Dr. Samreen Ashraf (Principal Academic, Bournemouth University- UK)
Social media has become an integral part of our lives. Be it a student, professional or a household person, our dependence on smartphones has increased. Though it is impacting all our lives, but University goers are impacted the most. Mainly gen z (generation born between 1997-2021) who are still coming to their own, are struggling to strike the right balance between their real vs reel life.
According to the Pew Research Centre, 74% of all internet users engage in social media and that number increases when Gen Z are included in that pool. This is the first generation to have spent their entire lives in the digital environment; thus, social media profoundly affects how they live and work.
While many people use these sites to communicate with others, employers use these social media sites as a tool for background information on the job applicants. As per a recent report, most of the employers screen their potential employees to make sure that they hire the right candidate who is a good fit for their organisation.
Without going into the ethical dilemmas of this practice, employers are hiring/firing people based on the information posted by the employees on these social networking sites. This has been well documented in the media and the court of law.
For example, a University of Loyola swim-team member was kicked off the swim team for posting disparaging remarks about her coaches on Facebook. Few employers have even come up with the policies for their employees to ensure that their online activities are not in contradiction to their company policies.
Therefore, it is important for the students to understand how social media can have a long-lasting impact on their lives post education and in their careers. Everything which is shared online stays online and is referred to your digital footprint. For example, blogs, your social media posts, and information from your search engine.
This information can be found by your potential employer which makes it even more important to think before sharing any content online. You can take precautionary measures to make sure that your social media profiles are not any hinderance in your future employment.
First, search yourself online. This can be done easily, enter your name in the search engine (Google, Bing) and follow what comes up. Do you see anything which you would like to hide from your potential employer, perhaps memories of a night out or an inappropriate tweet you had shared?
Second, make sure to share suitable content on each social media site. For instance, use LinkedIn to share your professional achievements, and share your thoughts about work life, whereas platforms such as Instagram can be used to share your personal life events for your friends and family.
Third, check the privacy settings of your online accounts and make a habit to keep an eye on these settings. Some social media platforms regularly change their settings which may compromise your personal content shared online.
Finally, make sure to use stronger passwords, combination of words and letters to keep your account safe from hackers. Social media could be very useful for your career if used wisely.