What's his name? Let me find him on Facebook.
"Facebook stalking" has become a social norm. It’s the fastest way to find your friend’s new crush, that guy in your history class, or the girl you met last weekend. Nobody seems to have a problem with the ease of finding people online. People brag about their skills. You can locate anyone from just a name and an affiliation, through mutual friends or what pages they have liked. What happens when the Facebook search is flipped? You want to find that cute new guy, but don’t want your school going through each of your posts, or a potential employer looking through your photos. There comes a point when the ease of this search is no longer fun and your social media pages begin to define you. A school in Orange County has implemented new software called SnapTrends, which sorts through their students’ social media pages in search of buzz words, including bomb or death, in order to prioritize safety for students. Some applaud the efforts, arguing that if something is posted online, it is fair game for anyone to find and use it however they see fit. Others cringe at the lack of privacy. The rights of individuals on social media need to be addressed as times change and technology continues to become increasingly dominant as a form of entertainment, communication, and management. The effect of technology is far greater than the number of likes you received on your latest pictures. Through these outlets, anyone and everyone can see you, and it is up to you to decide how you want to be perceived. You have been told time and time again that first impressions are everything. Now, this transfers to your social media pages being all encompassing. In some sense, this increases your control over the image you show the world. You can edit pictures and work for hours on captions, while in the real world, things happen quickly and unpredictably.
However, there is value to having the chance to make these impressions in person. Relationships are built on interactions and if your opinions are based off of someone’s social media presence, real moments can lose their value. If a girl posts a picture from Saturday night, does this mean she goes out every weekend? Posting pictures at a football game doesn’t mean you likes sports and holding a cup in a photo doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. Social media is like a one sided conversation: people lose the chance to explain when you are only interacting with their social media pages. It is difficult to decide how best to portray yourself through social media. What picture really makes you look like you? It is hard to determine whether you sound funny or ridiculous, entertaining or mean. The language of social media is different than the way we speak in person. Girls overanalyze; if he likes my Instagram, does it mean he likes me? My mom always apologizes if she doesn’t like one of my posts, going on and on about how she didn’t see it and it was unintentional. A simple like has a multitude of meanings, depending on who you talk to and what social media platform you are using. The world is changing in such a way that understanding and mastering the language of social media is necessary for success. On one hand, you should post in a way that represents yourself. Be confident about your social media. Don’t hide behind a computer, a problem that is growing as technology becomes more prominent. Yet, there is a clear distinction between showing yourself as you act with your friends and portraying yourself to your school and to future employers. Which side of yourself should your social media show? The question becomes whether social media is an avenue for expression, or a way to advertise yourself. You see a million advertisements daily on Facebook, showing you things you may be interested in buying. Is your page just another form of marketing? There is a sense of promise in the idea of using social media for self expression. It could be an amazing way to connect with people who share similar feelings, thoughts, and ideals. However, if these ideas do not coincide with the field you hope to work in or the school you hope to attend, should they be kept quiet? By making social media such an integral part of our lives, are we essentially policing its users? It seems as though if anyone can read what you say, you feel as though you can’t say anything at all. You want to be heard, but if the wrong people hear you, it can be detrimental to your image or even future employment. It is difficult to reconcile the pros and cons of the publicity and immediacy of social media. Sunday mornings would not be the same if you could not go through all the photos posted from the weekend, but the way you portray yourself has broader effects. It’s one thing to adjust your appearance for an interview; to arrive in a nice business casual outfit and make sure you are not chewing gum. However, none of these precautionary measures are relevant if your social media precedes you. It is an entirely different task to change yourself to improve your public image. That task is far greater, and more controversial. So, change your profile pictures. Social media is the new first impression. You might as well show up to your interview in sweatpants if that’s what you’re wearing in your latest Instagram.