Rise in social media usage results in new user expectations

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Marguerite Alberts, graphics editor

As the technological age further evolves, students are becoming surrounded by social media and its endless uses. However, just like with personal, face-to-face interaction, there are certain standards to which students’ behavior are held.

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 12.31.31 PMSome students may not be aware that misusing social media may harm their academic lives and future careers. According to a U.S. News article published in October of 2011, colleges are increasingly judging students based on their Facebook profiles as well as their application profiles. Furthermore, Huffington Post confirmed that “more than ever, admission officers are checking up on applicants online,” in an article from May, 2013.

Some students disagree with this approach, believing potential applicants should be judged solely on what is on their application, not on what they put on Facebook. Senior Natalie Friedman fears that what is put on social media may not be correctly understood by outsiders who don’t know her.

“A picture or a status can be interpreted in the wrong way,” Friedman said. Friedman gave the example of someone who sees red plastic cups in a photograph might automatically, and perhaps incorrectly, assume that there is an alcoholic beverage in the cup.

In contrast, junior Mason Leib argues that social media sites are public domain and that colleges and jobs have as much right as the public to use them.

“Colleges and employers are free to judge as long as they realize that social media reflects one’s social life and in no way reflects one’s professional life,” Leib said.

Furthermore, senior Jake Peskin reminds students that they do have the ability to make their profiles private.

“They [colleges/employers] should be able to go as far as your privacy settings let them,” Peskin said. “They should really be following privacy boundaries you set yourself.”

In addition to  being evaluated by future employers and college admissions counselors based on their online presence, students have the pressure of presenting a certain image to their peers.

“I somewhat think that you should be responsible for what you post on social media if you are in a leadership position at school because you are representing the school and you made the choice yourself to represent the school,” sophomore Olivia Ayl said.

Similar to face-to-face interactions, a side effect of improper Internet usage is a cyber bullying. According to bullyingstatistics.org, over 50 percent of teenagers have been bullied online and equally as many have bullied others via cyber bullying.

The disciplinary actions taken against bullying at Beverly ranges from detention to expulsion, the latter only occurring in extreme cases. Each case of bullying is taken independently from others.

“If it impacts the school day for the student, then we handle it as though it is happening here on campus,” Assistant Principal Amy Golden said. “We meet with all students involved and try to mediate the situation.”

A large part of Golden’s day revolves around dealing with tips about instances of cyber bullying that land in her inbox.

“A lot of it comes in anonymously, but once it comes in front of us, we have to deal with it,” Golden said. “Students don’t realize how much crosses our desks and that anything you put online, as private as you think you are, you aren’t that private.”

Many students agree with Golden and actually believe that they need the help of the school to combat cyber bullying.

“I think the administration should be there to support students in cases of cyber bullying if it is reported for the safety of the students because it can save the victims from being cyber bullied which is more important than the embarrassment of the student,” Friedman said.

Furthermore, these incidences bring up the question of who should be held responsible for teaching students how to properly use social media and aren’t appropriate uses for it.

Journalism adviser and Social Media Specialist Gaby Herbst argues that it has become the expectation of the community that, in addition to their normal curricula, teachers instruct students how social media is to be used.

“I think parents expect schools to monitor and or enforce proper use of social media,” Herbst said.  “I think that any teacher that does use social media as part of their curriculum should teach it and he/she shouldn’t expect that their students know how to use it [social media] properly.”

Golden adds that it is up to everybody in the community to establish what is considered the ‘correct’ use of social media.

“It’s parents, it’s teachers, it’s administrators, it’s the community, it’s all of us,” Golden said. “It takes all of us being on the same team to make sure our students know what is appropriate.”

On Tues. Nov. 19, the district is hosting a ‘Social Media Mania’ assembly at the high school that will address the use of social media and cyber bullying. Eighth graders from the middle schools and parents will be attending in addition to the high school students.

Whether students are in a leadership position, worried about being accepted by a school or possible employer, or want to avoid being a bully, it is important that they be careful what they publish on the Internet, for it can never be unpublished and may backfire in the future.

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