By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
There's no doubt about it: Social media has become a subject of everyday consideration.
Facebook relationship status is a topic of discussion for a boyfriend and girlfriend whose relationship is on the rocks. Users update their profiles with information and photos ranging from the birth of a baby to their daily work schedules. And employers consider social media networks as tools to better know a potential employee –– a fact that is sometimes devastating to a job-seeker’s career path.
That's why it's important to take the necessary steps to protect your image and maintain an online profile that will not only keep your image at school intact, but your future goals a possibility.
Lean on these tips to learn how social media might be a disadvantage to your future and, better yet, how you can use sites like Twitter and Facebook to your advantage.
1. Discover like-minded folks.
"Students can use social media to their advantage as they connect with others with common interests, including academic, professional, and personal interests," says Mike Austin, professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and author of the blog, "Ethics for Everyone" at PsychologyToday.com. "They may connect with faculty at their own institution, and this can be valuable.”
2. Remember your university or college has a reputation to uphold too.
"There is incredible risk for exposing certain aspects of your life, even if they are legal,” says Brian Massie, a communication consultant at Virginia-based advertising agency, American Timing Group, LLC. "Just as you chew with your mouth closed, there are some things the entire world really shouldn’t see."
3. Do a social media "audit" once in a while.
4. Keep your complaints to yourself.
Austin points out that social media can be especially risky for a student who complains about a faculty member: "The potential for harm to a student’s reputation is always present, and students should consider carefully the content and potential consequences of their activity for their relationships, reputations, and future employment prospects.”
5. Look toward your future.
"Pretend you find your dream job, and the decision comes down to you and one other person," says Aaron Gottlieb, director of PR and communications at IF Management, Inc. "While their profile is only pictures of them and their friends, yours is littered with pictures of you posing inappropriately or doing illegal drugs. Who do you think the job is going to? Some people think it’s far-fetched, and maybe it is. But why take the chance?"
6. Be yourself.
Brent Franson, vice president of sales at Reputation.com, encourages students to post about the kinds of things that "reflect well on you."
"You don't have to create a sanitized, fake version of yourself on social media to be successful," he says. "You just need to show your personality in an appealing way. If you post about your hobbies, careers interests, causes that concern you, news, and so forth, you'll make a good impression."
7. Use social media to do some good.
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 use social media as a positive influence.
"Taking steps while in college to build and leverage a positive online identity can pay long-term benefits," DeShazo says. "Connor Nolte, a former basketball player at the University of Georgia, was able to use his social media presence to get an internship with the United States Olympic Committee this past summer. He wasn't a high-profile student-athlete, but he understood the impact social media could have on his future. If a student-athlete can view social media as a tool rather than a toy, they'll change the way they use it."
- Keep your university's reputation in mind when posting on social media sites; if you make them look bad, there could be repercussions.
- Do occasional checkups on social mediums to ensure there are not photos or updates that might not reflect well on you.
- Use social media as if you already have the job of your dreams –– and want to keep it.