Building your social media resume: Will yours unlock or keep you from opportunity?

By John Sande

Many teenagers and young people today have an active presence on social media. Irrespective of the platform used, social communication with friends and family and curation of public images is particularly popular among people of all age groups. Question is, would your social-media footprint put you in good stead or would it stand in the way of your future success?

Justine Sacco, a high-flying Communications Director with the New York-based internet empire InterActive Corporation was sacked mid-air while enroute to South Africa for vacation, following an insensitive tweet about HIV/AIDS on the continent.

In a related incident, a young woman lost her internship job position at NASA after using profanity-laced language on Twitter, and swearing at a National Space Council Member.

Regionally, Zambia President Edgar Lungu sacked his Cabinet Education Minister for appearing in a leaked nude video that went viral on social media via WhatsApp.

Locally, in a much-publicized occurrence, Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Najib Balala revoked the appointment of Ms. Pauline Njoroge to the Tourism Regulatory Authority after one of her earlier tweets termed the Nairobi National Park useless. The CS went ahead to say they did not want to be associated with such people.

On the academic scene, a report from the Harvard Crimson indicated the renowned Harvard University revoked admissions offers to a number of students after reports indicated they had used inflammatory and racist language on some ethnic groups, and included jokes about abusing children in some of their social media posts.

A quick search on the Internet reveals numerous students from several colleges and universities in the US have had their admission and scholarship offers revoked after posting sentiments on social media that were considered offensive, inappropriate and against the institution’s beliefs. Besides academic qualifications, universities are looking for well-rounded students who will bring a lot to their campus community including experiences in leadership, community service and/or extracurricular activities.

The crucial question is: would your social media posts propel you to higher ground, or would they sink you?

It is prudent to note that in this virtual age, whilst social media posts can ricochet throughout the net at warp speed, the message from these institutions to potential scholars and or employees is social media is a public forum, and while you may have freedom of speech, that does not mean freedom from consequence!

It is everyone’s fundamental human right to freely express themselves whether verbally or visually. However, many Kenyans assume that their right to freedom of expression is protected absolutely in the new constitution. This is far from the truth. It would be prudent to be aware of the limitations to these rights. For instance, the right is expressly limited to exclude advocacy for hatred and incitement to violence. As such, the organization or university may choose to hold you accountable.

If an employee or potential student knowingly violates the social media policy provided by the organization and consequently jeopardizes business operations of the organization, then it is also the right of whatever institution, university or government body to exercise judgment in deciding whom to admit to its educational community, or select to form part of their workforce.

Every day, the media covers stories of real-world consequences resulting from social media posts. Because the Internet never forgets, be smart about what you post on social media; you never know who might be listening. Your post might just be the thing that either launches, or sinks your career.

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