Social Media Savvy

Using Social Media to Secure a Future[1]
Deacon John Marques de Silva
Director, Office of Child Protection
Diocese of Arlington, Virginia

Most teenagers do not realize that it is common practice for College Admission Counselors (How Online Posts Affect Colleges’ Decisions) and Human Resource professionals (Your digital footprint is ruining your job application) to use the social media footprint of an applicant as a tool for decision-making. Granted, it is not the only decision factor or tool but we do know that a 2014 survey “by a social media monitor Reppler found that 91 percent of recruiters use social media to screen candidates.” And, then there is the famous 2013 New York Times article, They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets which demonstrated how colleges are using applicants digital footprints to assist in their acceptance decision.

That is the bad news but there is good news too. Students and graduates have the opportunity to create digital footprints that will help them create a profile to showcase themselves to prospective colleges and employers. Here are our Five (or so) Tips that we should teach our youth:

1.     Create a digital footprint that showcases your interests, experience and talents. I know, social media is just for fun and communicating with my friends and relatives. Except it is not. Each post, tweet, etc. creates an evolving narrative about you. Be purposeful in what you share and realize that it will most likely be passed on.
2.     Manage your digital footprint. Your footprint includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Pintrest, photos, online gaming profiles, cell phone message, cell phone apps, etc. Therefore, we should ask:
o    Is our profile name suitable? Avoid names that would cast you in a poor light or one that has a double entendre.
o    Do we know who is viewing our posts or tweets? Use privacy settings to manage who is viewing your profile and allow those who are trustworthy and who have a vested interest in your success. Accumulating random friends or followers just to boost numbers is a great way to invite trouble.
o    Are our posts appropriate, thought provoking and free of negative comments? My mom always used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Vent in person, not online. Post comments that add to a conversation not create commotion. If you are going to say something, be clear, concise and conscientious.
o    Would we be willing to share our posted photos with our boss, parents, principal, and/or priest? If a picture paints 1,000 words, what are you saying?
o    Are the photos my friends and relatives tagging me in appropriate? Untag yourself from pictures or posts that are inappropriate or connect you to others that would cause harm to your reputation. Remember, it is not just what you are doing in a photo but what others may be doing behind or beside you. Many teachers have either lost jobs or were unable to obtain them do to photos of them at college parties or wineries that their employer didn’t want parents to see.
o    Am I giving out personal information? Always ensure that your phone number, address, banking information, birth date and full name are not online.
o   What does my mobile answering message communicate? For some, this might be their first contact with you. Let’s ensure it is polite and leaves the individual with a favorable impression.

3.     Contribute to the conversation. Choose groups, blogs and discussion groups that promote your interests, values and talents. Then contribute to the conversation in a constructive manner that demonstrates that you have thought through the subject and want to further its progress. Hit-and-run negative campaigning is always self-defeating. Frankly, a cogent and well-thought-out argument typically wins the day.
4.     Be responsible. Give credit where credit is due. By properly referencing and citing your sources, you not only demonstrate your research skills, but also show you respect subject matter experts. Who knows? Maybe you will catch their eye and be cited yourself.
5.     Monitor your digital footprint regularly. By Googling yourself regularly, you can see what the internet is saying about you and what others can see. Remember, there is nothing private on the “World Wide Web.” once it enters the cloud, it is there saecula saeculorum.

For more information on the positive use of social media by our youth, consider resources such as Light, Bright and Polite by Jeffrey Ochs, or The Church and the New Media by Brandon Vogt.

The Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, particularly appreciates the Popular App Guide for Parents and Teachers, which provides short 2- to 5-minute videos of the most popular teen social media applications, as well as a downloadable PDF with a thumbs-up or down evaluation and description of those same social media apps.

For the full issue in which this article appears, click here


BIO: Deacon Silva is the Director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. He earned his BS from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and completed his diaconal studies through Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He is currently the Director for Child Protection and Safety for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and is assigned to St. Leo the Great parish in Fairfax, VA. Deacon Silva has already written Working in Child and Youth Protection: A Deacon’s Perspective for The Healing Voices Magazine.


[1] Previously published in the Arlington Diocesan Office of Child Protection Newsletter, April 16, 2016 © Copyright All Rights Reserved.

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