PURPOSE: To evaluate medical students' behavior regarding online social networks (OSNs) in preparation for the residency matching process. The specific aims were to quantify the use of OSNs by students to determine whether and how these students were changing OSN profiles in preparation for the residency application process, and to determine attitudes toward residency directors using OSNs as a screening method to evaluate potential candidates. METHOD: An e-mail survey was sent to 618 third- and fourth-year medical students at Indiana University School of Medicine over a three-week period in 2012. Statistical analysis was completed using nonparametric statistical tests. RESULTS: Of the 30.1% (183/608) who responded to the survey, 98.9% (181/183) of students reported using OSNs. More than half, or 60.1% (110/183), reported that they would (or did) alter their OSN profile before residency matching. Respondents' opinions regarding the appropriateness of OSN screening by residency directors were mixed; however, most respondents did not feel that their online OSN profiles should be used in the residency application process. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of respondents planned to (or did) alter their OSN profile in preparation for the residency match process. The majority believed that residency directors are screening OSN profiles during the matching process, although most did not believe their OSN profiles should be used in the residency application process. This study implies that the more medical students perceive that residency directors use social media in application screening processes, the more they will alter their online profiles to adapt to protect their professional persona.
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