Whether you think social media is the downfall of a generation or you can’t imagine living without it, there is no question that it has become embedded in the lives of most high school and college students. So, how do you maintain a social media profile that shows your personality and allows you to connect with friends but is also appropriate should someone who doesn’t know you stumble upon it?
To me, the biggest issues with social media are context and tone. If I see the following Tweet, there are four different things I can assume.
1. You hate cats. In which case,
2. You love cats and this is sarcastic. The only reality I choose to accept.
3. You had a bad experience with a cat today and are very frustrated, regardless of your overall feelings about cats. Here’s some free life advice that doesn’t expire: Never post online when you are upset.
4. This is an inside joke and has absolutely nothing to do with cats. In which case, this sounds like an excellent thing to just text/WhatsApp someone.
If I don’t know you, I have no way of knowing which of these it is. Cats is obviously a tame example, but replace cats with a person, a school, an idea etc. and you can see how it can cause alarm. You have no control over how someone interprets the information they find, so you need to control the information that is out there.
1. Google Yourself. Put quotations around your name and see what pops up. “Sam Schreiber” brings up some men and women far more successful than I, but adding in certain other key words makes it easy to find me. Know what pops up when someone Googles you and your high school or hometown.
2. Remember That the World is Smaller Than you Think. I’m Facebook friends with my parents. Our Director of Admission follows me on Twitter. This obviously helps keep what I share under control, but what I post on someone’s wall can be seen and shared by all of their friends and one retweet can lead to hundreds. You aren’t going to Facebook friend me, but maybe your cousin/step-sister/camp counselor and I know each other. Maybe I admitted your best friend to USC last year and we are now somehow connected so I see your profile. The world is smaller than you think, especially in today’s world.
3. Make. It. Private. Facebook allows you to “view profile as” so you can see what the public can see of your profile. Adjust those setting so it isn’t a lot. If you share things that you don’t want to be asked about in an admission interview, make it private. It is far more likely that I will see your tweets than whatever celebrity you’re tweeting at, so just lock it down. If you don’t want to lock it down…
4. Just Say It to Their Face. Instead of posting that article or picture, why not send it directly to your friend? Or ::GASP:: print it out, write them a thoughtful note or funny quote, and give it to them in person. I get it, you want to share and I am no exception, but sometimes things are funnier/more meaningful when only shared with a few people.
Your admission counselors (and the people who will eventually be hiring you into your first job) are mostly Millenials just like you so you can’t bank on ignorance to be on your side. Are we going to look you up online? Probably not. But if we do, be sure you know and are comfortable with what we will find.