Have you ever logged onto social media of some sort, took one look at how people interacted with each other, and quickly closed the tab (the online version of turning around and walking away)? Chances are you have, so you know the impact your words can have on other people. That’s why how you present yourself online matters so much because you have the power to add some positivity to the space, whether it is with people you know or strangers you’re engaging within an online community.
Doing your part to make the internet a little more of a positive space is reason enough to be mindful of interacting with people online, but self-fulfillment is also a good motivator. When you’re in a community talking to strangers, you never know who has influence in the industry you’re hoping to work in.
If you have a positive interaction with someone, they could become someone in your network, and, who knows, they may even have the potential to help you land a job. On the flip-side, if you create a negative interaction with this same person, they might remember your name and could influence you to keep you from getting your dream job.
Staying Mindful Online
Admittedly, this is much easier to preach than to practice. We all have those days where we’re in a bad mood and find ourselves doom-scrolling, and we come across something that sets us off, and well, what happens next is not our finest moment. The thing is, we need to hold ourselves accountable and be self-aware enough to know when it’s time to put the device down and walk away rather than take our grievances out on someone online, if for no other reason than for our mental health.
Mental health aside, it’s also because you’ve probably been reminded no less than 100 times that, unless you are a master hacker, everything you post online stays there. So if someone in one of your online communities happens to see your resume come across her desk and your name sounds familiar, she’s going to do a quick search to figure out how she knows you. Whatever community conversations her search results pull up will trigger her memory. Whether that memory is positive or negative is entirely up to you.
It applies to every platform, not just professional ones.
The most obvious platform here is LinkedIn since that’s where recruiters and hiring managers will look first. However, your general interactions on other social media platforms can paint a much more realistic picture of who you are than LinkedIn can. We’ve all heard the stories of people who lost jobs and opportunities because of a decade-old tweet, a viral video, or an Instagram photo or caption. Flip that around, though; what if your Twitter was full of positivity, a viral video shows you doing something good, or your Instagram is full of smiling faces and generally witty captions?
Essentially, you want to follow the golden rule, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” wherever you go online. If you truly need a space where you can passionately discuss hot-button issues with like-minded people, go to a platform that gives you the option to do it anonymously (you can find a subreddit for just about anything). Don’t take your aggression out on the content creator of a YouTube event you’re attending. Don’t mommy-shame someone who is parenting differently from you and don’t assume the people you’re interacting with online will never cross paths with you in real life.
Mindful interaction examples:
Scenario 1: Someone online uses their success in [X] to offer advice to others hoping to do the same, but you’re irritated because you’ve already heard these suggestions, you’ve tried them and it hasn’t worked out.
If you choose to engage, a mindful response could look like this:
“Thanks for the tips. I’m glad these steps worked for you! I’m struggling a bit because I have done everything you’ve discussed and it doesn’t seem to be working. Do you mind if I send you a private message to discuss my specific situation?”
You’re still airing your grievance that you’ve done all they’ve suggested and it’s not working. But you’ve engaged in a meaningful way that will either result in this expert helping you further or possibly someone else in the community who has some insight, too.
Scenario 2: You follow a somewhat large account on social media (an influencer, organization, news site, etc.) and they’ve posted their thoughts on something controversial that you are passionate about, and it turns out you don’t share beliefs, so you feel compelled to share your two-cents.
A mindful response could be choosing not to engage at all by simply putting your phone down and walking away or quietly unfollowing the account if it goes against your values. If you do choose to interact, a mindful response could be this:
“Thank you for sharing your perspective with your followers on such an important topic and opening the door to respectful conversations or debates.”
You are not saying you agree with their view, but you respect their right to form their own opinion. You didn't say anything that would be a red flag to a potential employer. You even opened yourself up to discussing the topic with other followers interested in a civil conversation - and you never know where that could lead you personally and professionally.
With so many of us using the internet, this may feel like a huge ask (especially on a day you’re feeling particularly moody), but only good things can come from these kinds of interactions. How you interact with people online can lead to new networking contacts, new friends, or turn someone’s day around. Create an online footprint that you’re proud of, and never worry about a potential employer’s inevitable Google search again.
It’s about more than jobs. We’re making progress.
The Mom Projects connects skilled, diverse talent with family-friendly employers that respect work-life integration, and provides career support and connection to our community of talented moms and allies.