Does Not Having a Facebook Page Make You ‘Suspicious’ to Employers?

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A computer screen displaying the Facebook logo is reflected in a window before the Beijing skyline on May 16, 2012

Remember when the debate over “shoulder surfing” — that is, companies requiring job applicants to log into their social-media accounts so the interviewer could examine the applicant’s page in full — flared up earlier this year? At the time, a common response from readers was that they’d simply delete or deactivate their Facebook pages or make them unsearchable and then deny having an account. Well, here comes the bad news: not having a Facebook page can be detrimental to job seekers.

People without Facebook pages, in particular, are viewed as “suspicious” by hiring managers, according to Forbes. The article says,

I’ve heard both job seekers and employers wonder aloud about what it means if a job candidate doesn’t have a Facebook account. Does it mean they deactivated it because it was full of red flags? Are they hiding something? … It does seem that increasingly, it’s expected that everyone is on Facebook in some capacity, and that a negative assumption is starting to arise about those who reject the Big Blue Giant’s siren call.

According to a new study from recruitment-technology firm Jobvite, a whopping 92% of recruiters use social media today. Although LinkedIn is the most popular destination, two-thirds of respondents say they now use Facebook and more than half say they use Twitter.

(MORE: Facebook Weighs In and Blasts ‘Shoulder Surfing’ by Employers)

In a recent article, German media outlet Tagesspiegel kicked up a controversy in its exploration of what not having a social-media presence says about you. It quotes a psychologist who says (translated from German via Google Translate), “The Internet has become a natural part of life … It is possible that you get with virtual friends and feelings of positive feedback.” The article then goes on to point out that perpetrators of two mass shootings (James Holmes in Colorado and Anders Breivik in Norway) were both ciphers on major social-media sites and suggests that such “absolute abstinence” from social-media sites indicates a possibly dangerous level of withdrawal from society.

Or, as tech blog Slashdot summed it up (with implied skepticism): “Not having a Facebook account could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer.”

(MORE: Can Interviewers Insist on ‘Shoulder Surfing’ Your Facebook Page?)

That’s hyperbolic, of course, but there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that people who use social-media sites in moderation are more likely to be emotionally healthy: a study of more than 7,200 young people published last year in the journal Pediatrics found that adolescents who say they never or hardly ever use the Internet are more likely to be depressed than moderate users.

The real point, however, is less about the reality of a link between social-media use and emotional fitness, and more about the evolving perceptions of employers. It’s increasingly clear that recruiters have a set of expectations about a would-be employee’s social-media presence, and it’s worth keeping that in mind as you go about shaping your online identity.