As much as you may think your recent Instagram selfie is only between you and your friends, social media can often be viewed by anyone: including coaches, advisers and employers.
Monitoring students’ social media, especially student athletes and those on scholarship and paid positions, has become a way for some advisers and officials on campus to judge character and make decisions.
The consequences that can come from misusing social media are very real. A student athlete on the baseball team for Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania was recently kicked off the team for posting an offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis, a Little League pitcher.
Jordon Sharp, director of student involvement and leadership, said one’s online reputation is more important now than ever.
Sharp said while he does not personally choose new members of the Dixie State University Student Association, “I do encourage the DSUSA leaders to check the digital footprint of each potential leader. In addition, we teach the DSUSA leaders how to properly brand and how to avoid brand destruction online in our leadership class.”
Those who monitor the social media of students often look for red flags including provocative and inappropriate content; drug and alcohol use; bad-mouthing of others; inconsistencies in résumé qualifications; derogatory comments about race, gender, and religion; and personality traits, Sharp said.
Football Coach Scott Brumfield said he monitors the social media of his players to make sure the athletes represent the football team positively.
“I usually don’t use [social media] for background checks while recruiting, but I do look at it from time to time for current players,” Brumfield said. “We train them on how to be smart online. But sometimes I have to bring one of them into my office and question them on something they put on social media.”
Brumfield said what his players post on social media is important because anything they post online could reflect on the football team as a whole.
The DSU student ambassadors are a group of students with scholarships who not only have their social media monitored, but are also expected to use social media to promote DSU and student life.
Sutherland Wyatt, a freshman biology major from Paradise, California, is an ambassador who uses social media to network with other students and high school students.
“[Advisors] see whatever we post and they limit us to what we can and can’t post and what we should or shouldn’t follow,” Wyatt said. “We just try to promote Dixie best we can through social media.”
Social media is also often monitored by employers. It has been used by school officials to research applicants applying for jobs at DSU, Dean of Students Del Beatty said.
“Before I hire people, I look at their social media to find out what kind of person they are,” Beatty said. “When hiring new faculty members, social media often comes up in discussions and it can definitely sway [the hiring committee’s] decision one way or another.”
Sharp said students especially need to learn how to properly develop their online reputation positively.
“The millennial generation in particular has a much greater laissez-faire attitude concerning [online] branding, a mindset preventing them from getting hired,” Sharp said. “The internet can provide an ideal canvas to market yourself and your personal brand in a positive light.”