To what extent should recruiters judge us on our online image?

Throughout grade school, we were constantly reminded to use social media responsibly. We’ve been taught to portray ourselves in the best possible light. The classic warning always issued was one along the lines of, “You don’t want colleges to see that.”

However, the problem is that we don’t have complete control of our online image.

With the advent of platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, it has become nearly impossible to uphold a pristine online reputation. The seemingly harmless 10-second snap that supposedly disappears after you hit send actually doesn’t disappear at all.

Certainly, there are some that conscientiously take care of their online reputation. I’ve heard people express concerns to friends over not wanting a particular picture posted on Instagram or Snapchat because of the possible ramifications it could have on their future endeavors. But what about that snap you’re caught in the background of by someone you don’t even know? What about those birthday collages your friends post on your timeline?

Sure, those embarrassing, double-chinned selfies you send to your friends are innocuous. But what about those videos and pictures from a crazy night out that appear posted to your Snapchat Story when you wake up the next morning? It might seem like a relatively trivial issue with a simple fix: “Be more responsible.” But this is hard to do in a world that is so socially reliant on online platforms. Furthermore, as college students, we are enveloped in a so-called “party culture” that is heavily supplemented by the use of smartphones. Therefore, pictures and videos of a night out are bound to be taken and then judged out of context. And, crucially, an online social image does not determine physical and intellectual capabilities or if someone is innocent or guilty.

We currently reside in a society that tends to scrutinize, although certainly with good reason at times. If this past election taught us anything, it is that our online presence can come back to haunt us. But the question is, should there be a different standard for our generation? With the advent of 21st-century social media platforms, sharing your life with the world is easier now more than ever. Should those snaps and Instagram pictures of a random night out with friends be subject to scrutiny and judgment when it comes to recruiters? What about when it comes to a political career?

Of course, one’s social media image is extremely difficult to judge, simply because there is no standardized way to analyze it—there is no magic formula into which we can plug a name and determine whether one’s online social image is immaculate. Instead, practicality on a case-by-case basis must be applied when judging someone based on their online image. Obviously, if there is evidence online to suggest someone has a concerning criminal history, or anything of similar severity, then decisions concerning recruitment should be reconsidered accordingly. Yet expectations need to change in accordance with the changing tools that surround us. Social media gives us a space to document everything. The disadvantage is that a space now exists where everything gets documented and can be taken out of context. It’s time we redefine what’s acceptable in the 21st century. 

Aditi Mahesh is a member of the Class of 2021 and can be reached at amahesh@wesleyan.edu.

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