Five Social Networking Slipups to Avoid as a College Freshman

With terms like “Facebook official” and “Facebook me” infiltrating vocabulary, there’s no denying the role that social networking now plays in the college world.  Students have apps for Facebook and Twitter on their phones, allowing them to access these social media sites at anytime.  Some professors have gone so far as to integrate these sites into their course work.  While Facebook and Twitter seem to be the social media giants at the time of this article, they are not the only social media sites available or accessed by students, and all social media sites share one important thing in common: There are risks associated with using them despite their convenience and appeal.  College freshman are particularly at risk for making social media faux pas because they’re often taking their first steps out of the nest and into the real world where decisions are their own.  There’s no more Net Nanny and mom looking over your shoulder.  So, since choices regarding social networking falls to you, here are five slipups you’ll want to avoid:

5.  Do not post inappropriate status updates and pictures.  Inappropriate statements and pictures on the internet have a way of coming back around to bite you in the butt when you least expect it.  Inappropriate comments are bound to offend someone in some way.  Pictures are likely to end up in the wrong hands.  Parents learn about social activities that you’d wish they wouldn’t.  And in today’s social-media friendly world, many employers are beginning to check the web (including social media sites) for information prior to offering positions.  You never know when something you said or revealed on a social media site can affect your life in a big way.

4.  Do not let social networking sites replace your face-to-face social life.  Social media has allowed innately shy folks to communicate and build relationships without the social awkward moments face-to-face contact can include.  However, college is about being present and belonging.  If you hide in social media, you’ll never have the chance to connect with other first year students.  Those awkward moments may exist, but far better to live through them and learn from them than let college pass you by.  Make the most of your college years, and leave social media for the moments when face-to-face isn’t possible

3.  Do not “Facebook like it’s your job.” (Feel free to replace Facebook with the site you prefer.)  Social networking sites have an addictive quality to them that can certainly take over your life.  Not only can social media deter you from connecting on a personal level with other first year students at your college as indicated above, but it can also become a huge distraction from your academic studies.  You’re in college to pursue agree, not to rack up friends and followers.  There’s a time and a place for social media, but using it to avoid your term paper is a quick way to academic probation.

2.  Do not give away too much information or forget to change your privacy settings. This point is about general safety and is probably one of those things that adults in your life have been harping about since the internet became popular.  But it’s still as important today as it was when you were young and exploring the dangerous world of the web.  Not only do you need to worry about predators, but theft is a big problem and the information you share can put you at risk. Furthermore, some sites have a way of changing their privacy policies and putting your information out to the public. Be sure to stay on top of that and keep your profiles and statuses locked down tightly to avoid potential dangers.

1.  Do not underestimate the purpose and influence of social networking sites.  Despite  the potential dangers and negative associations of social media, one of the least recognized misuses of social media is neglecting to use it thoroughly and properly.  There are a ton of sites available today to create all kinds of networks—social and professional—that can really enhance your life and your learning while you’re in college and beyond.  Take advantage of what social media sites have to offer, explore, use trial and error.  Today, many colleges are using social media to advertise events, giveaways, and important updates about their campuses.  Having a solid understanding of social media sites can enhance classroom learning beyond the three credit hours you spend on a subject in a given week.  Other sites can help you build strong networks with other professionals while you’re in college, which can help you once you’ve graduated.  It’s never too early to start planning ahead.

Be safe and smart when it comes to the use of social media websites and avoid the common pitfalls so that you’re freshman year of college can be well-connected and smooth sailing.  With all the things to avoid, there’s one positive tip to keep in mind: Use your best judgment and air on the side of caution.  If you do those things, you’re likely to avoid a lot of the mistakes that college freshman often make.  And if you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.  That haunting picture on Facebook may indeed get you in some trouble with your folks or cost you a job you wanted—those are the breaks—but it won’t destroy your life.  Happy posting!