Purpose Previous research has shown that >50% of residency programmes indicate that inappropriate Facebook postings could be grounds for rejecting a student applicant. This study sought to understand medical students' views regarding the impact of their Facebook postings on the residency admissions process. Study design In 2011-2012, we conducted a national survey of 7144 randomly selected medical students representing 10% of current enrollees in US medical schools. Students were presented with a hypothetical scenario of a residency admissions committee searching Facebook and finding inappropriate pictures of a student, and were asked how the committee ought to regard these pictures. Results The response rate was 30% (2109/7144). Respondents did not differ from medical students nationally with regard to type of medical school and regional representation. Of the three options provided, the majority of respondents (63.5%) indicated 'the pictures should be considered along with other factors, but should not be grounds for automatic rejection of the application'. A third (33.7%) believed 'the pictures should have no bearing on my application; the pictures are irrelevant'. A small minority of respondents (2.8%) felt 'the pictures should be grounds for automatic rejection of the application'. Conclusions That the views of students regarding the consequences of their online activity differ so greatly from the views of residency admissions committees speaks to the need for better communication between these parties. It also presents opportunities for medical schools to help students in their residency application process by increasing awareness of social media screening strategies used by some residency programmes, and fostering self-awareness around the use of social media during medical school and especially during the residency application process.
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