Social media has been a big outlet for creative expression for the majority of Gen Z’s lives. It has brought the generation together by developing its own unique sense of humor and niches that people in other generations might not understand. Scrolling through TikTok and having a laugh at the end of a long day is the best part of some people’s day. But, with the internship and summer job season just a few months away, chances are good that your social media accounts will be reviewed by people other than your peers. When your profile is discoverable to admissions officers, employers, colleagues, and essentially anyone, certain precautions need to be taken. Because social media culture is constantly evolving, it's important to take inventory of your socials before you put yourself out there.
Your social media pages represent you. When you are part of a college community or working for a company, you represent not only yourself but also the people and places you are associated with. Companies and educational institutions have certain standards they set in order to maintain a good reputation. Anyone who does something distasteful, offensive, or inappropriate on a public platform could suggest that those colleges or companies condone that behavior. It puts everyone’s image in jeopardy.
Anything Illegal or Unethical
Don't post yourself doing anything depicting illegal activity, such as underage drinking or drug use. Don't post yourself engaging in dangerous behavior. Don't bully–or be part of a group that bullies others. Be cautious about what you share privately–anyone can take a screenshot or post content that was originally not meant for public view.
Explicit/Offensive Language, Inappropriate Language/Media
Just because you can say something doesn’t always mean you should say it. Avoid cursing, inappropriate comments, and racial slurs–or posting images or videos that depict that language. Colleges and companies have policies about language and profane content, and they have the right to deny you admission or employment, revoke your admission, or fire you if you don’t abide by their policies.
You've heard the argument: But I wasn’t the one who said it! It gets tricky when it comes to re-posting, liking, and commenting because while an interaction with some posts may seem harmless, it's often an action that is public. Without the right privacy settings in place, anyone can easily see your ‘likes’ section on TikTok or Twitter. It might not seem like a big deal since you aren’t the original poster, but it’s often very easy to gain insight about a person from the content they appear to condone or support. Think twice before liking a tweet that is making a harmless joke using mild explicit language. Ignore, don't retweet, an offensive or racist remark. Ask yourself this: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If the answer is no to any of those questions, keep on scrolling and don't engage.
Yes, use your socials to express your personality and passions. Express your opinions too. There are times and places when engaging in certain conversations and expressing controversial views are appropriate. Gen Z’ers don’t have to reinvent themselves to fit the mold of older generations to stay professional. Just be mindful of your audience, take privacy precautions, use common sense, and most of all–mind your manners.
A great feature that many social media platforms are releasing is the ‘Friends Only’ feature. This allows you to be selective about who you are sharing specific content with. This can be done on most platforms’ stories and more recently with TikTok. Even then, present your views in a thoughtful and respectful manner, being mindful that no matter who you think your audience is, there is a chance anyone can see what you post.