Generation Z includes people born after 2000. For the most part, this is the bulk of our students. Gen Z kids are known to be very tech savvy and always “hip” with social media and networks. It’s incredible! But is it really?
Recently a student reached out to us to learn more about studying in North America. The student contacted us through Facebook, which we use frequently to advertise and connect with students and schools. Their profile was public, so we clicked to learn more. I was impressed to learn that the student went to USIU- Africa (my alma matter) and did a course I didn’t even know existed at the institution (it doesn’t). The student had also worked with a large local media group and is currently the Directing Manager of a renowned software company. Did I mention this is a teenager? See what I’m getting at?
Freedom of expression is an important value, but there is always a responsibility that comes with every action. We can post whatever we want on social media, but as long as the content is public, anyone – including university staff – can go through our pages. The student we mentioned above clearly has some things to work out, unless they really are a 17-year-old diamond in the rough, in which case, we’d like to work with them.
The following are a few tips for students to be careful about when sharing, commenting and liking things on social media.
1.Have a complete, accurate and relevant profile.
This has to be the most important one. Make sure your profile is always updated and presents true and relevant information about you. Lying about where you work and study is detrimental. It is better for a student not to share any information about their work experience than lie that they are a big shot. University personnel may review your social media pages when they are awarding scholarships, or even when making an admission decision. Even athletic coaches are reviewing Facebook pages and Instagram posts of potential recruits.
Another important component of your profile is your name and picture. Names are meant to identify us. A person with the name Princess Smiley Queen on Facebook is going to be hard to recognize, so hopefully she has posted an appropriate picture of herself. As an international student, you’re sending your passport details page to schools when you apply, which happens to have your photo. If they check your accounts and see wildly inappropriate pictures, they may assume unlikely things about your self. There is nothing wrong with using pet names and nicknames. However, a student must be careful with the names they use. Try to avoid using profane, sexual and superficial names that make it impossible for someone to know it is you! This is also applied to email addresses as articulated in a previous article here.
2.Avoid associating with posts/pages that advocate illegal behavior
When someone says “illegal behavior” naturally our mind take us to violence and crime. Illegal behavior comes in many forms including illegal drugs, illegal music, illegal information, etc. Often times young people like sharing, liking and joining random pages on social media. These pages may be popular, but what makes them popular may be illegal in the home country. For example, marijuana is legal in a few states in the US, but it is illegal in Kenya. This does not stop Kenyan students from sharing jokes about the drug and advocating its use through music and other forms of media. Whereas this is not committing a crime of any sort, it is easy for a potential university recruiter to assume that a person is involved in the act if they advocate for it in the first place. It may be legal in some parts of the US, but it can still be illegal on college campuses. Be careful and have a good understanding of the groups you join, the pages you like and posts you share on social media.
3.Keep the inappropriate pictures for your personal album
Social media can be a free space and sharing pictures is part of the fun. But the whole world doesn’t need to see you topless, drunk, or dancing on the bar top, especially any faculty or staff at universities who you may have befriended (trust me, if they accept your request, they will put you on “limited view” as a way to keep things professional). If your profile is public, maybe ask yourself if your grandma would approve of those pictures. If not, make a private album. Be aware of your environment and the people who follow you. Some people are all right with being very open in public and that is fine. Where the professional market is concerned, I believe a silent universal agreement is made on a certain level of decency. Plus, if your professor saw a picture of you half drunk and half naked from the weekend, how do you expect to him/her to give you the notes you missed while sleeping through class?
4.Is your social network an accurate reflection of who you are?
This is particularly important for students. Social media has become a way for us to get to know one another. When students join universities and have to share a room with a strange roommate, it is very common to find them learning about one another through social media like Facebook. If you have randomly liked Backstreet Boys on their Facebook page, don’t be surprised if your roommate gets you their Best Hits CD (which she picked from her mum’s old music collection) as a welcoming gift.
5.Add them only if you know them (personally)
“We have 500 mutual friends, although I don’t know you = add!”
Facebook has a friend limit of 5,000 and this has been maintained for years. I like that. If you want to be friends with the whole world, then open a page and have people like it. You don’t need to accept or send friend requests to every Tom, Dick and Harry you share mutual friends with. If you don’t know them and they don’t know you, be ready for that random tag that will show in different news feeds and possibly your timeline! If it is something you don’t subscribe to, of course you can ‘untag,’ but how long until you see that? Unless you are on social media 24/7 and have the time to go in and out at anytime, it may be awhile before you discover you’re tagged.
Me: At home watching The Notebook with a box of Kleenex.
Me: Logs into Facebook for distraction.
“Mr. Potato checked in with you at Burger King in Karachi.”
Me: Looks out the window and can see the tip of KICC.
These are a few suggestions from professionals who work with students can agree with. Not only does this go for students applying to universities, the same advice can be said when you’re entering to work force. Employers have higher expectations for prospects, so make sure your Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts are honest and accurate depictions of YOU.