I like to think of myself as a pretty connected person. Like many people, I have a Facebook account. I also have accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. Being “plugged in” to these few websites is enough for me, as it allows me to keep up with friends, family, and colleagues while sharing my thoughts with others and slowly expanding my network. There are all sorts of social networking sites out there now, including Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Each of them fills a niche and is used for a different purpose. What has stood out to me recently is the new ways in which I’ve started to use them as a law student.
For starters, I’ve become much more careful about what I post online. Since coming to law school I’ve realized that social networks aren’t simply used to connect with people; they are also used to learn more about them. The internet can make a lot of potentially personal information available to the public, and that includes employers. As such, I have started to screen what I write on the web much more than I did before.
Today, unlike in the past, individuals can gain first impressions of a person they have not even met simply by viewing their profile on a social network. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. While it may allow you to network with professionals more efficiently, it can also hurt those who reveal too much about themselves before they have the chance to sit down for an in-person meeting. Again, it’s all about monitoring what you’ll be showing to the world.
Besides security and privacy, I’ve also found myself using my social networks more effectively in terms of the content I share. Those of you familiar with the websites I mentioned know they each serve certain functions. For instance, Facebook is mainly about updating others on your life while staying updated on the lives of others. Twitter is a good way to broadcast thoughts that you have throughout the day in short, 140-character “tweets.” Tumblr, like most blogs, is for writing longer pieces about your opinions on various topics. Finally, LinkedIn is focused on your work-related skills, professional networking, and employment.
In the past I mostly used Facebook to “like” pictures and statuses as well as to look through photo albums. Now it has become a tool for me to stay in the loop with important people and organizations while showing my support for them by endorsing their pages. Similarly, instead of tweeting every observation that comes to mind, I now use Twitter more selectively when I want to let those who follow me know about a particularly interesting event or share with them an especially relevant opinion.
Tumblr has developed into more of a personal blog for me at this point. I’ve only been on LinkedIn for a few months now, but so far it has proven tremendously helpful in reaching out to those I may be working with in the future. I doubt I’ll join another social network in the near future, as the ones I am on now fulfill all of my current networking needs. I can’t be certain, though, as social networking continues to evolve and new websites are created every day.
In the end, law school has helped me to recognize how social networks can not only be used socially but professionally as well. Take some time to look at what you’re sharing now and think about how you can use your own social networks more effectively. You might even want to consider joining a new one. The web is a powerful tool, and only by continuing to learn and explore can we make the most of it.