Impression Management 101: Managing Social Media”

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Social media platforms give adolescents the unique ability to share their lives and connect with others in real time. While adolescents describe these platforms as a way for them to connect and maintain relationships with friends and family, social media also creates environments for bullying and negativity. With the growing pressure for students to have digital footprints, it is important for students to develop the impression management skills necessary to manage their online reputations.

In a survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in 2018, “95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis” (Pew Research Center, 2018). In the world that we live in, the internet and social media surrounds us. Teenagers, especially, are bombarded with social media on a constant basis As with any new technology, the use of social media platforms comes with both benefits and drawbacks. 

In a press release by Kaplan Test Prep (2018), 57 percent of colleges say that it’s “fair game” for admissions officers to visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help with admissions decisions. Now more than ever before, adolescents have access to a plethora of information at any time and from any place, but so do admission offericers and future employers. As a student you are on your path to your future career, so it is important to be mindful of how you are portraying yourself on the internet. Impression management is the key to future success. I do not believe that instilling a fear of social media is the correct approach, as social media can be a positive element to the college admissions process. Nowadays, students must think through their actions and make responsible decisions before posting to social media. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Kat Cohen, a College Admissions Counselor,  “It’s important for students to treat social media the same way they do college applications – with cautious optimism and realistic expectations” (2017). 

Here are a few tips to consider when managing your impression on social media platforms:

Privacy Settings

  • Use them for social media, email and other accounts. 
  • Be aware of exactly what parts of your profile and posts can be seen by the public. 
  • Take the time to limit your profiles and make sure you are allowing only people you know to view your posts.
  • Create complex passwords and keep them to yourself.  Keep in mind that creating a password that is unrelated to any other information you have shared is ideal.
  • Turn off location and check in sharing.
  • Try not to access your accounts from unsecure devices.

Be Kind. Be Positive.

  • Cyber bullying is a hot button issue for adolescents these days and it is never ok. It is important to always treat the opinions of others with respect. Remember the golden rule of most kindergarten classrooms, “if you do not have anything nice to say do not say anything at all”. 
  • It is never ok to post hurtful or embarrassing messages on social media.
  • Your behavior online is a direct reflection of your character. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of what you are posting on the internet. 
  • It is great to highlight positive things that are happening in your life or in the world and It is always nice to commend and congratulate others on their achievements.
  • Avoid posting or commenting on controversial topics.  That way you can make sure you do not get into heated debates and arguments on such a public forum. 
  • If you do feel the need to speak up it is better to have those kinds of discussions face to face or via direct message.

Think about what you post before you post it

  • It is important to remember nothing ever goes away on the internet.  So, before you click ‘post’ think about whether this really represents who you are.
  • Always think about what your family, friends, educators and future employers may think before posting. 
  • Always take the time to think through your feelings and your thoughts before posting on specific topics.
  • It is always important to remember that while something may seem harmless at the time, it could come back to haunt you later on. 
  • It is important to be mindful of what you are posting, but also to keep track of posts that you have been associated with, whether you have been tagged in it or commented on it.  Make sure that you maintain your reputation across all platforms.

No need to overshare

  • You do not need to post about every event you attend or everything you do.  Sometimes it is more fun to just enjoy the experience without continuously thinking about posting to social media.
  • It is important to take an occasional break from posting.
  • If you are feeling angry, upset, or overwhelmed, take a break so you can think through your response. This way, you can avoid posting something that you might regret in the future.
  • While it may feel good in the short term to share personal things on social media, for example, emotional struggles, fights, break up’s or family issues, it is usually better to share those with an adult or a professional. 
  • Taking the time to curate your social media accounts by using discretion with social media illustrates a certain sense of maturity. Practicing impression management through social media is a great first step.

For more information on how to best manage your impression on social media check out these links:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/09/13/new-report-most-teens-say-social-media-makes-them-feel-better-not-worse-about-themselves/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4f90bd02a041

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/23/parents-may-fret-but-teens-and-even-experts-say-social-media-use-has-its-benefits/451461002/

References:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dont-be-afraid-to-post-5-social-media-tips-for-college_b_59ef7077e4b00a4ce5a221da

https://www.kaptest.com/blog/press/2018/04/17/kaplan-test-prep-survey-finds-colleges-applicants-agree-social-media-fair-game-admissions-process/

Pew Research Center, November 2018, “Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences

Pew Research Center, May 2018, “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018”

Mansi Dewan

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