The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Social media has become an extension of ourselves. No longer just a fun pastime, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become something we consider necessary — a part of who we are, how we live and how we present that to the world.
It is safe to say most people would cringe at the thought of “unplugging,” or going without technology, for even just one day. Society has not just accepted, but adapted to the need for social media.
College students are no longer just worried about studying hard and excelling in their given field. Now they have to learn to “create their own brand.” They have to develop an online persona, because someone, somewhere is always watching. We are no longer thought of as people, but brands. And interestingly enough, this seems to be the new norm.
We delete Instagram posts because they don’t match our brands. When we see a feed that’s cohesive, we are impressed. When employers see a Twitter user with a stellar ratio of followers and constant updates, the user instantly becomes more hirable.
But is that aesthetically outstanding Instagram feed an honest representation of who a person is? Or is it simply the culmination of hours spent hunched over our screens, filtering and manipulating images to make ourselves appear a certain way?
Does the ability to find the perfect balance between “highlight” “and “saturate” translate into any real-life skills? Does the amount of accounts we retweet make us smarter? A more skilled communicator? A better person?
With the rise of social media comes the need to prove that we as college students are constantly consuming news. Every company has an online presence. You’re expected to, and if you don’t, you will fall behind.
Some companies no longer value the qualities of inquiry and investigation. They just value the ability to quickly consume information and shovel it out
to the general public.
With all this focus on social media, the question is — how can we best use it to our advantage?
It’s safe to argue a person’s online presence should never be their downfall. It should be the one place where we hold all the control, where we can make ourselves perfect.
There is a fine line, though — what is okay to post and what is not? There is a definite difference between posting pictures of doing drugs or binge drinking and posting political articles or commentary. Social media should act as a medium for people to express themselves and being afraid that you will harm your career by doing so is the worst form of self-censorship.
In theory, a company will hire people who hold the same values as they do. Here it becomes a little tricky to determine what’s “appropriate” vs. “inappropriate” in terms of social media posts. If you work for a cigarette company, a photo of you smoking won’t do any damage. But what if you work for a health care company? While some content might be bad across the board, we shouldn’t let fear stifle our thoughts.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just potential employers that people are afraid of offending. Many college students know the feeling of the Thanksgiving dinner inquisition — the uncle telling you that you need to stop posting “controversial” articles (i.e. articles that he disagrees with).
Why are we judged for every post, like or comment that we share? Why do we hesitate, or hold back altogether from posting something, just because we are worried what people will think?
When did social media change from a way to keep up with far-away friends, to a platform where one must prove their worth?
What’s more, it has gotten to the point where social media has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. And we don’t even realize it. Companies use social media to extend their marketing platforms. They target potential customers on social media and send messages to persuade people to buy their products.
Say you follow Taco Bell on Twitter. You read their posts, laugh at their jokes. Next time you are thinking about what to get to eat, you remember, “Oh, Taco Bell is my friend. I should go to Taco Bell.”
Social media and its omnipresence can be both a blessing and a curse. It allows us to connect, share ideas and show our true selves (or who we wish to be). However, we shouldn’t turn social media into a stage, where we are simply actors pretending to be what we think the world wants. The key to successful social media use is authenticity.