available online.
“It’s more like a comedy thing,” said one of six male Temple University students who together run Twitter account Temple Makeouts. They got the idea from similar pages affiliated – unofficially – with colleges across the country.
“We saw schools with over 11,000 followers and thought, ‘Why not make one of our own pages and see what happens?'” the student said.
The Temple Makeouts administrators said they’re not concerned their association with the account – or the pictures it sends out – will jeopardize job prospects.
“This is something everyone does,” one student said. “If an employer’s going to judge you over a picture someone else took and put on the internet and if they’re hunting that hard, they’re going to find a lot worse.”
But Cheryl Hallman, associate director of the Rutgers University-Camden Career Center, offered some words of caution.
“There is a large amount of employers that will Google a potential candidate during the job search,” she said, citing a recent survey showing up to 90 percent use some form of social media during recruitment. “So can it affect them? I would imagine yes, it can.”
Hallman said in her understanding, information and images are difficult – if not impossible – to remove from the web once they’re posted.
Still, the Temple Makeouts crew isn’t thinking about permanence. “I think it’s going to be something that lasts five month to a year,” one administrator said. “It’s going to get old, but it’s just something funny right now.”
More on ‘Makeouts’
The Temple Makeouts crew said their site grew quickly after they put up their first post. They have in less than a month amassed nearly 1,000 followers and sent out 120 tweets, most of them photos.
“I think we got pictures almost immediately after that – two or three in the first day,” one administrator said. “The last two weekends have been good. We’ve been getting 20 pictures a weekend.”
They claim their intent is not to offend, but to stir up social interactions.
“Part of the fun of it is seeing people you know,” one student said. “What so far we’ve seen is a lot of people will retweet one of our tweets and tag a friend.”
Temple Makeouts has so far have received only one complaint and immediately removed the photo. “We definitely wouldn’t do nudity or anything,” the student continued. “We’re trying to keep it as classy as we can – for a makeout page.”
Despite their new found notoriety, the six students are adamant about remaining anonymous. “It’s fun because no one knows we’re running it,” the student said. “Having our own friends don’t know that we run it is very classic.”
Rutgers-Camden professor of psychology and childhood studies Daniel Hart said the meteoric rise in social media use may be seriously affecting young people’s development.
“People imagine adolescence as an opportunity to try on different roles, then after some experimentation, to be able to create your own story of yourself in some sense,” he said.
“There’s some speculation about whether social media gives you less control over your own life story. It’s harder to get away from the dumb things you’ve done because everything is documented.”
He said the loss of control makes it more difficult to make life stage transitions, a problem never experienced by past generations who lived under less online oversight.
“I think that is a little bit different, not being able to, say, go from high school to college and wash away some of the dumb things you did in high school and become a slightly different person in college,” he said. “It’s the same thing with the transition from college to adulthood.”
“Teens used to experiment by keeping diaries, which were seen as extremely private accounts of what they were thinking and feeling with little locks and keys on them to keep your prying family members from finding out. And nowadays, it’s hard to keep that information private.”
‘No official position’
The Temple Makeouts page includes a disclaimer that it’s in no way affiliated with the university itself. “We have a Gmail address there,” one student said. “If anyone needs to contact us, we’d be readily available to answer any questions.”
The students say they’ve received no disciplinary warnings from the college for their extracurricular activities.
Temple University assistant vice president of communications Ray Betzner hadn’t yet heard about the account on Friday, but was nonplussed. “It has no official association with Temple, so I guess we have no official position on it,” he said.