College Students Finally Start to Worry About Facebook Profiles

Job-seeking youth discover "privacy," go prudish for Spring Break.

Every once in a while, you read something that gives you hope for America’s future. That’s what this story from the New York Times recently did. It recounts how this year, college kids hitting Florida resorts to celebrate Spring Break put the brakes on their own bad behavior. That’s right: wet t-shirt contests were out, along with copious public vomiting.

And what do you suppose led to this sea change in their youthful eagerness to drink up, black out and have strangers rub genitalia against their faces? Why, it was Facebook, my dear.

In particular, the young folk visited by the Times say they’re concerned future employers will come across compromising photos and YouTube videos and refuse to hire them. One young woman explained that at the beach nowadays, she puts her beer can down whenever anyone takes a photo: “I do worry about Facebook. I just know I need a job eventually.” And a 26-year-old guy who just graduated from Auburn noted that the online world is “the first thing they check” when employers are contemplating a hire. Gee, I guess those eight years you spent earning your degree were worthwhile!

That giant whoosh you just heard is millions and millions of U.S. parents of young people simultaneously letting out our breath.

You see, we’ve all been telling our kids this for years. It was the mantra we sang all through high school—“College admissions officers might see that!”—and college itself: “Do you want to explain that to the recruiters at Goldman Sachs?” But we were starting to think you had to actually have some sense of what privacy is in order to worry about it. And if there was one thing our offspring conspicuously lacked, it was a sense of privacy.

No more. “They are very prudish,” a bartendress at the charmingly named Tattoos and Scars bar in Key West told the Times in regard to this year’s revelers. And that, I’m thinking, is very good news for Barack Obama’s reelection later this year.

Through three-plus years of recession, young people saw no particular reason not to chronicle their every idiotic endeavor online. They got whacked in the balls! They fell off bikes! They bounced off trampolines and landed on their faces! Why not? There weren’t any jobs anyway! But now those days of innocent fun are over. The nation’s getting down to business. And nobody wants to be like that Kony 2012 guy in San Diego last week. The cameras … are everywhere.

The question now, I suppose, is how far the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction. Will we finally stop believing every housewife is worthy of her own reality TV show? That Sarah Palin’s children are interesting? That anybody can become an American Idol? Look at how Jermaine Jones’s past finally caught up to him! If privacy is reborn, the Republicans may even have to cool it with their campaign to force women to make Grand Guignols of their ultrasound footage. (Oh, great, that’s just what I want my state known for: the nation’s most regressive abortion laws. Way to attract business, Mr. Governor, sir!) And we can all get back to just imagining what our friends and relations are up to, which was always more entertaining than the reality anyway.