I remember when Facebook came to campus (omg does that make me sound old? lol); I was what they call an “early adopter.” Soon our college administration started having sessions to warn us about Facebook and what not to do. The litmus test was always, “would you be ok with your grandmother seeing this?” I always would roll my eyes because ascribing to the life norms of a woman decades older than me doesn’t make sense. It’s important for everyone to be aware of the impact social media can have and how a comment/picture/joke can go wrong if you’re not careful.
Here are some mistakes I have seen students do that I think we can all avoid:
One. Make it easy to be found. I don’t think it’s necessary for every social media page to be private. I think that counters the point of most social media sites (like blogging, for example), but it shouldn’t be easy to find every one of your personal social media pages. This means that unless the role you’re applying for calls for coordinating social media–do not–mention on your resume that one of your skills is social media (or provide links) because employers will click and you don’t want to give them a play-by-play of your nights out, school complaints, luxury purchases, etc. Maintaining that executive presence, includes creating a professional image that’s usually outside of your personal life.
Two. Don’t worry about privacy. Like I said, not everything needs to be private, but you should be vigilant about what you do keep public, and review your settings every so often so that you can make sure that only the people you want to be viewing your posts are the ones accessing it. However, even when you’re set to private, remember that others can always share your information (screen image is both is blessing and a curse).
Three. Forget that everyone else’s privacy settings are different. You may have everything secure, but leaving a comment or picture on someone else’s site won’t provide you with any security because that person can easily share whatever is on their own page. Those comments can go viral and when it’s attached to your name it will impact your employment prospects–and the “my phone was stolen” excuse doesn’t get you very far. Whenever I post anything that may be controversial or just my honest opinion, instead of wondering if it would upset a grandmother, I ask myself: can this become a problem at work? That helps me gage what needs to be edited and I can make slight changes accordingly.
Ultimately, social media is fun, practical, and it’s a thing–people need to stop acting like social media is going to go away–don’t aim to be a luddite or someone who is unable or unwilling to use the communication forms of our times. Participate eagerly, but guard what you say; review your settings often; and be selective about who you participate with on all your social media accounts.