Whether you are commenting on trending topics, posting photos, or organising a night out, social media has become a part of our everyday lives. Regardless of if you use Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, your social media creates a picture of you to the world. This is a digital identity that others can look into – including potential employers, university admissions, and apprenticeship providers. This digital identity may be very different from who you are in real life, especially if you are carefree with your posts and messages, but perhaps it is time to pay attention to what image you are sending out to the world. Because of this some young people are very wary of what their social media says about them, but others seem blissfully unaware of how their social media posts will show them up and maybe even lose them opportunities.
It seems that young people on social media fall broadly into three different groups. Sure, there is some cross-over between them, and these examples may be extremes, but they are useful for assessing your own social media output and deciding if you need to do some altering to get it work-ready.
- The Social Media Ninja
These type of social media users will try to keep a low profile, even going so far as to only use anonymous messaging apps or those that delete messages immediately, like SnapChat. However, even these stealth tactics are not fail-safe. Others can still screen-capture your messages and put them out online. This can be a tricky situation since your online identity is suddenly in the hands of others, and if you never post anything visible yourself, then you have no control over how you are portrayed online. While these social media ninjas may believe they are staying safe and hidden while online, a quick google search could show up some pretty surprising results! Staying silent on social media may seem like a good idea, but doing so misses a great chance to advertise yourself.
- The Social Media Big-Mouth
This is the sort of person who just can’t stay off of social media – posting anything and everything that comes to mind. This may include commenting on negative trends to drive up the number of followers on Twitter, complaining about teachers, friends, or colleagues, and other careless chatter. There is no effort to control or create a cohesive social media identity with these users. However, this type of social media use can seriously come back to haunt you later. There may be all sorts of embarrassing messages that you might not want a potential employer to see. These type of social media users need to clean up their online act to make sure a google search doesn’t work against them!
The final group are those who have got the balance right. They use their social media to create an online identity that shows them in their best light. This means staying professional and remembering that your online posts can be accessed by anyone, and that once you have posted something it is pretty much impossible to completely delete it. Of course, these people recognise that social media isn’t all about work, and so will include some holiday snaps and other regular items, but they will be careful not to post any embarrassing pictures of messages. These types are more than happy to have their name googled – as they have already made sure that only positive output will be found! The social-savvy recognise that while honesty is the best policy, there is some wriggle room to present the best possible image.
While these three categories are stereotypical, you will probably find that you fall closer to one than the other two. There is also no expectation that your social media will be like a professional business account – and no employer or admissions officer would expect your social media to be spotless. However, if you are the sort to post party pictures and other potentially embarrassing content, you might want to clean up your act. Equally, if you have avoided leaving any traces online, you might want to dip a toe in to social media – so you can control your own online identity.
Finally, you should be careful what you believe – there is no saying that what you see is strictly true – and what you see on social media could change your perspective for the worst.