Professional Identity

Pitfalls of Social Media

Liv Marken

Social Media

Most university students know all about Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites.  The media have often emphasized negative stories involving safety concerns, obsessive behavior, a perceived superficiality of social interaction online, and so on. But more recently, online social networking has been found to have several benefits. Many of those who once criticized social networking platforms are now regularly networking among themselves via LinkedIn and other “professional” networking sites.

Interestingly, there are benefits of Facebook use—some clear to those using it, others revealed only recently by research in the social sciences. Many of these benefits can apply to other social networking sites as well:

  • Facebook and other forms of online networking make it easy to stay in touch with friends and family at a geographical distance. University students who have moved away from former friends seem to make the transition more easily when they stay in touch. Maintaining past relationships does not prevent most people from making new friends at university.
  • Facebook provides users with increased “social capital,” which is a sum of resources gained through one’s relationships with people. Facebook users gain information; opportunities for participation in activities and groups; invitations to events; chances to exchange advice (e.g., “what’s a good place to get sushi in this city?”; greater knowledge about others; some interaction skills; and so forth. Social capital is also associated with self-esteem, success in some endeavors, and general happiness.
  • Facebook makes it easier for people who are shy or otherwise slow to initiate or respond to interactions with others to participate socially in a group. Online network sites also offer an outlet for self-expression and sharing.
  • For many university students, interactions on Facebook strengthen personal relationships rather than detracting from them.
  • Acknowledging that online social networking is a reality for most university students, many university administrators, clubs, groups, and instructors also use it to stay in better touch with students, to provide information and encouragement, and to help students experience the full richness of the university experience.

Still, online social networking is not 100 percent beneficial for all university students. Someone who becomes obsessed with constantly updating their profile or attracting a huge number of friends can spend so much time at their computer that they miss out on other important aspects of university life.

Hopefully by now everyone knows why you should never post compromising or inappropriate photos or information about yourself anywhere online, even as a joke: many employers, university admissions offices, and others may find this compromising material in the future and deny you the job, internship, graduate program, or other position that you want. It’s important also to protect your identity and privacy on online sites.  Make sure you set it up so that only those who you trust can see your full profile, and make sure that people have to get approval to tag you in photographs.

In 2016, sixty percent of employers research prospective hires on social networking, which was an increase from 11 percent in 2006 ( Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, 2016; 2,106 hiring managers and HR professionals and 3,031 private sector workers).  Nearly fifty percent found material that would prevent them from hiring an individual, including

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (46 percent)
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs (43 percent)
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (33 percent)
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee (31 percent)
  • Poor communication skills (29 percent)   — Source: CareerBuilder, 2016

Overall, online networking in moderation can help enrich one’s life. When used to build relationships, gain information, and stay in touch with a larger community, it can contribute to success in university. Most university students use Facebook ten to thirty minutes a day. If you’re spending more than that, you might ask yourself if you’re missing out on something else.


About the author


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Pitfalls of Social Media Copyright © 2021 by Liv Marken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book