Thriving Together Series: How to Manage Your Social Media Presence

Thriving Together social media presence

By: Alexander McGrew, James Carlson, Abdullah Rafiqzuid, Bryce Reynolds, and Leopold Madejas, Mason students in the School of Business

“Never underestimate the importance of having a strong online presence for your brand.” – Germany Kent

The modern world is characterized by the digital landscape. Social media and the Internet have revolutionized business, communication, and more. However, there is a growing body of research and sentiment that social media is a double-edged sword. While it has created a more connected world, this connectivity comes at a cost. Here’s how to manage your social media presence, in both professional and private settings, without sacrificing your well-being and mental health.

Career Success and Social Media

Social media management is crucial for career development and success. A recent research study tracked healthcare professionals and compared those who used social media in a professional context versus those who did not. This study found that those who used certain social media sites like LinkedIn and ResearchGate had better career outcomes than those who did not. This study replicated the results of a previous study that investigated the same subject. It is clear that for those who wish to pursue financial well-being via professional development, utilizing social media for networking and personal branding is essential.

Another area where social media can intersect with financial well-being and career development is in the practice of cybervetting. This practice, which is becoming increasingly more common, involves conducting hiring or HR manager surveys on one’s social media presence to investigate whether one is a good fit for the company. While cybervetting has come under fire due to the potential for racial, gender, and age bias, this process is not going anywhere anytime soon. A practical tip for reducing issues in light of this practice is to create a LinkedIn account and regularly update it. By doing so, your most professional face is put forward, and your LinkedIn profile becomes the most likely social media page a potential employer may come across. Doing so decreases the likelihood of running afoul of cybervetting practices and increases your future career prospects.

Social Media Guidelines for Success

In the ever-changing world of social media, you may wonder how to properly utilize social media with an emphasis on well-being. Your goal is to promote your own well-being and that of your peers while engaging on social media via discourse, presence, or other means. As a professional, this means that you should always think carefully about what you post or say on social media, as the effects can be far-reaching. You should refrain from posting or saying anything that could be construed as offensive or otherwise inappropriate for the workplace. Examples include posting pictures or references to alcohol or drugs, sexual content, curse words or slurs, bullying, or politics. What you post on social media does affect others, especially in terms of their mental health. In order to foster a more positive and professional environment on any social media platforms you use, refrain from engaging in any content that could harm others’ well-being. If you don’t want something plastered on a billboard, then don’t post it online.

Mental well-being on social media can be a challenging goal. Recent research studies like this study and this study have shown that among those that use social media the most, there are elevated rates of depression and anxiety, especially among young women. To further expound upon that connection, internal research from Facebook obtained by The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian in 2021 confirms that social media companies have long been aware of the detrimental effects on youth mental health caused by rampant social media usage. An article from The Guardian on their research results stated, “32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”. To make matters worse, research has found a correlation between problematic or heightened social media usage and an increase in other harmful behaviors like substance and alcohol abuse.

Social Media Addiction

These trends become even more troubling when you look at the large number of people who are on these platforms. Approximately 70 percent of the American public uses social media, according to Pew Research. As we have seen, the research on this subject consistently finds a correlation between social media usage and adverse mental health conditions. This is not the full story, however, as the new phenomenon of social media addiction begins to become more common.

Overuse of social media is now formally recognized as a form of addiction by numerous institutions. As a behavioral addiction, the Addiction Center estimates that between 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans now qualify as being addicted to social media. This is characterized by essentially a harmful lack of self-control over one’s social media usage, according to Recovered.org. This affliction is primarily found in those under the age of 40, especially those within the 23 to 38 years old age bracket. Of those surveyed in this age bracket, 15 percent stated they were dependent on social media. Users on social media will typically talk primarily about themselves about 80 percent of the time, contributing to the addictive nature of social media in the process. This is because the topics discussed online are primarily personal issues, so it can often create a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

This is in contrast to in-person speech, where personal topics only take up about 30 percent to 40 percent of the conversation. In light of how addictive social media can be and the negative mental health consequences of that addiction, it is critical for your well-being to manage your social media usage and dependence.

The severity of addiction is the determinant of what steps are necessary to mitigate the condition. However, it is difficult to self-diagnose, so speaking with a specialist or doctor is critical to determine whether you are in fact suffering from social media addiction. Once diagnosed, there are a plethora of options for dealing with social media addiction. These can include: adjusting your settings to limit notifications and thus temptations, scheduling social media breaks into your day, deleting the offending applications, and taking up new activities not within the digital sphere. Essentially, find any way to limit your screen time exposure. Following these guidelines can help mitigate or even stop your dependence on social media. Given that social media addiction often replaces real-world social interaction in today’s age, it is important to note that starving oneself socially may not always be the best cure for social media addiction. However, you must find other avenues to connect socially, in the offline world. Social media addiction is serious to those it afflicts, but it is treatable, and many have successfully reduced their dependence on social media to a healthy and manageable level.

Social Media as a Professional Development Tool

While social media has its flaws and faults, you can still experience many benefits from being engaged online. The research from studies such as this one clearly shows that using social media as a professional development tool is beneficial. This study demonstrated that using LinkedIn and other professional sites while maintaining proper etiquette advanced the careers of the test group.

It is vital to be cognizant of how social media functions and how it can affect not only your professional life, but also your personal well-being. The effect of social media on mental health and the potential for addiction are omnipresent in online activities. You can mitigate or prevent these negative aspects through awareness and prudent action. Paying attention to well-being when traversing the digital landscape on social media is worthwhile.

Additional Resources

These statistics from Statista show social media addiction in the United States by age group.

This article from Penn State University explores social media’s impact on individuals.

This research study published by the National Library of Medicine investigates the motivations for, and well-being implications of, social media use at work.

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