Anna Rinaggio, Campus Carrier asst. arts and living editor
Social media plays a big role in today’s society. From Instagram to LinkedIn, there are tons of platforms available for anyone to use. In recent years, however, it seems that there’s been a shift to “clean up social media,” both on the sides of individual users as well as companies and schools with an online presence.
On one end, individual users have to be careful about what they say and post online. Current and potential employers oftentimes have access to personal profiles, so users need to be conscientious about what they put out there now more than ever.
“I do think that people are more conscious of their social media usage now,” Lauren Weldon, the associate director of employer engagement at Berry, said. “For example, on Instagram, people might choose to have their profile be public or private, and even within that they might be friends with co-workers, but those co-workers aren’t on their close friends list when they’re posting to their story.”
Weldon encouraged students to think about their online audience and how what they’re saying may come across to that audience.
“You want to think about who your audience is,” Weldon said. “I mean, even for things like sense of humor, if you’re concerned someone might misinterpret a joke if you have a darker, cynical sense of humor, you wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t have that sense of humor to think you really believe something that you don’t, and that could come back to bite you.”
When applying for a job, she said there is not necessarily a standard guideline to what a person should or should not post on their profile. It depends on the company and their values.
“It really does depend on the company’s mission statement and their goals, because there might be some companies who value things more than others or they may judge things more harshly than others,” Weldon said. “On the one hand, I can understand for students trying to find a role that it can be wise to try to leave off controversial things from your social media, but at the same time, I really encourage students to be super authentic to themselves and really true to who they are, because if you’re a person whose lifestyle is something that a company would totally reject or not hire you for, likely it would be a two-way street and you might not like working for that company, that culture, anyways.”
Emily Perry, a Berry senior, said that knowing that schools and employers have potential access to her social media has in part led to her curating a specific persona online.
“I have a very curated image of myself on social media,” Perry said. “It still does have that personal flair, so it’s not like it’s not me, but I definitely maybe don’t put some things [online]. I do a bit of self-censorship online.”
Perry also mentioned that her online persona depends on the social media platform. What she normally posts on Instagram is not the same as what she might post on Twitter.
“When it comes to something like Twitter, I mean, I don’t post like a ton, and I still will self-censor when I’m posting on Twitter, but my likes on Twitter — I kind of like what I like,” she said. “It’s a different time and place.”
Individual people are not the only entities with an online presence, though. Companies have started to create their own profiles on social media as ways to attract customers and applicants. These companies must be aware of their online presence as well, as applicants can use social media to make judgements about the company and whether or not they want to work there.
“I definitely think that social media can help students get a feel for the company culture and for issues like equity and inclusion,” Weldon said. “I think a student might look at the company social media they’re following and see if they feel like they identify with the people in the photos and the content and tone of their captions. I think that can definitely be a factor, but it can be a surface level or misleading. It’s definitely up to the student to determine if they think the company’s really genuine, and kind of cross referencing the social media with their experiences interviewing for the company and other platforms like Glassdoor and the Better Business Bureau would definitely be a wise approach.”
Alongside companies, colleges have also started using social media to promote themselves to potential applicants. They use platforms such as Instagram and TikTok to share information in a fun and engaging way to attract students.
“You want to put the best foot forward and portray Berry in a very good space while still trying to appeal to maybe a younger population,” said Lacey Herring, the supervisor for the Berry admissions’ social media team. “It’s kind of a two-way street of being fun and interactive while also keeping the Berry brand at the forefront too.”
Glenn Getchell, the director of admissions, said that admissions tries to keep up with trends and see what is popular when posting content in order to draw in the biggest audience.
“I would say that the tactics change, but only as trends [change],” Getchell said. “We’re probably not setting any trends ourselves, we’re just seeing what’s going on and trying to answer to the market.”
When it came to what students should steer clear of posting on personal profiles, it was agreed that there is no specific list of things to avoid.
“Everybody should think there’s a consequence for every post – could be good, could be bad – nothing’s neutral,” said Getchell. “All I would say is think long and hard about the possible consequences of what you’re posting.”
Weldon said to avoid negative posts and comments, as it never comes across well.
“I think really one thing that is universal is if you’re posting really negative comments on bullying on social media, making fun of people, that’s not really appropriate in any context,” Weldon said.