I know a lot of students of all age ranges including neighbors, children of friends, my own kids, etc. When we talk the topic of conversation often navigates to social media with all of them. Most of the discussions center around a funny cat picture on Pinterest, the best Auto-Correct Fail screenshots, or things of that nature. These talks have given me some insight into how these students use social media, and I’ve learned over the years how they act (and react) online is often different from how they would in a real-life situation.
My very unscientific research on social media usage by students thus far has broken things down into something like this:
- Facebook is for close friends and they talk about anything and everything, often in great detail. There’s very little personal filtering here.
- Twitter is a free-for-all, and they’ll follow anyone who doesn’t look like a spammer or act like a creep. Details are often less personally identifiable.
- Pinterest and everything else is generally a lot more for the aforementioned funny cat pictures and “likes” or “faves” versus anything of any real substance.
Cat pictures aside, something that captures my attention every single time is how anyone — students, friends, family, whomever — seems to become more active online. Normally introverted people speak up more, normally extroverted people kick it up a notch, and everyone likes to give their opinion on whatever topic is at hand. And that’s great, but sometimes the online conversations can get a little out of hand.
Since anything posted on the Internet is (for all intents and purposes) forever, this means that anyone equipped with Google and some free time can go through your entire online history and cherry pick the most embarrassing points and use them against you. This includes potential dates and future bosses, both of whom are looking for good reasons to not choose you. Students in high school and college would do well to remember these things when posting online:
The easiest way to successfully creating a drama-free social media presence is to be respectful to everyone you meet online. Family, co-workers, that weird friend who keeps “Poking” you on Facebook but never says anything… Keeping your interactions on an even keel will be a big help in keeping the peace.
Easy On The Swears
A lot of people are turned off by swearing, especially if it’s excessive. It’s advisable to keep as PG as possible and don’t whip up a tapestry of obscenities like a sailor on leave. I know, because I used to be a sailor on leave, and nobody wants to hear or read all of that online. 🙂
Take A Deep Breath
It’s easy to make snap judgments, fire off an incendiary email, or comment on a topic that you may not have the full story on. Being a hot head online, or worse yet purposefully trolling blog posts and forums, can quickly give you a bad reputation.
Social Media Can Make Or Break A Career
Job seekers, beware! Managers, HR groups, and potential employers are using social media more and more to learn about both potential hires as well as current employees. Depending on which study you look at, somewhere between 30-90% of interviewers check on an interviewees’ social media profiles at some point before they make a job offer. Even at the low-end, the chances are pretty good that someone will be checking how you conduct yourself online. Avoid posting your “Oh man, I was über wasted at this party!” pictures, because that might be the one thing a potential boss could see and make a snap decision on.
Things Sound Different When Read Vs. When Said
Emails and other written/typed conversations always sound a little more harsh than they are intended. There’s a lot to be said for the inflection of a voice in a face-to-face conversation, so give people the benefit of the doubt. And if you’re unsure, ask them in person if you can.
Having said all of the above, the number one rule I’d give students engaging in social media is this: Don’t jeopardize your future with a poor choice in the present. Once something is posted online — a blog, a picture, a comment, or anything really — it’s there forever. There are no tap-backs. There are no do overs. What you post online can get archived onto servers, captured by screenshots, and forwarded to friends… and enemies. Be mindful of what you post, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.