Think before you speak has now evolved to google before you tweet. But what does it really mean to ‘think’ before speaking or googling before posting on social media? There was an interesting conversation in my Writing For Your Profession course today (November 3rd, 2015), in which we discussed the etiquette of social media platforms, and naturally, this blogpost is inspired by that dense discussion. With the rise in popularity of social media, users now have to be more cautious than ever before posting, yet more and more people everyday seem to be misusing the privilege that is social media. Though outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are a free forms of expression even offering privacy settings, we must not let the idea of ‘privacy’ become parallel to ‘secret.’ Truth is, you can never ‘hide’ your social media accounts and posts; once it is out there, you can never really take it back. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to fix your social media profiles and learn better habits when utilizing such outlets. So let’s reflect on what is social media and what are the do’s and dont’s of it.
When you’re creating an online profile, you are creating how the world will perceive you. Social media is a creative outlet of expression that allows for global connections. To use social media in the right way, the first thing to do is to realize that it can and should be used with responsibility. When it comes to making the most of such a powerful platform, it is essential to be aware of your actions, as well as the actions of your connections. Your company influences you and how people view you, so surround yourself with what makes you better. Each social media account should serve a purpose behind itself. Therefore, Facebook has great amount of things to be involved in such as groups, events, pages, and exploring new interests. This gives you the freedom to build your community, promote yourself, and even bring forth events or issues that you believe in. Thus, using it responsibly can take you a long way.
Instead of looking at social media as a technological instrument, really look at it as a universal tool that can be more helpful than harmful if used in the right way. Twitter, for example, is a great tool in getting you connection to the people that you are inspired by, spreading your messages across, engaging in current events, and sharing ideas. The ‘trending’ feature on twitter, as well as hashtags and tagging others, allows you to be in the moment with people all over the globe with a click of a button without having to be face to face. The vast audience of twitter can be of use to show your personality and passions. Facebook can do the same with the allowance of sharing albums, participating in online events, and even discussions in the comments. Other networks such as Tumblr can be powerful in exploring your creative side and showcasing your own profile of interests. Therefore, social media is truly what you make of it.
Learning to use it responsibly and knowing that social media is a powerful tool are just the beginning. The real deal maker or breaker is your content, or the substance of your social media outlets. Broadcasting your interest in a particular brand or company, networking with people that believe in the same field as you, and contributing to groups with your interests can be your way of standing out in a pile of papers waiting to be reviewed. Creating a name for yourself has become a lot easier now – thanks to social media accounts, so take full advantage of it. Use the outlets to sell yourself to the world and make a brand of yourself that everybody wants!
The best practice can be done by educating yourself of the opportunities provided by your chosen social media outlet. It’s also great, and even convenient, to utilize more than one outlet because it some are easier to socialize (Facebook) while others are easier to make connections in (LinkedIn). Knowing your privacy settings, as well as having a secure password, is also pivotal in making the most out of your experience. Practicing positivity, promoting your work without bragging, modeling good behavior, and being selective in what you spend your time on will provide you with the utmost experience. Last but not the least, knowing that it is never too late to fix your accounts is very important! Though nothing is ever permanently ‘erased,’ you can learn from your mistakes and clear up your feed with what you no longer appreciate. Actually, silliness can sometimes be a good thing, so use it to your advantage. Use social media networks productively – such as to find jobs, nurture your connections by sharing substance and contributing to foster organizations, stay tuned and use it to keep learning, and realize that your social media is never just about you. Thus, do things to promote other people or groups, engage others, inspire someone, relate to things, and be simple in the best way possible.
While the aboves were the dos, there are also a lot of don’ts in social media etiquette. Not telling the truth is the biggest don’t, because lies may cost you an opportunity of a lifetime. Another big don’t is blinding trusting everything you read. Because social media outlets are very personalized and user friendly, giving people a lot of power, it is wise to listen – but not always believe. Not verifying your friend requests or anything sent to you can be a huge mistake, so it is better to be safe and stick with people you know in real life – especially on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Don’t share too much information or neglect that your humor may not always be reciprocated. While it is great to make jokes and be silly, always be politically correct. Don’t do or say something on social media that you wouldn’t in real life! Remember that it is still you – you are not adopting a different identity. Thus, last but not the least, don’t forget to proofread your posts because you still do want to come off as a professional and do your own research on social media etiquette if you’re unsure about something.
Professional use of social media and technological adoption can really take a person a long way in our generation. There is an instrumental theory that looks at technology just as an instrument, a substantive theory that looks at technology as something that can fundamentally change behaviors/environment/thinking of work, and then there’s critical theory, where you’re somewhere in between. Therefore, be critical with your actions in social media – staying away from the extremes. Add your personal touch in your outlets, but keep your voice professional. Share your personal pictures, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see. Be an active user of your accounts and be proud enough in them to be able to pull it out in front of anyone. Think before you speak, google before you tweet, and keep your social media neat.