I think it’s safe to say that most college students today have a profile on some social network or another. After all, services like Facebook and Twitter were practically built to supplement the college experience. It’s so easy to meet people with similar interests; to share photos and videos with your friends; to collaborate with a large number of people to organize an event. Entire college social circles can revolve around the Facebook wall and Twitter feed of a few select individuals and groups.
In other words, they’re powerful tools.
But college students who aren’t careful with their social media usage, these powerful tools that seem like so much fun now, can do serious harm later on after they graduate. Posting a few risqué pictures or writing controversial comments on other people’s walls might seem amusing when you’re in college, but that kind of behavior can really come back to haunt you later on. Few people seem to realize that whatever you do on the web stays on the web.
Of course, the worst case scenario would involve potential employers who look at a candidate’s social media history. You’d be surprised how a simple browse through someone’s Facebook profile or their Twitter feed could yield pretty some embarrassing results. Imagine if you applied for an entry level position at some prestigious law firm or advertising agency, only to be turned down because you couldn’t keep a clean Facebook wall. It happens all the time, but that doesn’t mean that it should have to happen to you.
There are a few easy rules of thumb to follow to ensure that you don’t keep questionable content on your social media profiles and accounts:
- Keep separate accounts for your social media services: one that’s open to the public and reflects your strong work ethic and various academic/professional accolades, and a private account that you just share among your friends.
- Keep the privacy settings at maximum on your private profile so only people who you want to see it can do so.
- If you wouldn’t say it to your parents, I wouldn’t post it on your public profile.
- Avoid messy comment/retweet arguments with other users on your public profile.
- Include only a handful of pictures on your public profile, all of them professional.
Of course all this isn’t to say that you can’t have fun on your social media profiles. Posting a cute cat photo or a picture of your ridiculous sophomore year Halloween costume is one thing, but posting content that could potentially upset a certain group of people is quite another matter. You have to be able to discern the line between harmless fun and potentially harmful content.
Above all you want to avoid looking childish, immature, and insensitive in all your online activity. A snide remark or a tasteless picture post might seem harmless at the time, but there’s no telling how things like that could resurface. College students who aspire to professions like internal medicine, law, politics, and journalism should pay particular attention to their online activity as they are often the source of intense public scrutiny. Be smart about the information you post on your social media profile, and you shouldn’t run into trouble. Just think before you share online.
Katheryn Rivas is freelance writer and blogger who dedicates her time to discovering the latest online education trends. When she's not writing, she can be found playing softball or reading a good book. She encourages your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.