Social media has become a powerful and ever-present entity in the lives of everyone and their mother. It is especially current in the lives of Millennials, however. It’s given us the ability to present our successes and failures, our day-to-day lives and represent our brands to the public or to our friends, in any way we’d like. It’s become a barometer for what we consider to be success, happiness, a healthy relationship, or an enviable way of living. But when we weigh the scales of our own success and failure against the primped and polished images presented in perfect order on our phone screens, we can begin to self-doubt and feel the crippling pressure of constantly playing catch up to “succeed.”
Success is a hard one to define as it varies depending on whom we’re asking. One woman’s triumph may be viewed as trite by another. But to establish some semblance of semantic determinacy, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” So depending on your goals what you believe success to be will be different from others.
Unfortunately, social media has created an unrealistic standard. The truth of the matter is however great a job someone is doing he probably is still picking and choosing what to present on his various platforms. Rather than striving to be great, or to be better than you were yesterday, we are now striving for perfection which, arguably, does not exist IRL.
Social platforms are not only changing the way we measure the merit of our careers they’ve also changed how we find and pursue jobs. Considering the fact that there are roughly 2.34 billion users on social platforms in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder many people are turning to social media for professional connections as well. Having an aesthetic profile and a large following has started to hold a lot more weight in the career-finding field. No matter what your career aspirations are, having an open Instagram profile exhibiting your success and abilities will ultimately work in your favor. Especially if you don’t have much experience or a website (or a public scandal), typically a Google search of your name will result in your social media profiles popping up–as they have great SEO. This means that they are endlessly important when potential bosses are seeking you out. This has its pros and cons.
On the one hand, exposure has become much easier. Rather than needing a complicated website or online portfolio, your easy-to-make social media profile can serve as a job-finding platform. Social media has also given us the freedom to jumpstart our careers without a boss or other company structures. Platforms like Youtube, Medium, and Instagram have given us places to create visual content, write, and promote ourselves without the help of an employer, agent, or spokesperson.
The downside, however, is that because anyone can do this, the job market is nearing saturation. With billions of online profiles, who’s to say yours is going to stand out the most, or even be seen? Gaining followers isn’t as easy as it sounds and no matter how great your page looks there may be similar ones out there with more traffic. As much as you may not want to believe it, out of 2,300 recruitment professionals, nearly 40% use social media to screen potential applicants. A survey by the New York Times also found that 70% of recruiters asked have chosen not to hire applicants because of things found on their online profiles. So besides making your profile stand out you also have to ensure that it is squeaky clean. An innocent joke or borderline inappropriate tweet can send your resume straight into the virtual trash.
The importance of social media as a gage of personal success in addition to informing a crucial part of job recruiting puts a massive amount of pressure on what our profiles look like. So much so that it could be debilitating.
We’re in an age where it’s impossible to ignore the omnipresence of social media in our lives. Relationships and jobs are built and oft-maintained through it; so much of a company and a person’s success depends on it. The more followers your page has the more “legitimate” it looks to consumers. The larger your following, the more chances you have on being “discovered.” Rinse, wash, repeat. But what if it just isn’t your thing? If you’re in the minority (23% of the U.S. population to be exact) that doesn’t have a social profile? Are you putting yourself in danger of not receiving the same job opportunities? It seems that you might be.
In a study presented by Forbes a third of employers said they did not hire candidates because of what they found on their profiles. Half of these employers didn’t offer a candidate a job because of inappropriate content and 45% because of evidence drinking of drug use on social media platforms. Some other reasons included a “poor display of communication skills,” bad-mouthing previous employers, making discriminatory comments or lying about qualifications.
If you do happen document yourself letting loose on the weekends or have complained about work in a social post you’re at risk of losing an offer.
Beyond our profiles potentially affecting future employment, they also affect if we even get to the step of someone needing to look into us. Social media has caused Millennials to feel comparative envy that’s fermented into self-doubt that. This in and of itself is putting us at a disadvantage. Before the age of Instagram, the medium that provided us with the most self-doubt was probably magazines. Beautiful models wearing expensive clothes, businessmen dressed to the T followed by statistics about their wealth and success, unattainable bodies and diet plans were all fed to us through magazines. It’s now gotten a lot closer to home and much more difficult to avoid. Instead of comparing our lives to glossy pages, we find ourselves doing it daily against perfect profiles on our screens. And where it may be easy to justify that your body will never look like Gisele’s, or you’ll never be as successful as Bill Gates, seeing your friends or acquaintances lives being presented perfectly may leave you with no justification for why yours isn’t. Social media causes self-doubt and also leads us to unhealthy comparisons with others. In turn, this may lead to feeling unworthy or unmotivated when it comes to finding a job.
So how do we fix all these problems? How do we accept the importance of social media on our careers, while also not becoming overwhelmed by other online profiles? First, regular reality checks are important. Take a look at your own social profile. Think about how it may look to an outsider. Does it look better than your reality? We all want to make our lives seem great for those who are watching us online, and that’s okay — as long as you aren’t holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. Secondly, rather than comparing your success to others, or weighing it by how many followers you have, compare your success on how successful you were yesterday, or last year. Whether you’ve made a baby step or a leap, that’s how you should be measuring it, by the profiles you’re visiting online. Lastly, when it comes to how your profile looks to employers, remember the most important thing is staying somewhat true to yourself, however cheesy that may sound. Present your opinions in a way that you wouldn’t need to hide in front of a potential boss and make sure you can stand behind the content you’re posting.
There’s nothing wrong with having a beautiful online profile, or only presenting your successful days online, but bear in mind that others are doing the same and that your progress has little to do with theirs. Staying focused on our own accomplishments and drawing inspiration rather than doubt from others is the only way to move forward successfully in the age of social media.
Written by Delfina Forstmann