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This morning I read an article in my local newspaper about a priest who has been asked to justify claims he has made on his Facebook Page regarding his qualifications.
Now I certainly don’t support lying, especially for people in positions of authority and power, however, it did get me thinking about how social media accounts can be used to create the personality that we want people to see, or how they can unintentionally affect the way we are seen online.
In fact, creating a different persona is encouraged by a multitude of online apps that allow you to put your head on a celebrity’s body or even put your face next to Conan.
Social media relies on “people” and “people” are varied and unique, so while these observations do not apply to everyone, I’m sure you’ll agree there are some common ways that people use social media accounts to enhance or affect how they are perceived (if not, just tell me in the comments).
Working and participating personally in the digital media industry, I’m also aware of the multitude of ways that people (and businesses) use social media, but in this case, I want to focus on a few main ways.
Show your best side
I’m sure we are all familiar with this one. And to be honest, it’s only human, as it’s an online variation of what we have been taught from a young age: Smile for the camera. Look your best. Play nice with the other children…
Social media allows us all to try and control how we appear, by posting photos that only show our best side, and content and updates that show how clever/fun/loved/spontaneous/entertaining or any other positive trait we are. Or want to be.
I’ll admit I like it when I’m tagged in a “good” photo, and will carefully select photos of myself to post, but I haven’t gone to the extent of some friends who have asked to have photos removed or untagged. Yet.
I actually read an interesting post recently about a study that showed women post more on Facebook to boost their self-esteem.
I believe that as in life, we need to take responsibility for our actions. We need to think about who could see/hear what we say/do. As Erin Bury said: “Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.”
More social media quotes can be found on this post: Top 20 social media quotes of all time (well, so far I think).
Stretch the truth
LinkedIn serves as an online version of your resume, and I’m sure many people have picked and chosen what appears on their resume…
I’ll reiterate: I do not condone lying about your experience – especially as the Internet allows for greater viewing and researching – but people still aim to show their best side when presenting their professional side.
The way people seem to justify it is that their resume (true or not) will help get their foot in the door, then their personality will get them all the way through it, and hopefully staying on the other side.
But in this time where people Google you before a job interview, you can’t just focus on your resume (or LinkedIn profile). Just think of all the places your name appears, whether you have control over them or not, and how that could make you appear to a potential employer or client.
If you haven’t already, Google yourself.
Come on get happy
While there are some limits to only your “friends” seeing what you post on Facebook, platforms such as Twitter open your thoughts to anyone who chooses to follow you (unless you have a private account).
I’m sure many other Twitter-philes would agree that the benefits of having a public profile are great. However, it can make you consider what you post online. Or not.
And with Facebook, remember who your “friends” are…
We’ve all seen the screenshots of employees who forgot they were Facebook friends with their boss and made a derogatory work comment or called in sick after posting about a massive night out.
The same can also apply when we’re feeling down or under stress. Do you admit that you are struggling with a project/client/work/life at the risk that said client/potential client/employer/colleague will see it?
Yes, we need to be responsible for what we post online, but we’re also encouraged to be honest, and to share our feelings, that it’s healthy. So in an age where digital media has become our “Dear Diary” do we be honest? Or put on our happy mask?
Traditionally we don’t only share the good times with friends, they are there to get us through the tough times too. That can go for online friends too. Virtual support goes a long way during the difficult times if you’re game to put it out there.
It can also affect how people see you, especially if taken out of context (and again, I’m sure we all know how easy it is to take written words out of context… insert suitable emoticon here).
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers to the big questions. I just like to ponder them.
If you take anything from this, it’s this: Think about what you post online. Feel free to pick and choose what you publish. Just don’t lie.
What do you think? Are you selective with how you present yourself online? Or do you stay true to how you are in real life?
Image taken from the Head ‘n Hole profile pic generator Facebook Page.