image credit: http://www.visualstorytelling.com
This past week, I was asked to participate in the creation of a web video series for the graduate college. These videos were to be a series of videos to help prepare graduate students coming to the university. The section I was selected to help out with was a discussion on using social media as a graduate student. The video was a conversation with the VP of Institutional Research, who is also a professor in the school of communication, the Director of Career and Student Employment Services, and myself. We talked about the pros, cons, and just general ideas about using social media as a graduate student. During this conversation, I described social media as a digital cafeteria. Reflecting back, it could not have been the more perfect analogy to describe the world we know as Social Media
Your Table is Your Network
You have the ability to choose whatever table you want to sit at and you get to choose who sit's at the table with you. This is similar to your networks online. Even Twitter has the ability to block an unwanted guest at your table. You have the ability to hop from table to table in the same sense that you can have multiple sites, each containing your network. You can make the table as big or as small as you want.
Your Volume of Voice: Who is truly hearing you?
You have the ability to speak real quiet and to a select few people. You also have the ability to stand up on the table and scream at the top of your lungs. Ultimately, your network is the one that is going to hear you the most and others may listen in, but they are too having their own conversations. In fact, the louder you are, the more people may be annoyed with you, so be careful of how you are saying things.
You Don't Know if the People Walking by are Listening
We take social media for granted. Many of us believe that what we say, even with the safest and strictest settings, is protected from those we don't want to hear. Much like the people that walk by in the cafeteria, you don't know who is ultimately listening to you. They may not be at your table, but they may have a friend in common and magically come across your conversation. All of sudden, you are no longer safe.
What you Say Should be Expected to be Heard by All
It was shared to me that you should be "personally professional" with your social networks. Feel free to be you, but be aware that "private" is not really private. Have a professional sense of self, even if all you are talking about is the Superbowl or the latest episode of Revenge. If a future employer stumble upon your stuff, because you are all a member of the same cafeteria, would you be embarrassed?
What does your table in the digital cafeteria look like? Have you Googled yourself lately? How can you clean your place up so that anyone can sit at your table?