social media remains public and may hinder or help you get a job or promotion

The Internet is Forever. have you heard that before? This picture is going viral. Heard that, too, yes? Anything you post on social media now will follow you for a long time and has the chance to spread like a wildfire. Right now, there are so many platforms to share your life with far-flung friends, family, and followers, but how much are you really sharing when you post online?

Consider Dani Matthews, a model who shared a mean picture of someone else on snap chat, to her followers. Dani’s message went viral, and the story was picked up by actual news stations. She lost her job, was suspended from the gym she took the picture at and ended up going to court and paying a hefty fine for a 5-second lapse in judgment. Like you learned in kindergarten, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Or consider plus size model Natalie Hage, who observed the jokes about her size that her airplane seatmate was texting to a friend. Natalie took photos of the texts, tweeted them, and the man’s mean humor went viral before his plane touched down. In this case, the man was forced to make a public apology to Natalie. Were these two misguided tweeters trying to be funny? Probably. Did they succeed? Not unless they were trying for that week’s Biggest Jerk Award.

Let me be clear – we have all made mean comments about another person, either trying to be funny or actually trying to be mean. BUt when you put it out on social media, that one comment becomes the first impression people have of you. Try it yourself – google yourself, and google your twitter handle, Instagram screen name, or just your regular name. What did you find? Now consider that every potential employer, every school admissions officer, and every boyfriend’s mom can google you and find the same thing. A lot of things that you may want – a great job, paid internship, or bid to a certain sorority – are very competitive, and the difference between you and someone just as qualified often comes down to something like the impression you have made online.

Ok, so you know what not to post. Don’t be mean, don’t make fun of people. What are some things that are going to look good to both your followers and that admissions chair/ new boss/ boyfriend’s mom (I’m telling you, moms can check you out, too)? Think about how you’d like people to think of you. Are you musical? Try linking a youtube video or audio file of you performing. Did you get to travel over Spring Break? Share pictures of the exotic locales you visited, the food you sampled, or the souvenirs you brought home. Did you ace the midterm or score high on the SAT? Brag on yourself a little. Your friends and family like to see you do well. Essentially – take the awesome qualities about yourself, your great accomplishments (or little ones), the things that you’d like to be known for and start sharing those. Nothing will get you not hired faster than tweeting “this job sucks” and tagging yourself at your job location.

But, but, what about my fun? Have fun. Have all of the fun, just don’t share all of the pictures. If you are smoking, drinking from a red Solo Cup, flipping the bird, or not wearing pants, maybe pass on “doing it for the ‘gram”. Your social media represents your life, but it doesn’t always have to be some of the stuff that you wouldn’t show your Aunt Helen.

If the internet is forever, is there any way to completely scrub your social media presence from the ‘net? Bear in mind that anything you’ve posted may have been archived or screenshotted, but is there a way to keep anyone new from looking some of your more cringe-worthy moments? Well, yes, depending on the platform. PC Mag online has a very useful article on deleting your social media forever here:,2817,2386458,00.asp If you think that someone has taken screenshots of your social media, or if someone is using pictures you’ve sent or posted to harass, threaten, stalk, or otherwise cause you harm, consult with your parents and an attorney immediately. There are laws in place that can protect you and your privacy if there is someone with malicious intent stalking your social media.

Your social media presence can be used to highlight the best parts of your persona, like an online resume. It can be the highlight reel you look through and a way for your new friends to get to know you better. Or it can torpedo your career and reputation. Use care and discernment before hitting “send” and good luck!

written by Chris Clayton on Sept 20th 2017

photo by Priscilla du Preez from

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