Social media can leave a large footprint.
For high school students considering their next academic or professional step, posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other platforms can have an influence. A meme, a joke or a comment posted on a whim can have a serious impact, according to academic and professional studies.
Indeed, according to a 2016 Kaplan survey, approximately 35 percent of colleges and universities check the social media accounts of students who apply. About half of those who say they check social media prior to admission agree that it can help or hurt a students' admission decision. In that sense, the meaning of online safety goes beyond immediate concerns of bullying, predators and exposure to inappropriate content. Being Internet savvy can also mean properly maintaining one's public profile to be successful later in life.
"What you do outside of school matters," said Joi Green, counseling coordinator for the Cherry Creek School District. "Colleges have been known to rescind offers of admission for a variety of reasons, and social media posts could be one of them."
In other words, a momentary urge to post online can have serious and permanent consequences. Just as colleges have been known to monitor applicants' online presence, so have potential employers. In the world of academia and industry, social media has become an increasingly standard source for additional and relevant information about an applicant.
That's not entirely bad news. Just as an individual's social media can possibly hinder one's chances when it comes to a dream school or a dream job, it can also exert a positive influence. Creating an online profile that demonstrates leadership skills and real-world experience can speak volumes, as it speaks to unfiltered and genuine assets.
According to Green, common social media missteps include the following:
- Questionable language, especially language around race or anything that is discriminatory;
- Any activity that can be deemed criminal;
- Brandishing of weapons.
On the other hand, prime examples of possibly beneficial posts include:
- Items about one's leadership on a project;
- Positive examples about a business or club you've started;
- Information about any awards or other recognition.
Green added that monitoring one's social media presence can be as simple as Googling one's name. The approach to creating a positive online persona is simple: If you don't like what you see, work to change it. This can be achieved through mindful content, as well as careful attention to privacy settings.
Green also added some common sense, straightforward approaches to leading a safe and sane online life:
- If you are not sure what to post, don't post it!
- Social media is your social footprint, it is permanent and therefore discoverable.
- Use good judgement, as your online profile may very well be the virtual first impression of yourself.
- Watch the names and handles you choose for yourself (even watch your email address names).
- Keep your messages positive, productive and more about your aspirations, goals and things that you have accomplished.
Following these tips can help ensure that your social media presence is a benefit rather than a hazard!