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The Learning Network
Media Help or Hurt Your College and Career Goals?
By Caroline Crosson Gilpin
Feb. 24, 2017
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have become an integral
part of teenage culture. Yet the snarky comment or inappropriate
picture we share with our friends just might not project the image we
want the rest of the world to see, especially as we get older. How
careful are you online?
In this Preoccupations column, Cal Newport argues that social media can
hurt your career:
As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find
you. To be clear, I’m not arguing that new opportunities and
connections are unimportant. I’m instead arguing that you don’t need
social media’s help to attract them.
My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless.
Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard
tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated
economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be
addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be
used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain
learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of
Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give
difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain
simply won’t tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of
my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these
services will diminish my ability to concentrate — the skill on which I
make my living.
The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to
fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be
to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you’re serious
about creating things that matter.
In contrast, Patrick Gillooly argues in this column that your social
media presence can be as important as your résumé.
Most employers and customers I’ve talked to are ultimately looking for
confirmation of their excitement about you, not reasons for suspicions
or doubts. Not having any profile could be seen as a red flag, so why
give a potential employer any reason to question your candidacy?
Your social media presence — and, really, your whole digital footprint
— is no longer just an extension of your résumé. It’s as important as
your résumé. Social media use is now a standard of the hiring process,
and there’s little chance of going back.
You need to realize that social media wields great power: What you say
there — including saying nothing at all — has an effect on your network
or on the employer who is checking out your Instagram account. But
remember that you control what people see. By being more judicious
about what you share or by altering the platform settings where
possible, you can manage your digital trail to increase the odds that a
potential employer will form a positive impression of you.
Students: Read both articles, then tell us:
— Do you think social media will help or hurt your college and career
— Was either columnist more persuasive, in your opinion? Which one, and
— Did you have a strong opinion about the value of social media to a
person’s professional life before you read the articles? Regardless of
your stand either way, did reading the columns sway you to one side or
the other? Why or why not?
— Conduct a personal social media audit. Make a list of your social
media accounts, including old platforms you no longer use. How do think
admissions officers or employers might view your social media presence
on those accounts.
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are
moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that
once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.
Go to the online article here