Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

Social media. The new catalyst for information that is so detailed with every step you take, it can even be used to solve criminal cases. In fact CNN reported a case in Cincinnati where, “police dismantled a local street gang and arrested 71 people in 2008 following a large nine-month investigation that used social media to identify key members”. If this level of reliance on social media was taken by our police in 2008, nine years later in 2017 we can assume this level has not dissipated, but risen.

So, if cops can use social media to track my threat level to the state, my criminal activity, location, and so on… what does that mean for my employer?

The road to navigating a balance between personal social media usage and professional aesthetic is not an easy one, and often it is the less travelled. A lot of the time we see social media pages filled with LinkedIn style headshots and a list of every accomplishment under the sun said person has achieved in order to appear professional to possible employers. But is this realistic? And furthermore, do these people even seem real? Or do they seem a little but “robotic”. It’s understandable why people would curate their social media in this fashion but in a world where everyone is plugged in this could create a feeling of “false advertising” or “too good to be true”.

Then, on the other hand, we have the active social media-ites who say they don’t care what the world will throw at them they will be their crazy selves on and offline. I can appreciate these people for their boldness and ability to put so much faith in themselves. However, for majority of us, we are simply trying to fit in and give a little bit of both. I want to look human and real but also professional. This is not an easy task.

With regards to hiring, curating your feed for an employer has never been more important. You want good quality photos that show your charm and excellence at the same time. Additionally, the captions should be modest and tasteful so as not to offend anyone, but that’s not all. In the current society we live in on top of maintaining this social media presence it is now a necessary skill in many fields to be able to show you can do this cross-platform maintenance and know how to use social media extensively. This is the damned if you do, because now there is a new layer of expectations put on this youth’s generation on top of being a good communicator, professional presenter, good writer, and so on.

Here comes the damned if you don’t. If you don’t practice social media in your personal life it is likely you will not know how to use if professionally and you could end up one day wishing you never made an account. This was the case of Justine Sacco a mere two years ago in 2015. For those of you who don’t know, Justine had a high level, high paying job and she was just an average person going about her life, when everything went wrong. Justine boarded a plane for a flight to Africa to visit family and before taking off tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m white.” This racist, unsettling tweet went viral within minutes. Now, at this point Justine had her phone on airplane mode so she was not receiving any notifications. During the hours she was on the flight, her tweet got retweeted so much that the # HasJustineLandedYet had become viral. As you may have guessed, upon arrival and contact with her employer she was fired.

This is an extreme example where most of us would look at Justine and say, “why would you even think that in the first place?”, however, it is also a real example of just how drastically social media can affect our work lives.

Moving forward, it is going to be important for Millennials and Generation Z especially to watch every tweet, insta post, and status we put out there. Mom’s advice from childhood comes ringing true, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all”.

-Autumn Charalampidis