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Social media etiquette in the Digital Age

Most young people eagerly embrace the idea of sending personal information out into the Internet abyss, anticipating that it will be shared with friends, attractive strangers and maybe that weird guy Tom. Social media has evolved too fast to truly comprehend the impact it has on everything, from the ability to get a job to having a successful relationship.

In an overly connected world, not participating is becoming less of an option. What can students do to control their web presence?

Understand privacy settings

“One thing they [students] have to recognize is that it is in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s best interests to share as much of your content as possible; they are trying to make money from advertising,” Dr. Amelia Arsenault, communications professional and assistant professor of journalism at Georgia State, said.

Social media websites are constantly updating permissions to revert back to the share default. Keeping this in mind, students need to stay on top of permission updates and at least attempt to read the changes made. Just because your settings are O.K. today doesn’t mean they will be the same tomorrow.

Use your voice, but don’t silence others

It is natural to be passionate in your beliefs and opinions, and social media is a great way to voice them. But respect that other people are just as passionate about their own views as you are of yours.

“All discussions should remain civil,” Dr. Matt J. Duffy, former Georgia State professor and communications professional, said. “I have a friend on Facebook who starts off every comment with ‘This is stupid,’ and I can’t think of a worse way to start a discussion. You can think the opposing position is stupid, but try to engage without name-calling.”

Social media can serve as a forum to inform and have discussions with others about the events that affect us. When having these discussions, remember to remain civil and be respectful. Insulting someone’s opinion doesn’t make yours any more valid.

Categorize your platforms

“Figure out which is your social media tool that you’re going to use for friends and keep that private, and pick which one you think is going to eventually be your public face,” Arensault suggested.

It doesn’t matter which social media platform you choose to use for what, but it’s important to separate your professional and private profiles online. This will allow you the freedom to use at least one social media profile as an outlet of pure self-expression and will help you to feel better about limiting your personal opinions on professional social media profiles.

Know when it’s time to take a break

For avid social media users, scrolling, liking and posting has been integrated into their daily lives. It is important to remember that while being connected is great, unplugging from time to time helps retain sanity.

“When ‘checking in’ has become more important than actual human contact, you may want to think about taking a break,” Duffy said.

Even Aull, whose job requires him to constantly be online for clients such as Atlanta Bread Company, Graphic Packaging International and YMCAs of Metro Atlanta, acknowledges that everyone needs to step away sometimes.

“Because of all my different clients and projects, I would keep social media tabs open on my browser throughout the day,” Aull said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I had to take that off because I spend too much time going back and checking it.

“I try to limit my use to a couple of times a day and I think people should take time to detox at some point,” he said.

When in doubt, don’t post

Being able to articulate oneself is an acquired skill. In college, students are at that stage of life where mistakes are expected, but are no longer easily excused by age or ignorance.

“One thing I run into time again are students [who] use it more personally and have content and words that would be offensive in the business setting,”Professor Jacob Aull, a digital marketing professional and part-time lecturer of social media marketing at Georgia State, said. “The unfortunate thing is that [social media] should be a platform for personal expression, but as more businesses continue to utilize social media, it is no longer just that.”

Look past the moment and take time and ask yourself who will be seeing this. Could it easily be taken out of context? Can you think of a way to better articulate your thoughts? Odds are, if you have to question whether or not you should post, you probably shouldn’t.

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