Understanding the Long Term Impact of Your Social Media Self

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Learn social media savvy at your library
by Rebecca Walden

An old carpentry adage advises “measure twice, cut once.” The point? Be certain about what you are about to do before you do it. This message certainly holds true in the world of social media, which offers immediate gratification but also a permanent electronic footprint.

Read on to learn how you can best use social media tools to your advantage, and how to minimize your chances of being burned by them. 

Put your best foot forward
A is for account settings. Know them well, and use them wisely.

Beth Gallaway, chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association's Advocacy Task Force, covers this and other critical primers in the popular social media training program she delivers to librarians and their teen patrons across the United States.

“We cover privacy, safety, and identity. First, we talk about why it's better to use an avatar than a photo of oneself or a copyrighted image. Next, we look at account settings in Facebook. [We also cover] how to set up groups, how to turn off location and advertising settings, how to eliminate apps and how to untag photos.”

Think you know all there is to know about account settings? On many apps, they change frequently. To make sure you’re not operating under a false sense of security, consult with your library for resources that can help you stay ahead of this ever-shifting learning curve.

Beyond vigilantly managing your account settings, you should also act as the chief protagonist in building your social media presence. “The best way to manage your online reputation is to put out as much positive content about yourself, under your real name as possible,” says Anastasia Goodstein, Ypulse.com founder and author of Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online. “That way when people search under your name, they will hopefully see links like your LinkedIn profile, thoughtful blog comments or an online portfolio.”

Words can never hurt me?
Even if you are vigilant about what you proactively promote on the social media stage, what happens if something unflattering is posted? What recourse do you have?

“The reality is that once something is out there, it’s really hard to completely erase it from the web,” says Goodstein. “If there is something out there that you can’t get rid of, learn how to speak about it as an experience you learned from to any potential employer or college admissions counselor who might bring it up. Thinking twice before hitting ‘publish’ is essential, but so is being able just to speak thoughtfully to what’s out there and the context that it was posted in.”

Kick it up a notch
Sure, it’s fun to share pictures and witty anecdotes from your day, but remember to work social media tools to your advantage, which can help open the door to a host of opportunities.

“The library can create programs that focus on social media and what it can offer a teen’s future beyond just connecting with friends,” says Lynette Schimpf, assistant manager of reference central, Orange County (Fla.) Library System. “We can also connect teens to companies, organizations, and databases that offer a social media component that could lead them to scholarship, employment, internship, or development opportunities.”

Resources List

"How to Clean Up Your Facebook Profile", Mashable

"Life Online", Girl Scouts of America

"Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens", Federal Trade Commission

NSTeens, National Center for Missing and Exploited Childeren

"Internet Safety for Teens", Washington State Office of the Attorney General

Teens and Social Media: the use of social media gains a greater foothold in teen life as they embrace the conversational nature of interactive online media by Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, and Aaron Whitman Smith

"Adolescent Weblog Use: Risky or Protective?" by Brandy L. McCormick

"'I'll See You on IM, Text, or Call You': A Social Network Approach of Adolescents' Use of Communication Media" by Katrien Van Cleemput

"To Tweet, or Not To Tweet: Gender Differences and Potential Positive and Negative Health Outcomes of Adolescents' Social Internet Use" by Melissa Pujazon-Zazik

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