Consider also that the study found that a quarter of online adults said their employers now have policies about how they portray themselves online.

“Young adults have, in many ways, been forced to become experts in their own form of social revision,” Madden says.

They’re also an extremely “brand conscious” generation, says Fred Stutzman, a doctoral candidate at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina who co-founded, a free online identity management service that he now uses as a research project.

“Increasingly, it’s the advice that young people get from counselors and elsewhere: ‘You need to have your own brand, and you have to watch that brand,'” Stutzman says.

He jokes that older people don’t care as much, because “if you’ve got a pension, you can pretty much say what you want.”

There might be a bit of truth to that. The older you get, the less you have to worry about applying to college and attempting to move up the career ladder.

Stefanie Juell, a 28-year-old in Westchester County, N.Y., has become increasingly aware of this. So she recently opened an extra Facebook account after her supervisor and people she’d met through work started to friend her on her personal account.

“You don’t exactly want to reject your supervisor,” she says. “Nor do you want him or her to see everything that your friends write on your wall or the pictures that people tag of you.”

So now, she uses that new professional Facebook account for her job in alumni relations at a small liberal-arts college. In the evening, she shifts to her long-standing personal Facebook account, which has its security settings set as tightly as possible.

“It’s important to separate,” she says, “and to maintain a work-life balance.”


Pew report: “Reputation Management and Social Media”

Add your opinion to the discussion.