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Is your Facebook profile hurting you?

Your Facebook profile may be doing you more harm than good. What you choose to include on your Facebook profile can alter not only what people think about you but the the way they treat you.

Are you the kind of person who gets to know someone before making harsh judgments? Do you scoff at the idea of making flash assessments of someone based on very limited knowledge? Liar. You'd like to think you don't quickly judge a book by its cover -- and everyone around you -- but you do. You do it all of the time and with everyone. And these judgments you've formed based on very limited knowledge are highly likely to influence your behavior toward them.

I just finished a very scientific (okay, it's not scientific at all, but the results are still compelling) experiment on how one's Facebook profile influences attitudes and behaviors and it produced some shocking results. I created two Facebook profiles and had more than 200 people rate their impression of each.

To limit the number of variables, both profiles were for 33-year-old females -- Jane Doe and Mary Smith. Neither profile was extreme -- you've seen hundreds just like them before and probably didn't think twice.

For example, Jane's profile showed her liking Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, "Sex in the City,", and "Jersey Shore." Respondents, however, didn't think too highly of Jane based on this very limited knowledge. In fact, they formed very strong opinions of Jane. Over 35 percent said her intelligence was lower than average, 65 percent said her level of maturity was lower than average, nearly 50 percent said their overall impression with Jane was negative, and over half said she was less responsible than average. But here is the kicker . . . the respondents' attitudes shifted their behavior. A full 76 percent reported they would NOT hire Jane.

Compare Jane to Mary. Mary's profile showed her liking Mozart, Elton John, the book The World is Flat, "Casablanca," "Gone With The Wind," National Geographic TV, and Human Rights Watch. Again, although Mary's profile wasn't extreme, the results were. Respondents had one look at Mary's very limited profile and liked what they saw. Results showed that 81 percent of respondents thought her level of intelligence was higher than average, 76 percent said her maturity was higher than average, over 70percent thought she was more responsible than average, and nearly 72 percent had a positive overall impression of Mary. They thought better of Mary, but would they hire her? Almost unanimously! Nearly 92 percent said they would hire her just based on this snapshot.

So what does all of this mean? Simply, we quickly form opinions about others. We're hard-wired make rapid assessments -- even if we have very limited information. For example, a study on racial bias in hiring by the University of Chicago titled "Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?" showed just how quickly we form opinions and how our behavior is influenced by these flash assessments. Their results showed that "white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names." Yes, 50 percent more likely to get an interview just because of a name.

The bottom line . . . people DO judge a book by its cover. What you choose to include on your Facebook or social media profile is the window -- albeit a tiny window -- into who you are. People judge you and form opinions about you based on very limited information. Not only that, but once they form these opinions about you, they will change their behavior as a result (e.g., hire you or not hire you!). Be cautious about the impression you are making -- it matters!

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