If people said face-to-face the things they say over social media, not only would they speak with wildly improper grammar but they’d also be saying things that would be relegated to the category “T.M.I.” (too much information). Or they’d simply be boring. Or self-incriminating. Or all of the above.
Stop and think about what you send via text messages, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media. What might your future employer conclude about you from your posts? A number of students post photos of themselves engaging in heavy drinking (“my poor liver” was a recent status update I saw on Facebook). Others Tweet statements with the tags #stoned or #wasted (another thing best left to sharing f2f).
The wonderful things about new social media are that they are instantaneous, participatory, and far-reaching. These are also the horrible things about new social media–unless you use them mindfully.
A few years ago a young white student at UCLA came home from an evening of studying at the university library to record herself ranting about a racial-ethnic group that she found annoying. She posted this rant on YouTube and very soon after her “Asians in the Library” video had gone viral as an example of despicable racist attitudes. This will be something that student regrets for the rest of her life, to be sure. Even if you think you’re wise enough to share your opinions (and, whatever they are, your opinions will likely change over the next few years) in relatively private digital settings, realize that your digital footprints make even the private things you do over social media discoverable in certain contexts.
If you want your time at Appalachian to help you go on to, as our Convocation speaker Wayne Henderson put it, higher briers and bigger berries, then you’ve got to consider the emotional intelligence that good leaders have: self-awareness, self-regulation skills, social skills, empathy, and a motivation to succeed. And you’ll need to apply these skills in the digital environment.
But how do people do this? Well, they can stop posting about their being wasted or posting pictures of their recent pedicure and instead read what Josie Alquist has to say on her blog about how to take the skills of great leaders into the realm of electronic communication and social media.