Has Spring Break Been ‘Facebooked Into Respectability’?

Thanks to social media, college kids' vacation plans might be just a little tamer from now on.

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Did you hear? Spring break in Key West, Florida is so much tamer than it used to be, because all those college kids who’ve been uploading everything about their lives for years on social-networking sites are realizing that it’s pretty much impossible to escape someone’s phone camera scrutiny during a particularly booze-filled vacation.

That, anyway, is what Friday’s New York Times article tells us. And it makes sense. No one wants to be that guy.

The story marches the debate about technology-spurred modern privacy issues to a Spring Break destination. The idea is that the wild times have been, as the Times puts it, “Facebooked into greater respectability” by virtue of someone’s smartphone.

(PHOTOS: Inside Facebook’s Privacy Announcement)

The trend also illustrates how social media may shape real-life behavior, with the now-familiar problem of ubiquitous technology being that you don’t have control what gets posted online. As Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt once said, “As long as the answer is that I chose to make a mess of myself with this picture, then it’s fine. The issue is when somebody else does it.”

In Key West, Times reporter Lizette Alvarez finds bartenders saying partiers are more “prudish” and polite. “One in 10 still acts like spring breakers, but it’s definitely calmer than when I was on spring break in 2004,” reckoned one to the newspaper.

No one, of course, really has any firm idea if this trend holds true for most of partygoers. But, with years of stories and studies telling us that people are getting savvier about social media, it might be on to something. As plenty have found out, it doesn’t take being a celebrity or politician to have your embarrassing moment go viral by virtue of a friend uploading the video to YouTube and a blog noticing it.

(MORE: Nephew Sues Uncle Over Awkward Facebook Photos)

Navigating the realities of modern privacy, as the Times article depicts, is the difficult part. Take Las Vegas as an example. As the Economist noted, Sin City is safeguarding its “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” motto by introducing a branding code on its tourist site for over-sharers: “I promise to follow the code of Las Vegas by not tweeting, tagging, posting, telling, whispering [etc, etc] … or in any way revealing the all-powerful what happens here.”

The code may be just as corny as the motto, and just as unlikely to be followed.

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