Mediate your media

Peter O'Neill

Social media isn’t just a trend or some phase that will eventually dissolve. It’s become a societal norm and has infused itself with our personal lives, obviously, but also our professional lives. At some point, you have to question whether everything you share or post is actually benefiting you. Because it should.

For a generation that is almost purposely going out of its way to look foolish, a positive and well-thought out social media presence can propel you to the head of the pack. While there are obviously pros and cons of having social media accounts, many people still stupidly walk into embarrassment and choose to humiliate themselves via social media.

It isn’t just your friends from the motherland that see your posts. You will, at some point, have someone with your possible future in his or her hands viewing your online footprint, seeing what kind of person you are. Whether it is an employer, a professor, your former high school girlfriend, I don’t know; I’m a journalist, not a psychic. Point is, you should always have your social media accounts ready to impress. If you’re going to have Big Brother watch over your shoulder, you might as well have something interesting to show them.

Rather than using your account to share memes, or some other Internet thing your parents ask you to delete, post your work instead. Converting your account into a portfolio is a double hitter. You get the attention from your peers, as well as possible employers, and you can connect with an online community outside of your region. Social_Media_Opinion_Comic

Let’s briefly go over screen names, because they seem to be overlooked. You’ll probably want to have something that immediately shows the world who you are. Just keep in mind you will have to type this into a resume. So, if your name is “Puppy_Luver_28,” unless you’re applying for a job at a Tamagotchi animal shelter, that’s a no. Unless you are the hacker known as “4Chan,” you shouldn’t have a series of random letters and numbers to identify yourself. It is an account username, not your social security card. If your name, at any point, includes “69” then I suppose you’re perfectly happy with your current maturity level and see no reason to grow up professionally. Kudos.

A professional screen name should be your own name or that of your personal brand. Make it easy to remember and legible. No using nicknames or pet names as it risks excluding your audience.

Despite having a fancy title, there is still a risk of making yourself look bad. Especially if you have hundreds of people openly watching your feed. Don’t post some idiotic picture of you and “your boys” chugging Bud Lite while harassing Hooters employees. You’ll look dumb, and you’ll feel dumb (not to mention irrelevant, because no one your age even goes to Hooters).

When in conversation, there is a code to live by: no mentioning politics or religion. The same thing applies to what you post on your feed. Avoid hot topics you wouldn’t even talk about in public. Don’t post offensive or petty posts, because the only person it would really hurt is yourself.  Even if you separate your professional career from your social life,  make sure to always keep your social media on the highest privacy setting just in case. Don’t think it’s just the stupid decisions that prevent the respectability of your account. Spelling and grammar, if not properly fixed, may indicate to an employer of your lack of skills and can influence any decisions about hiring you.

If you don’t go the portfolio-conversion way, then the next best thing is to create a blog. Although it sounds like having one is a bit pretentious, blogs are very well respected as a means of showing off work. Posting pictures, articles, art work, etc; eventually you will have a complete archive of all your past work ready at a moment’s notice.

If you still want the professional tone but enjoy using social media more than you would a blog, websites like LinkedIn and even MySpace are acceptable alternatives. I would say to stay away from Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, because all of those seem to ruin the most honest of men. These are however generally good for getting the word out for events, special projects and so on. Musicians and artists do not have to struggle with finding organizations to fund them, as they could crowdfund globally and make a start from there.

If you are thinking of Twitter as the perfect means of addressing your peers, simply look how well our Commander-in-Chief handles it, and then don’t do it remotely like that. Remember your social media account is a tool, not a toy. Do not become distracted by it. Only post when you have to, and know your limitations.

As “social” as online media claims to be, many employers or clients are more impressed with your body language than your fancy posts. A firm handshake and a confident attitude, up close and personal, can be more likely to get you a job than an online resume. As great as you may sound on paper, it is up to the in-person interview to determine whether you get the job. Research shows that as much as social media gives us the confidence we may lack in the real world, it may create additional social problems as well. ADHD, depression, social anxiety and the bad case of “the feels” are all possible side effects of too much social media consumption.

When there are over 467 million accounts on LinkedIn, with two new members every second, you have to stand out in the crowd. Prove that your hypothetical footprint is more worthy to be online than everyone else’s. You can do that by having a respectable internet presence and an average amount of common sense.