By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Believe it or not, it was a little more than six short years ago that people heard the word "tweet" and thought about birds – not any more! These days the words is almost entirely synonymous with Twitter, a microblogging social media service that allows users to send messages and share information in 140 characters or less.
But, for some people, that limited amount of room to share their thoughts is just enough to get them into a heap of trouble. Over-sharing has been the root of inappropriate pictures, job loss and arguments between significant others.
That's why when it comes to college and Twitter, it's important to consider the big picture, like why you're in school in the first place –– your future career path. Heed these rules for tweeting and learn how to use Twitter to your advantage throughout your college career.
1. Think before you tweet.
Kevin DeShazo of Fieldhouse Media –– an agency that works to help coaches, universities and students understand how social media can better their programs and careers –– said he advises students to ask themselves a few questions before sending out a tweet, including:
Is this something my mom/grandma/pastor/coach/future boss would approve of?
"With a public Twitter account comes a global audience, and significant responsibility," DeShazo said. "You have the power to shape and define your online identity. Use that power for good. Stay positive. Twitter is not the place to vent frustrations or sort out your feelings."
2. Keep it real.
"Avoid being sarcastic," said Brent Franson, vice president of sales at Reputation.com. "The sarcasm often gets lost and you'll be tempted to one-up each comment with something more and more crazy until you get yourself in trouble."
3. Don't trust your privacy settings.
Mike Austin, professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and author of the blog, "Ethics for Everyone" at PsychologyToday.com, points out that even if a Twitter account is set to private, the settings are not always a permanent measure for protecting your tweets.
"Even if one uses privacy settings, that does not ensure privacy, as one does not retain full control over any online activity," he said. "For example, I’ve seen people take 'snapshots' of others’ tweets and post them on their Twitter feed."
Word of advice? Don't post things that you only want "a select few to see," Austin said.
4. Add value for your followers.
DeShazo said he also encourages students to use Twitter accounts for starting a conversation about a worthy subject or tweeting information that emphasizes their interests in a particular field.
"Rather than mundane updates, think about how you can add value to the online conversation, not create noise," he said. "Think long-term. How can you use your social media presence to help you in the job search? The English language is alive and well. Use it."
5. Cut it out.
If privacy is the name of your game, then a student just simply shouldn't use Twitter, said Brian Massie, a communication consultant at Virginia-based advertising agency, American Timing Group, LLC.
"If you’re going to anyway, only post what you don’t mind being read aloud in a court of law as tweets aren't protected under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution," Massie said, pointing to the constitutional amendment that honors "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Massie also quoted Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. who said:
“If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy ... This is not the same as a private email, a private direct message, a private chat, or any of the other readily available ways to have a private conversation via the Internet that now exist.”
The bottom line? Always keep in mind the advice of your elders who used good old-fashioned paper and pen –– don't put anything in writing that you don't want others to see.
- Don't put anything on Twitter that you wouldn't want your grandmother to read.
- Keep in mind that privacy settings do not provide protection from followers taking a photo of your tweet or finding a way to share it with others.
- Use Twitter to spread a message about a cause or career path that is important to you.