The proliferation of social media in recent years is no secret. However, I was surprised to read the White House proudly claiming Barack Obama had earned the title ‘The First Social Media President’. On December 23rd, the White House Instagram published a record of advances since Obama announced his candidacy. Back in 2007, the iPhone had not yet been released, Snapchat and Instagram were nonexistent, and Twitter and Facebook were starting to gain popularity. The White House Medium channel likened Obama’s weekly YouTube videos and other social media updates to FDR’s fireside chats and Reagan’s Saturday radio updates.
Fast forward to 2016, and we have so many people engaged on those platforms that a love for taking selfies has become a hallmark of the millenial generation. One of the best things that happened to me as a Strategic Communications student is that I learned the value of posting on social media. My Communications classmates are so concerned with capturing every moment that we often poke fun at each other for our signature picture poses. Taking photos is something I have always loved doing myself, so freely sharing them is a logical next step. I have become a huge fan of mirror pictures to capture the scene, expressive selfies, and impromptu photo shoots at "normal" times like waiting for class. I have realized the importance of capturing every moment because at some point in the future my idea of what constitutes normal will be completely different!
It is easy to bash social media and those who post often. There is definitely a delicate balance on the spectrum between the people who have never posted an Instagram photo (why even have an account?) to those who religiously document every meal, workout, and outfit of their day. However, given the choice I would lean toward the latter. Here is why:
1. Social media is your main tool to market yourself
One of the best pieces of advice I got while working at Goldman Sachs is "Everything is a business. You are the CEO of Allie George Inc." How many businesses don't market to their customers? As people say, a picture says a thousand words. An engaging mix of pictures with witty captions is more than just a fun way to show off or collect likes. You are telling the world, or at least your followers, who you are, what you value, and entertaining them and yourself while doing so. If you still need convincing, think about the larger than life persona President Elect Donald Trump has created on Twitter. Don't be shy about putting yourself out there.
2. Social media helps you keep up with acquaintances
During college, high school, and even past jobs, there are many people you might have seen multiple times a week because you frequented the same places. However, you might not keep in close contact with these people because we are all busy. As we disperse around the globe, knowing what your friend across the country did last night and liking the picture loops you into their life. Earlier today, a friend in New Zealand sent a Snapchat video of the frantic dash to wrap presents before Christmas. That type of relatable video reminds you how small the world is and fosters fond feelings, regardless of how long it has been since you have seen each other.
3. Social media helps you maintain a professional network
My Facebook has a mini version of my resume on the side. I have had to reach out to friends I have not kept up with for jobs and career advice and vice verse. The first place I look to gather information on where that person is in their life, professionally and personally, is Facebook. Updating your information frequently is helpful, because accounts with no pictures or posts leave no impression at best and usually leads to ambivalent questions about who you truly are. According to Forbes, silence is incriminating. In failing to communicate, you create a vacuum in which people automatically assume the absolute worst.
4. Social media likes and comments are the easiest way to stay relevant in someone's life
To me, a like indicates that person cares about me, enjoys being privy to moments in my life, and ultimately builds rapport. Likes are the easiest way to show support, all you have to do is double tap. A comment is even better, as the person is engaging with you deeper and showing true interest in your life at the moment. In the best case scenario, a post leads to a full on conversation and gives you a chance to catch up. This ties back to my second point about staying in contact with people beyond your closest group of best friends.
5. Social media is a platform for cultural progress
This point is apparent in Obama’s case, but applies just as much to the average social media user. Not only do these platforms allow you to support others, but you can share interesting articles to inform your friends about issues dear to your heart or that they might find inspiring. If you read a striking article, hear a great quote, or stumble across any other information share it on your social media pages! You never know the impact one post may have- whether your friend may know of a way to get involved in a cause, you could impress a potential contact, or you could build respect as a thought leader among your peers.