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How to Improve your Social Media Safety

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at JMU chapter.

In our social media world, being connected 24/7, we often forget to think before we post. Sharing pictures, posts and videos may seem harmless at the time, but they can have serious implications that could impact our future plans. I am sure we have all heard (and are sick of) the social media safety spiel, yet there are still stories about college students not getting a job or being fired from a post on their seemingly personal website. The truth is, what we assume is private is most likely not.
Privacy settings do exist, but unfortunately, nowadays information can be easily accessed with the right tools. This is not to scare away people using social networks, but rather a few safety tips to ensure you practice and continually monitor online reputation management.  In today’s economy, the competition is already tough, so do you really want one false move online to tarnish your future reputation of landing your dream job?

1. Use caution when clicking links: Often we receive messages from friends on a social website that are actually spam; don’t necessarily trust that the message is really from who it says it’s from.
2. Do not allow social networking sites to scan your email address book: Here is a tip I never really think about. When you join a new social network, there are often offers to enter your email address to find out if you have
any contacts already connected with this specific site.

However, the site may then spam all of those addresses, including yours.

3. Be selective about whom you accept as a friend—and whom you maintain as a friend: This seems obvious: do not accept anyone you do not know. We often forget that the people we are already connected to may display inappropriate content that can get traced back to you, often making you look just as guilty.
4. Assume everything you put on a social networking site is permanent: This is often a hard concept to grasp since we live in an age where our private lives are now very public. However, even if you delete certain photos, someone may have already saved those images to their desktop, which unfortunately has a way of resurfacing later.

5. Avoid over sharing: Here is the rule, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. More importantly, don’t say anything you would not normally share with a prospective employer. Experts say it is a good tip to refrain from talking politics or religion at work, so the same applies for your personal site. Be mindful of joining specific groups that may be considered politically incorrect or may potentially rub someone the wrong way. 

6. Watch out for video sharing: I am sure you remember the Duke University scandal where a group of students sent a PowerPoint presentation about their sexual encounters to a few friends—and then it went viral. You do not always know what the receiving party will do with the videos you have shared, especially when it is unsuitable content.

7. Stay offline when under the influence: This is especially important in a college atmosphere. Many of us have been guilty of “drunk Facebooking” and while it may seem harmless to post a funny video or photograph of the evening, this will certainly cast a negative light on your online persona.

8. Stop complaining: We have all seen the status updates ranging from, “My Econ Professor is an idiot,” “My boss is so annoying,” or “I am so sick of school, skipping class today!” Avoid speaking negatively about school, current or previous jobs, employers, classmates, or professors. Often, it does not take a genius to figure out whom you are talking about and lets face it, no employer wants to hire somebody who is badmouthing them behind their back. Summing this up, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it at all.

9. Be consistent—but separate social networking from job networking:You want to make sure that your job and education information on your social network matches your information on your resume. You do not want to be caught in a lie during an interview. However, that being said, you also want to avoid using social networking for professional networking. I am a huge fan of LinkedIn.com in searching for jobs and making relevant connections

10. Google yourself: A potential employer will most likely turn to Google first to find quick information about you. This is especially important with people who have uncommon names (such as myself) so be aware of what is posted about you. The faster you take care of questionable content, the better. By evaluating your online reputation, you can see what your Google search is saying about you—and if this information is accurate or not. LinkedIn and Twitter generally jump to the top of the Google search because of the overwhelming amount of incoming links, so make sure to keep these professional! Another tip: comment on career-related blogs and participate in relevant online forums to create a more robust and positive online reputation!
By staying smart and knowing the dangers of posting inappropriate content, you are on your way to creating an excellent online reputation. The payoff in the end will be great when you are applying for jobs and talking with prospective employers. Do not let a little mistake impact your hiring process, especially when these mistakes can be easily avoided with a little social media savvy and safety!
Chantal Johnson is a senior at James Madison University, studying Media Arts and Design with a concentration in Digital Video and Cinema. Aside from Her Campus JMU, she is involved with University Program Board. Chantal loves hanging out with her friends, listening to her "feel good" playlist on her iPod, or just curling up with a really good book in her spare time. Chantal loves her hometown, Roanoke,Virginia, but can't wait to graduate and explore her opportunities around the world! Within the next 10 years, Chantal's dream job would be becoming "the next Shonda Rhimes"!