The Page Cannot Be Found
Internet Identity
By Christina Gonzalez '09

For many young people today, it’s hard to imagine a world without Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. Ten years ago, such social networking sites did not exist. In a short time span, social media has changed and continues to alter the way we communicate with each other, for good or for ill.

These sites allow us not only to socialize, but to meet and network with potential employers. While these are positive outcomes from social media, there are also undeniable drawbacks to sharing too much online and leaving an intractable digital footprint.

To find out how the brave new world of social media defines and affects us, we spoke with Dr. Cynthia Meyers, Associate Professor of Communication; Diane Machado, Director of Career Development and Internships; and Dr. Rajkumar Kempaiah, Assistant Professor of Business and a specialist in information technology. Here is what they had to say.

Click here to learn more about the participants.  

CM: New platforms allowing different ways of sharing, including Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, continue to develop. Video sharing sites, such as YouTube, will continue to grow in importance.

DM: It has become very mainstream. Facebook, which started as something used mostly by college students, has become something being used by people in every age group, with the largest growth in older adults. It has made it much easier for people to stay in touch and to “find” each other.

RK: Social media has become a communication vehicle and an information hub. It is a way to stay in touch with friends and family, update current information, and upload photos in real time.We have become storytellers, often without knowing it. Today, social media allows us to customize what we want to see and when we want it.

2) What trends and changes in socialmedia do you foresee on the horizon?
I predict greater specialization. Users will increasingly share with specific audiences on specific platforms, maintaining multiple social media accounts. For example, someone might use Facebook for sharing family photos; Tumblr for sharing photos about an interest such as vintage cars; YouTube for sharing baby videos; LinkedIn for professional contacts, and Twitter for celebrity gossip.

RK: More organizations will use social media to communicate to larger audiences, and to launch more exciting and creative competitions to stand out against their competitors. Search engines will be able to pull out information from social networking sites. Organizations will place more emphasis on user ratings and feedback from social media sites.

3) How has socialmedia changed the job search and hiring process?
Recent studies indicate that up to 70 percent of employers surveyed look at applicants’ Facebook profiles. Job applicants should set appropriate privacy settings on their Facebook accounts and should be sure that the public profile page is employer appropriate. Furthermore, venting about a job search or employers should take place in private and not on social media sites.

DM: It makes people much more visible in both positive and negative ways. Employers check Facebook and LinkedIn for information about candidates, sometimes even before inviting them for interviews. Candidates who demonstrate poor judgment about the kinds of things they post can be eliminated from consideration. On the positive side, both Facebook and LinkedIn have made it easier for people to network and to reach out to others who might be able to help them with the job search process.

RK: Social media is starting to become part of the criteria that hiring managers use to weed out applicants. Hiring managers conduct background checks using social networks. Many studies have noted that 80 percent of jobs are found via networking.

4) What are the positives and negatives of using social media for job hunters?
The negatives are obvious: that an employer can see posts or images that undermine a job applicant's professionalism. The positives, however, are enormous. Social media allow job applicants to present positive evidence of professionalism in a variety of ways. A well crafted blog, YouTube channel, or Facebook profile could allow an applicant to stand out to an employer, perhaps more effectively than the standard cover letter, resume, and interview.

RK: Social media is an essential tool that links business executives and job hunters. Job hunters can keep an eye on their dream employer’s tweets, posts, and updates. Some of the organizations prefer to hire people that are connected to their personal networks and sometimes their friends vouch for them or they are one of their friends. Also, sometimes organizations will be focusing on interacting with potential hires before they actively start hiring so that they get a sense of the candidate and build relationships.

5) What should students be aware of when sharing information online?
Imagine that every single thing you do or say online can be seen or read or shared with the rest of the world. Every time you post or share, ask yourself, would you want your grandmother to see it? Be aware of the constant possibility that posts can be taken out of context and/or interpreted very differently than intended.

RK: Students should be very careful of what they say online, as saying too much can undermine plans for college, career, or business. Personal and private matters should never be shared online.

6) What impact has social media had on national and world politics, global political uprisings, and giving oppressed people a voice?
Social media has played a very visible role in political change this past year. Activists in the “Arab Spring” have used Facebook and Twitter as organizing and communication tools.

However, we should keep in mind that social media themselves don't create political change. The interest in political change must come from the users, who may find social media an excellent way to spread their ideas. That social media can be such a useful tool for change is very exciting, but we should be careful not to attribute the change to the technology itself.

RK: The monopoly enjoyed by traditional media is long gone. More politicians are using social media to directly communicate with their electorates. It is transforming the way we communicate. Social media continues to play a pivotal role in scaling connections quickly between people around shared values. It is transforming the societies in the direction of democratic values. It is playing a critical role in disseminating information and countering misinformation often generated by oppressive regimes. As social media is driven by user needs, it will continue to stir up revolutions as more tools become pervasive among oppressed people around the world. Social media tools has created a level of awareness that was never seen before.

7) How has social media profoundly changed our society? What are the implications of these changes?
Technological determinists believe technologies change people. I disagree. I think people change technologies. Social media will continue to change as people find new uses, abandon older uses, and begin to build new standards for how to use them appropriately.

DM: It has been a very good tool for networking and staying in touch. People can immediately share information and photographs with a large number of people in a short time. It creates convenience in communication. Personal privacy can be compromised by these sites. It makes it harder for people to be anonymous.

RK: Social media is encouraging many young citizens to get involved in politics. More and more politicians are using social media sites to engage with voters.

About the Participants

Rajkumar Kempaiah is an assistant professor in the Department of Business and Economics and program coordinator of the MBA Program. He received his Ph.D. in information management from Stevens Institute of Technology. He is an information technology expert whose writing has been featured in Information Week.
Diane Machado is director of career development and internships at the Mount. She earned her bachelor’s from Fordham University and her master’s in student personnel administration at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a past president and member of the Metropolitan New York College Career Planning Officers Association and the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She has worked in higher education for 25 years, specifically 15 years in career development.
Cynthia Meyers is an associate professor in the Department of Communication. She received her Ph.D. from University of Texas, Austin. Dr. Meyers professional interests include media history and media industries, including television, radio, advertising, and new media. This year, her article "The Problems with Sponsorship in Broadcasting, 1930s-50s: Perspectives from the Advertising Industry,” was featured in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

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