If you’re growing up in the technology-obsessed world we live in you have probably heard the same lecture a million times; “Be careful what you post social media! If you post something on social media it’ll be on the internet forever!” These warnings are important to remember when posting anything on the Internet but they are frequently repeated and so rarely heeded. The last time this “beware of social media” speech was given to me the speaker was an old man who recently retired from the military listing an excruciatingly long list of all the things you shouldn’t post on social media. These were things most of us know wouldn’t look good if a college or potential employer saw them but most of us have posted anyway. When he finally arrived at the end of his list all I could think to myself was “So what can I post on social media?” When being warned about the dangers of social media usually the majority of the conversation is what not to do on social media or how social media can hurt you, rarely mentioned is how you can use social media for your own benefit.
The fact that anything posted on the Internet is on the Internet forever is a scary, daunting thought that most people keep in the very, very backs of their minds or just completely ignore, but what if we could use that scary fact to our advantage? It is easy once you are absorbed in social media to make your profile represent you as “fun”, “popular”, “hot”, or however you wish to be perceived by your friends online and forget that really anyone can access the pictures you post, no matter how much privacy you think you have. It’s no fun to worry about “what would my employer think if they saw this?” every time you post but then you have to ask yourself “why am I compelled to post pictures I know don’t represent me nobly?”
This is why I’m proposing a different way to use social media. Instead of thinking of it as a popularity and beauty contest everyone is forced into, start viewing your profile more like a resume. Post your accomplishments and projects that accurately show who you are as an individual. Think about your profile and your friends’ instagram, snapchat, and facebook profiles. All social media is people boasting about their clothes, cars, houses, vacations, meals, activities, bodies, who they’re friends with, and who they’re dating. So would it be really that radical to post your achievements and good deeds on social media? The next time you win an academic award at your school, volunteer, meet a professional you admire, or be elected to a leadership position post it on social media and see how it changes your profile.
The idea of your posts being cemented on the internet forever is now not so scary when you know it’s an achievement you’re proud of and not, say, a provocative selfie you took when you were 12. Employers and colleges now have an accurate view of who you really are and you are encouraging your friends to do something great too.
This posting of intellectual accomplishments also helps steer away from self-objectification. Self-objectification on social media is when one posts over-sexualized pictures of themselves, usually done by females to appeal to males on social media. Most social media users learn the same lesson all advertisers do: sex sells; more provocative, “sexy” pictures will usually receive more likes and positive comments. This may persuade girls to post pictures of themselves that may demean them and reduce them to sex-objects; these pictures may be well-received by males but in many cases go against the girl’s best interests. “Likes” on a post might produce some temporary sense of gratification but are they worth hurting your online reputation and what if a university recruiter or future employer sees them? What do these posts say about you as a person? And when you post images with the goal to get as much likes as possible, who are you really appealing to? Are you posting for the sole pleasure of males?
Self-objectification is a slippery slope on social media sites like Instagram because your only tool to present yourself is a photograph. But it is important to remember that pictures of yourself don’t just have to be about your body, they can be pictures of you helping your community, being a leader, or being a good role model to your peers.
On social media many girls feel pressure to make themselves seem “perfect”, “popular”, “hot”, “the life of the party”, or “rich”. Social media doesn’t have to be a beauty competition every girl is forced to compete in, with consequences like not being accepted into the college you want. It can be a place where you present your true self, your best self, with everything including your intellect, charity, and personality represented.