Chances are pretty high that you have a Facebook account.

And maybe also Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat.

According to recent statistics, over 60% of the total Australian population is an active monthly user on Facebook (Social Media Statistics Australia – December 2016). That’s a lot of users.

But are we making the most of our social networks? No, we aren’t, reports Ryan Homes in a recent Fortune article.

It’s not our ability to connect with friends and family that is the problem. We get full marks for liking a friend’s post, sharing a cat video, or posting a photo of what we ate today.

But Millennials, ‘often fail to understand the professional opportunities and pitfalls posed by networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram’ (Fortune 2014).

For students and recent graduates entering the workforce, you may want to brush up on your social media skills.

This resource was developed from content provided by Queensland University of Technology. Their contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

Look after yourself

Social media can be a great way to connect with friends and keep up to date with what's happening, but it has its downsides too.

Internet addiction

Do you fall asleep in bed with your phone in your hand? Would you go on a holiday without Internet access? Do you know what motivates you to go online?

The Internet offers a wealth of procrastination opportunities but heavy reliance can become compulsive and even addictive.

Internet addiction means you’re spending so much time online that friendships, study, work commitments and even your health may suffer.

According to the Better Health Channel, Internet addiction is controversial: ‘Medical opinion is divided on whether Internet addiction exists as a mental disorder in its own right or whether it’s an expression of pre-existing mental disorders or behavioural problems.

‘For example, a person who compulsively trawls the Internet for online gambling venues may have a gambling problem rather than an Internet addiction’.

Cyberbullies and trolls

Cyberbullying is repeated and targeted abuse using technological tools such as social media, texts or emails.

This can include hurtful messages or videos, excluding others online, nasty gossip and identity theft.

If you're feeling harassed and distressed as a victim of bullying, there is something you can do about it. Talk to someone you trust, or contact the Griffith University Counselling Service.

Be sure to block the bully, change your privacy settings and report inappropriate content to the relevant social media network.

Also, collect evidence of the bullying. Print or take a screen shot of all those nasty messages, posts, or photos. And remember, you didn’t ask for this. Nobody deserves to be bullied.

Trolling is slightly different. It’s when ‘a user anonymously abuses or intimidates others online for fun. They purposely post inflammatory statements, not as a way to bully or harass other people, but to watch the reactions’.

Trolls are fed by engagement and conversation. They can be found on website comments voicing an inflammatory or controversial view. Learn to ignore them. They are not here for debate - they're fishing for responses.

The same can be said in sharing or liking images or videos of real people being humiliated. Consider if you'd like that image to be of you. The very least you can do is not give the abuser an audience.

Protect yourself

Griffith University, social media and you

One of the tricky aspects of social media is the increasing blurriness between personal and professional boundaries.

You may become Facebook ‘friends’ with a student working with you on a group assignment - even though they might not be your friend at all.

Because of these blurred boundaries, it’s often confusing to know what role Griffith University has to play in your online life.

Most of the time, the university does not take any interest in what you do online. There are some instances, however, where Griffith does take an interest in what’s happening.

These include:

  • When a Griffith University student or staff member is involved in harassment, bullying or discrimination
  • When a university policy is violated (e.g. If threats are made towards students and staff)
  • When university resources are involved (e.g. If you use a university computer to conduct illegal or inappropriate activity)
  • When the Griffith University logo is used without permission.

Managing security online

Having different passwords for different sites is one way to keep your personal and financial information safe online.

But there are so many sites that require you to login with a password. How do you keep track of all them? Well, one easy way to remember all your passwords is to create a master password.

The master password should be a combination of letters and numbers e.g. mpie2r (my password is easy to remember).

You then modify the master password for each site. So, your password for Pinterest might be mpie2rpin while your password for Tumblr might be mpie2rtum.

Having a strong password is another way to keep your information secure. You may choose an obvious password like 'password' or ‘123456’ because it’s easier to remember and you don't think you'll be hacked.

But it could happen. Spend a few extra minutes creating a secure password that will deter hackers. The safety of your personal and financial information is well worth the effort.

Another way to maintain your security online is to avoid opening spam and clicking on random links. Some spam is incredibly well disguised but chances are:

  • You haven’t won $1000000 in a lottery fund
  • That Nigerian prince who wants your bank details is not a prince
  • Your bank won’t request your password or account details online

Managing privacy online

Would you get changed in the middle of Queen Street Mall, use a toilet installed in your lecture theatre or give out your private phone number to a random passer-by? Why not? The answer is privacy.

You may not think of online privacy in the same way as privacy in the real world but it’s just as important. Disclosing information in an online thread or conversation may seem harmless but that information is available to more than just your chosen friends.

Applying strict privacy settings on sites such as Facebook is better than having a completely public profile. But it doesn’t mean that sensitive information you may want to keep private will stay private.

Regardless of the settings you impose, anyone with access to the information can take a screenshot and share private information with the world.

Data mining and data tracking is another aspect of online privacy worth thinking about. Ever seen advertisements for items you’ve been browsing on other sites? This happens because websites use data tracking and cookies to target advertising to consumers.

Social media and the law

In 2012, a young man posted a series of defamatory tweets about a former teacher. A lawsuit was filed and the teacher was awarded more than $100 000 in damages.

This case highlights how something seemingly private and shared with friends can have much bigger consequences.

Even though social media and its relationship to the law is still a grey area, there are an increasing number of cases involving social media. These cases often involve the use of social media to commit crimes usually associated with the offline world.

People often think they will get away with making a nasty comment or posting an inappropriate photo online. This is especially true of social networks that claim users are anonymous.

In reality, if a case is serious enough, the Australian Federal Police have the power to request data and IP addresses – the anonymity only extends so far.

Everything that happens online is recorded, even if it’s been deleted.

Social media can be a great way of making yourself stand out from the crowd so that you can land a job.

Crafting an online identity

It's easy to forget that what you say and do online carries the same weight as if it occurred in the 'real world'. Your online identity affects you so it makes sense that it should be shaped in your favour.

Professional social media sites such as LinkedIn can be used to showcase your education, experience and talent. These sites also help you network by connecting you with peers in your industry and possible future employers.

You might think that posting a photo, making a comment or liking something online is harmless but that post or ‘like’ might come back to bite you down the track. How will you explain that unflattering photo or derogatory blog post at a job interview?

Social media content created years ago can easily be retrieved. For example, the whole Twitter archive of more than 400 billion tweets can be searched.

Popular social networking sites such as Facebook have an expectation that you use your real name when you open an account. So any information about you, positive or negative, can be found in just a few clicks.

Social media and your resume

When you finish your degree you will be one of hundreds or even thousands of graduates applying for a job. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need an online resume.

With an online resume, you can capitalise on networks that may not be as easy to access in your offline interactions. These networks include CEOs, professionals in your field, recruiters and other key influencers who you would not normally get to meet. Elon Musk is just a few clicks away!

You can also demonstrate more skills than a paper-based resume. You can show:

  • Creative thinking
  • Competence with ICTs
  • Ability to think ‘outside the box’
  • Initiative

One of the easiest, and most popular forms of an online resume is a LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an popular social networking tool with over 400 million members worldwide.

Use LinkedIn to create a professional profile and network with your industry. Find out how to optimise your LinkedIn profile with our Learning@Griffith eModule.

Social media in the workplace

Recent studies have shown that social media interaction during the workday helps boost productivity and retention.

Depending on your discipline, you might use social media for:

  • Marketing and promoting your business
  • Communicating with your colleagues or clients
  • Researching your competitors
  • Following experts in your field

To make social media work for you, it’s important to know the purpose of each social networking tool and the different communication styles required.

Depending on the platform, there may be different standards of communication. On Twitter, it may be perfectly acceptable 4 ppl 2 tlk lyk dis while on LinkedIn you may need to talk like this.

Many industries and disciplines have social media policies that govern how employees use social media in their personal and professional lives. For example, all registered health practitioners in Australia come under the AHPRA Social Media Policy.

Find out whether your employer or industry has social media guidelines before you use social media in the workplace.

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