Be Careful What You (Don't) Post

Be Careful What You (Don't) Post

Last Monday, the weekly event for my program was a lesson on using social networking to advance our career prospects: Creating an Online Branded Identity and Leveraging It for a Cause. During the session, we learned about honing our posts on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to evoke our professional interests, goals, and personalities so that potential employers can learn more about us through a quick internet search. This all makes sense from an employer's perspective--you want to make sure the resume and cover letter you're considering reflect the real deal--but I was surprised to hear this lecture aimed toward employees. The takeaway was not that we should censor our posts because potential employers will be on the lookout; it was that we, as potential employees, must create a public, vocal online identity if we want to be competitive applicants in the job market.


I, for one, am cautious about what I post on the internet. I was one of those children thoroughly terrified by the police officer speaking to my class in 6th grade about the dangers of connecting with strangers online or having an AIM screenname that disclosed personal information such as name, birthday, location, or gender. I changed my screenname, "cocoloco106" (the name of my hamster, "Coconut," who was crazy, or "loco," + my birthday), to the much less revealing "maplesugar456": the name of my dog+sugar+four random digits on the keyboard--obviously much safer. Cautious might be a bit of an understatement; I was a little paranoid.


And paranoid I should be, according to my parents, teachers, and older peers who have, since the onset of high school and increasingly upon entering college, warned not just to limit whom I talk to on the internet, but to censor anything I wouldn't want prospective employers to see. Pictures on Facebook with a can of beer in your hand are an obvious "no," and do you really need to keep that hijacked statuses that your friends put up ... "I eat poop yummy yummy mmmm?"


As a result, I'm cautious, or, as I like to think, prudent. I don't need to tell 600 of my Facebook friends my views on the last presidential debate or what exactly should be done with the suspects involved in the Boston bombing because, in all seriousness, I am just not the most qualified to talk about those things--and anyways, don't they see enough about that on the news? I post statuses about visiting my cousins or, very occasionally, something exciting like finding out I've been accepted to come to D.C. for the semester. I untag pictures that I don't like of myself. Above all, my privacy settings are set so that you can't see anything--pictures, posts, or likes--unless you're my friend because, well, why would you need to see that stuff unless you actually knew me? I created a Twitter account 6 months ago in order to follow Dickinson's writing center, of which I am a proud employee, but only because "Real-time reports from the Norman M. Eberly Multilingual Writing Center at Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA" sounded just too enticing to pass up. My 18 tweets since then have consisted of things like "I love snowdays and homemade mac and cheese" and "The problem with The Casual Vacancy is that I don't like any of the characters #missingnevilleandluna" and retweets of TWC's tweets on my blog posts; in all honesty, I think those are a pretty good summation of my skills and interests.


My point is that for the last 10 years of my life, I've thought, if you want to know, ask me--and that includes friends, family, and, yes, prospective employers. Up until now, I'd always thought that my cautiousness on the internet was to be recommended. I knew that social media was taking on a much bigger role in our lives--and a much more professional one at that--but this sudden 180 in terms of how we should broadcast ourselves on the internet still really surprises me. Not posting intellectual or stimulating pictures and opinions doesn't mean you're respectful of others opinions or wary of being overzealous; it means you haven't been following the news, or, worse, you have nothing to say. Having high privacy settings doesn't mean that you're trying to be conscientious about what others can see; it means you have something to hide.


Following this short seminar on online identity, I've been trying to reconsider the way I use Facebook and Twitter. I started to follow the "White House," retweeted a Washington Post article about the dangers of downsizing large corporations, and even posted two pictures of the cherry blossoms I saw on my way home from work (and got 5 likes, might I add). But I stopped short of posting anything about the gun control bill's failure to pass, or my sadness about the Boston bombings. I didn't change my privacy settings. I still can't help wanting to keep my corner of the internet... well, my corner. My opinion may begin to evolve a little bit in the upcoming months as I start thinking more seriously about my post-graduation plans. But right now, I just know that I will be leaving TWC in less than 3 weeks with a darn good resume and newfound skills on networking and interviewing. And I wish that those could be enough.

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