Social networking: Facebook, Twitter and more
Most students use social websites, with Facebook and Twitter being among the most popular.
The University’s social media accounts
However, there may also be unofficial accounts that use the name of the University, some of which may be run by promoters, advertisers or other cybersquatters. It is not always possible to have these removed by Facebook or Twitter. Some of the official accounts are automated, so may not be monitored constantly. If you wish to contact the University about an issue, the feedback form is the best method. If you prefer using Facebook or Twitter, please make sure you contact one of the official accounts, as it is unlikely you would receive appropriate responses from accounts maintained by external agencies.
Your use of social networks
As social media websites create written, public records of events and conversations that might in previous year have remained private, there are some pitfalls that should be avoided.
Social networking and your career
When using social media, try not to post things that could tarnish your reputation. There are frequent stories in the media about people who lose their jobs because of the way they used social media in their private lives. These days, employers often look up a candidate’s profiles before they decide who to hire. Suddenly, casual fun can be interpreted as unprofessional, and prevent you from getting a job offer. Once hired, if an employee is noticed online for the wrong reasons (or wearing the company logo in the wrong context), they can find themselves out of a job quite quickly.
Some things to consider:
- Restricted privacy settings can help reduce the risk of damage to your reputation. However, be aware that any piece of content can be re-shared by others, and find its way into the public domain quickly. If something is truly embarrassing, don’t post it in the first place, un-tag yourself, and/or ask friends to remove it.
- Has someone else edited your Facebook in a negative way? If so, you were not careful enough with your computer / phone. Assume your (future) boss might not be amused.
- If a party / event / tour is lively enough to generate the sort of photos and banter that might embarrass you later, try to keep the celebrations offline and in real life, and encourage your friends to do the same. Drunken tweets, status updates and photos may be funny at the time, but won’t look very responsible later. If photos are taken, don’t share them through websites, but find other ways to exchange them.
- Never discuss your job, your colleagues or your employer online, especially not in a negative way – even if you are only joking. Employers have been known to not share their employees’ sense of humour. As online discourse generates an automatic written record, it is much more dangerous to your career than a verbal chat with a relative or trusted friend.
- Good spelling and grammar are often considered desirable by employers. If your CV is spotless, but your social networking presence is poorly written, this could influence recruiters’ decisions about your application.
If you have any doubts about the possible impact of your social networking activities on your career, have a look at the results of a survey on how recruiters use social networks to screen candidates – which suggests that almost 70% of recruiters have rejected at least one candidate because of his/her social networking activities.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – social media can be a useful tool in your job search. The article above shows that an almost equal number of recruiters have hired at least one candidate because of the positive impression his/her social media profiles has made. Aside from passively making a professional impression on the people who will be screening your applications, you can even use your social networking activities to actively look for work. The Guardian has prepared a list of top ten tips for using social media to find work.
Finally, there are useful tools you can use to get a general overview and impression of your online reputation. For example, reppler can assist you – but don’t rely on just apps, or the hope that the internet will forget one day. Prevention is better than trying to cure…
For more information about using Social Media in your job search, please see the Careers and Employability Service website.
Social networking and the law
Social media makes it easy for people to make mistakes. In particular, watch out for the following:
- Any statement which could have a negative impact on a person (or business’) reputation could lead to accusations of libel / defamation and lawsuits. Under UK law, if a person is accused of libel / defamation, the burden of proof is on them to prove that their statements are accurate. Legal proceedings are lengthy, stressful and expensive. The best advice is: don’t say or write anything that could have a negative impact on the reputation of anyone or any company, even if you know it to be true. In some exceptional cases, even negative reviews of hotels have led to legal proceedings.
- It is easier than ever before to find, alter or share works which are copyright protected. Videos, music, pictures, written texts… but just because it is easy and there is no barrier to it, that does not make it legal. Be mindful of copyright in your online actions.
- Jokes can have serious consequences when put in writing. In some instances, posting jokes that are in bad taste can lead to a prison sentence if they are deemed “public electronic communications which are grossly offensive”.
- Joke threats are often treated extremely seriously. From ill-considered jokes about blowing up airports to posting entirely the wrong sort of Facebook event at the wrong time, “jokes” that appear to threaten security have led to dire consequences for some people. Even if an informal comment does not lead to legal prosecution, people have found themselves banned from travelling to certain countries because of irreverent tweets – and with plans for automated social network scraping being developed by security services around the world, the number of people whose comments lead to unpleasant consequences is set to increase.
- Posting your thoughts, even when drunk, can in extreme circustances end up in a conviction. Especially when what you post is racist or seriously abusive. The UK has some of the strictest enforcement in the world against so-called internet trolls and people who are abusive on Twitter and the world wide web.
- There are other ways to get in legal trouble because of your online activities. The BBC’s Twitter users: A guide to the law outlines some that apply to all social networks, not just Twitter.
Social networking and bullying
As social networking sites are very informal spaces, one of their less pleasant aspects is that they aren’t always used in a positive way. Hurtful gossip, snide remarks and active, malicious bullying can occur online – just as they can occur outside cyberspace.
The University has a policy about bullying which equally applies to cyberbullying.
If you experience bullying, you may also find the Self-help useful links about bullying a useful resource.
Social Media and safety
Social networks, like any virtual or real life space, can be used by criminals. This includes people (or automated bots) seeking to commit fraud, harvest personal data, spread viruses, but also people using social networks to find victims to exploit in other ways.
There is advice on safe social networking available – with a special focus on protecting your data from fraudsters and other criminals.
There are many ways in which your data is exposed through social networks:
- you may have added details to your profiles yourself
- if you install apps on your mobile devices, these may harvest data about you (including geographic locations, contact details of friends, etc.)
- if you install apps within social networks (for example, games in Facebook), these may access some of the data about you and your friends
- websites you access using your social network identity as login (e.g. Facebook Connect) will get access to some information about you
- if your friends have apps installed on their phones or their social networks, these apps may harvest data about you without your knowledge (for example phone numbers, contact details etc.) through your friends’ accounts
Most of the collected data will ‘only’ be used for advertising purposes, but for every piece of data about you that is exposed, there will be some risk that it could be obtained and used by criminals.
Film makers have prepared an entertaining, somewhat unsettling video about this: Try Takethislollipop (We have taken some steps to ascertain how trustworthy the video site is: it has been well-used, the project has been nominated for and won awards, and we have not seen any indication anywhere on the web that the site breaks its promise not to retain user data. Therefore, we believe it is likely to be safe to use.)
If you would like more information about crime and safety, the Glamlife page about Crime awareness and personal safety is full of useful advice, some of which applies to social networks.
We've added a list of popular social bookmarking on our pages - it is not a complete list, but the same selection of sites that the BBC have identified as being useful to a UK audience.
If you already have an account with one or more of these services, you can use the links automatically. If not, you can sign up for free with any of them.