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OSU faculty advise students to watch what they tweet

Christopher Schwartz / Lantern file graphic

Every time people send a tweet, they are opening themselves up to potentially millions of judging eyes. There are many ways to use Twitter, but some Ohio State faculty have tips for students on the best uses of the ‘Tweet’ button.

Most students today are members of the generation that have had access to Twitter throughout most, if not all, of their college careers. Twitter has become a tool for students to express their opinions, to connect with others and also a way for employers to learn more about them.

Shaun Holloway, director of web marketing and development at Fisher College of Business, said employers can do simple web searches to locate Twitter pages and other information about job applicants.

“You could Google anybody’s name. I do it, and I know a lot of other people do it. Before I even interview somebody I just Google their name,” Holloway said. “Why not? It’s free information that you made publicly available as a student. Why wouldn’t I look at it?”

Holloway said he recommends taking time to do a web search of your name to see what information is publicly available.

Jesse Fox, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, said one way for students to keep their information private is to not use their real names on social media profiles. To keep anonymity, she said she also recommends removing other personal information such as location and pictures.

Fox suggested creating two separate Twitter accounts, one public and one private.

“I really advocate keeping what’s public separate from what’s private,” Fox said. “You can be who you want to be on one account and maintain a professional profile on the other.”

Holloway agreed that having two separate profiles could be a good choice, although he said it is more work to maintain both of them.

Holloway said an important aspect of having a public Twitter profile is actually using it.

“Once you create it, you have to keep it going, otherwise it will look dead, and it will appear like you’ve abandoned it. And that basically means you start things and don’t finish them,” Holloway said.

In this case, Holloway said employers might wonder “what else do you start and not finish?” He said if a student no longer has time to use their Twitter account, they are better off just shutting it down.

As for advice on specifically what students should and should not tweet, Fox said an important thing to remember is people can criticize whatever you tweet.

“People tend to forget that no matter what you put out there, people will judge you by it,” Fox said. “Public information allows people to draw conclusions that may or may not be true.”

Fox said students should avoid tweeting about controversial material, as well as “inside jokes” that might be offensive to people who don’t understand them. Jokes and sarcasm might not transfer well over Twitter, and they leave room for offending someone, even if it is unintentional, Fox said.

Doug Dangler, digital media specialist for OSU’s Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, agreed that while using Twitter it is important to avoid being controversial.

“My rules for Twitter are playground rules. Be polite. Be positive. Don’t be offensive,” Dangler said.

Dangler also stressed the importance of maintaining a professional online profile.

“Quit putting up pictures of yourself drinking, and don’t discuss politics and religion, it’s not the place,” Dangler said.

Fox agreed with Dangler’s points.

She said frequently posting about going to the bar, or posting pictures with beer bottles in them definitely make the person who posted them look bad.

“But no matter what you post, people are going to judge you by it,” Fox said.

Retweets, in which a Twitter user redistributes content by someone else to their own followers, is something else Fox said to be careful with.

“People think they can retweet things that are questionable because they aren’t the ones who actually said those things, but when you retweet something, people get the idea that you agree with it, and they make the same perception of you,” Fox said.

Joe Meaney, a fourth-year in strategic communication, said he takes steps to keep his Twitter clean.

“There are definitely some things I try not to say. I avoid throwing out curse words and saying anything that’s too controversial,” Meaney said.

To be sure, Holloway said he doesn’t think one questionable incident on someone’s Twitter will prevent them from getting hired.

“Some employers will go into some detail, depending on the job, on whether or not all of those things (having an  online presence) matter. Some of them might not even look at or consider them,” Holloway said. “Twitter’s not going to make or break a hire all by itself.”


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