NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

The next time you are miserable at work and want to share your unhappiness on social media, you may want to exercise some restraint. This is because an increasing number of organizations are scanning the social media presence of prospective employees, and are unlikely to hire someone who has demonized a former superior. Just one example of this is the case of an Edmonton-based Canada Post clerk, who posted inappropriate comments about the management at her workplace on Facebook and was subsequently fired.

As individuals who are soon to enter a competitive, global job market, these practices concern university students directly. The internet has become the first point of contact for students looking for internships and jobs. Websites for both major and minor organizations make information freely accessible to accommodate, or perhaps respond to, this trend.

Similarly, as noted by Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith, the use of social media has become an indispensable part of job hunts. In fact, students can proactively pursue the job hunt by following or liking the social media pages of companies that they are interested in.

Therefore, it is imperative to understand that it is the way in which students use social media — not the medium itself — that may create professional hurdles in the future. If students post photographs of themselves indulging in various substances, make prejudiced comments on an online forum, or lie about their qualifications, they are likely to sabotage their employment prospects.

It is imperative to understand that it is the way in which students use social media — not the medium itself — that may create professional hurdles in the future.

An example of online activity that has been popular among students and that can damage both their employment prospects and their lives, is the infamous drinking game called “Neknominate,” which has quickly become popular around the world. The game, which requires players to drink a substantial amount of alcohol and then perform a certain task, is filmed and posted on Facebook by onlookers. Consequently, it remains there for anyone to view, and becomes incriminating evidence of idiocy against those who have participated in it. While some players are ridiculed for their stupidity — such as in the case of students holding a peer upside down in order to enable him to drink from a toilet bowl — other games have ended in injury, or even death.

There is a certain degree of peer pressure involved in the online antics of student, so there is plenty that universities can do to help. First-year students, upon arriving at university, are often educated about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption and unprotected sex, and this practice can be applied to the dangers of thoughtless posting. Explaining the patterns of peer pressure that influence our online posts to students is a further, helpful step, as it discourages students from participating in highly risky and careless behaviour.

A lack of awareness of the potential consequences of online carelessness among students can also be addressed by actively sharing this information on campus. For example, colleges can encourage their career advice centres to conduct specific seminars to educate students about what is and what is not acceptable to post online.

At an individual level, students can help each other by spreading awareness about this issue among their circle of friends. Students may remove potentially controversial information from their social media profiles, while being extremely careful about the contents of future posts. This may be challenging given an emerging global culture of instant sharing and detailed, regular expression of personal beliefs, and can only be achieved through focused effort.

Colleges can encourage their career advice centres to conduct specific seminars to educate students about what is and is not acceptable to post online.

Social media is slowly, but surely, becoming pervasive in all spheres of human interaction. Therefore, it is likely that its role in our professional lives will continue to expand. It is clear that, if not used wisely, it can harm students’ career prospects. Therefore, we must make a conscious effort to use it thoughtfully.

Sonali Gill is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying criminology and international relations.

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