Social Suicide: Some Advice for Using Social Media in College

Social media is fun. It's current. You get to share your witty, random thoughts with the world and pride yourself on how many "likes," "favorites," or "retweets" you get on posts and pictures. It can boost your confidence, provide you with entertainment while your mind wanders off in your boring lecture and maintain your connection with friends, family and acquaintances. You get to show everyone how cute your German shepherd dogs are and update them on where you'll be spending your summer. You can expose your musical or artistic abilities to the world. Social media can be used in so many creative, positive ways. But it also has the potential to become a tool of social suicide, especially in your professional career. College is fun. It's the time of your life. But it's also a time to get serious about your future. Your life motto can no longer be "YOLO" or "Do it for the Vine!" I'm going to share with you some dos and don'ts of using social media in college (so you don't end up like this girl whose picture went viral and caused her to lose her job).

DO: Know how to use social media

This sounds like a no-brainer. But actually, I have come across so many people in my classes and organizations who say, "I'm taking a break from social media so I can focus more on school." or "Social media is getting too mainstream so I deleted all of my accounts." If it's really that distracting to you and your school work, then yeah, maybe staying off of it for a while is a good thing. However, in today's job market, it actually is pretty important to know how to at least work social media sites. The majority of companies and organizations use some sort of social media to interact with consumers and the community. Being aware and informed about social media can sometimes make or break you when looking for a job.

DON'T: Post everything you do on your social media sites

I think a lot of us were culprits of this in high school. I know I was. And I didn't realize the importance of monitoring my social media accounts until about halfway through freshman year at IU. Don't let that happen to you. You don't need to post pictures from every single weekend you go out with your friends. Go through your pictures and posts and clean up your pages (I think I deleted all of my pictures from high school). Then start monitoring what you post from then on. 

Some general guidelines to follow when you are trying to figure out whether or not to post something:

Ask yourself, "Would Mom and Dad be disappointed in me if they saw this?" and "If my potential employer saw this, would they not want to hire me anymore?" If you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions...DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200 DOLLARS. Don't post it. It's not worth it. 

If you're reading this and you're a high school senior...or junior...or even sophomore, it's not too early to start being smart and strategic about your social media presence. Clean your Facebook and Twitter accounts right now. Seriously. Put reading this blog post on pause...go clean up your accounts...then come back to this page and continue reading (there are still some valuable tips to come, I promise). 

DO: Use privacy settings and Google yourself

I caution you on this tip. Use privacy settings for your accounts if you feel you need to, but just know that some schools and companies are still able to get on your accounts. I personally keep my Facebook and Instagram accounts private. I still make sure not to post anything inappropriate, but I just don't feel comfortable as a safety thing to allow anyone in the public to get on my accounts. Twitter, on the other hand, I use as a professional networking tool. So I leave this account public and make sure not to post anything too personal on it. I like to post things about what I'm learning in classes related to my future career, connect with organizations and companies, and share articles I enjoyed. 

As for Googling yourself...if you've never done it, it's probably a good idea. I had to Google myself for a class once and then write a paper about the girl I discovered (pretending like I didn't know myself). Some of the things were accurate, but some things I found gave me an image of myself that I didn't want to send to the world. The thing about the Internet is that if people don't know you, they have nothing else to go on when judging you. Don't forget that. Also...not to scare you...but anything you put out on the Internet has the potential to spread and then be out there permanently. (Okay, yeah, that's actually pretty scary to think about).

DO: Use social media to create a brand for yourself

Not everyone knows how to brand themselves online. Being a journalism major and marketing minor, I'm lucky enough to learn a lot about it in my classes. For any major and minor though, it's important to have a personal brand. How do you want to market yourself to potential schools and employers? What image do you want people to have of you when they read your Twitter posts or look at your Facebook page? These are the things you need to keep in mind when you post on the Internet. Also, utilize LinkedIn! It's a great way to network with people. You can find alumni who work at companies you are interested in, and they are always eager to talk to you and help you out. You can keep connected with your peers from IU, and one day when you all graduate and have real jobs, you'll have so many ways to reach out around the globe. Companies who become interested in you will often look you up on LinkedIn first and review your experience before giving you an interview. Take advantage of it. Also, running a blog is always a great way to enforce your online presence and personal brand. Everyone has something they are passionate and have an opinion about. Why not blog? (I'm doing it right now because I love IU and future Hoosiers so much!) Seriously though, the workforce these days emphasizes the importance of written communication skills. No matter what you are studying, knowing how to write in order to communicate your message to people is a great skill to have. Plus blogging is fun. 

So, what am I allowed to post then?

This is a great question. I know I made posting things sound really scary and like you have to be paranoid...but it's really not like that. I think it's okay to still post pictures with friends, the occasional selfie, some fun stories that happened in your day and your (appropriate) vacation pictures. And definitely keep posting puppy pictures. Those are always allowed. You just need to be aware. Use common sense. Use social media to your advantage when it comes to hunting for internships and jobs. Build your brand. Don't post things that threaten the opportunities your college career has given you. Don't commit social suicide. 

Okay, now for the most important part of this blog post, here is a picture of my babies (Too bad there's no "like" button on here...).

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About The Author
Alexea CandrevaJournalism and Communication & Culture major - Class of 2015 - Crown Point, IN

Dog lover. Adventure seeker. DD iced coffee aficionado. Peanut butter addict. Future PR pro.