The 5 Commandments Of Social Media

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Your online posts can take your chance of getting into a University or a job you've applied for. Read on to learn about the commandments of social media!

I feel sorry for many students applying to colleges and universities these days. Each year it gets more difficult to get into selective schools. To try to stand out students are taking more and more AP or IB or honors courses than ever before. They often take three sets of tests: SAT, ACT, and SAT subject tests. They join many activities and spend summers trying to supplement their education in a way that will stand out. The pressure has never been as intense.

To add to this pressure, there have been a number of stories recently about how some students, who had been strong candidates to schools, were ultimately turned down because of things they had posted on social media. When The New York Times pronounces in a headline “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets.” it’s certain that this issue will get a lot of attention.

The Times story demonstrates that there have been students who have posted things that have ultimately cost students a space. Given this, here are a few things that students should avoid when posting on social media – or: the top 5 commandments of social media.

#1 Don’t Offend

Never post anything that could be interpreted as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, bullying or threatening to anyone. (There is a part of me that wishes to not include this advice. Any student who does post these kinds of things deserves to get close scrutiny about their character.)

#2 Don’t Show Off

Avoid coming across as what William Deresiewicz calls, in the most read article in the history of The New Republic: Don’t Send Your Kid To the Ivy League, “an entitled little sh*t”. While I disagree with the author on many points (his categorization of most students as “excellent sheep”, for example), I think he does know that many in education are not impressed when students flash their wealth and privilege. A student posting a photo of their brand new Ferrari will likely find most admission officers will not be thinking this makes for a great student (the development office is another story). Admission officers work untold hours for less than great salaries trying to select a class of students who will contribute to the community in and out of class. Those who come across as reveling in privilege convey a trait that is not encouraged on campuses. Knowing your audience is one of the first rules of writing: in a recent survey approximately 30% of admission officers say they look at a student’s social media during the admission process.

#3 Don’t Curse

Avoid F bombs and other profanity. It amazes me when I see students posting on Facebook or Twitter that their teacher is an “expletive deleted” for assigning homework or a paper at an inconvenient time.

#4 Stick To General Audiences

Rock and Roll is okay, but drugs and sex are not. Despite what students may think, references to dancing with molly do not constitute cool coded discourse. Coded references to other acts are pretty easy to uncode too. While most students would never post X-rated things on social media, some students post at least PG-13 photos. While it is wonderful that students are young and look great, being in state of near nudity does not work well with most admission officers.

#5 Think Before You Post

My last caveat is, at least in some ways, the most controversial. The advice about things not to talk about at dinner parties—politics and religion—also applies to some degree to social media. Or at least this applies to those who might post things that would go against the core beliefs of the vast majority of admission officers. I write this on the day after the midterm elections and I have seen many posts from people in admission and education about how terrible it is that Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Remember what I said about audience? If you are reveling in a Republican victory on social media you are not going to have many advocates in admission offices. While free speech is the law of the land, we still live in what one writer calls Moral Tribes: those who hold views contrary to our own are often not given the same consideration as those who do.



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