Last week it was the value of social media for teachers, but this week, students. There’s lots of reasons to be on social media as a student. For one thing, pretty much all your friends are on it. There’s a social cost to not being on Facebook, because it makes you harder to invite to stuff. But that’s just Facebook. What about Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, blogging, and all the other intriguing social networks floating around this series of tubes? that’s where things get fun. So today, here’s why social media is valuable to students. Before I get to that though, I need to point out that there’s being on Twitter or Tumblr isn’t the same thing as using it to accomplish goals. This is about how you can add value and find hilarious cat pictures, rather than merely finding the cat pictures.This isn’t a “Social media is serious business” talk, one look at my Twitter feed on the right should dispel that particular notion. But be conscious of the difference between lurking and using. Anyway, on to why it’s valuable.

Social Media Will Help You Get Into Grad School

Grad student lifeIf you’re applying to graduate school, odds are you have some pretty good grades. So does everyone else who’s applying, that’s why schools are looking at your publications, presentations, letters of reference, and other work. Everyone applying in your field is passionate about what they do, so set yourself apart by blogging or podcasting about it. Not only will it help you write better and focus your research, it gives you a great opportunity to sit down and chat with scholars at conferences and interview them. Connect with other students in your field and partner with them to produce interesting posts and good discussion. It provides real evidence to schools that you’re not just passionate about your research, you’re taking the next step and sharing that passion with people.

It Will Help You Get a Job

But maybe grad school isn’t for you. In that case, think about social media as assembling an online portfolio of your work, whatever it might be. I know you have a LinkedIn profile, and you spent a lot of time on it. So did everyone else in your graduating class. It’s an opportunity to set yourself apart, whether you’re in computer science or history. Find discussions that are relevant to the field you want to work in, join them and learn from them. Make contact with professionals, and ask them what you can do to break into the field. It’s also a great way to find out about events and jobs opportunities. Use it to write about what you’re interested in, blog about your job hunt, and help put yourself out there.

It Will Help You Be Awesome

You’re already probably pretty great, but being on social media will give you a chance not just to be inspired by others, but to talk with them when you never would have had the opportunity to in real life. Everyone from John Green to the President of the United States is just a tweet away. Having strong relationships with awesome people will make you more awesome. This is a proven fact. Social media is a world where there are more awesome people than you can shake a stick at. That gives me an idea. More to come on that.

What if I Make a Fatal Mistake?

Picard facepalming Social media disasters are legion. Sure, your posts can land you a job, but they could also lose you one. Same with grad school. There’s plenty of accounts of that. I have one policy for that. Be yourself, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or get things wrong, be ready to learn, and treat other people with respect. If you do that honestly, anybody who doesn’t want you probably wasn’t worth having. Sometimes that means serious tweets about serious things, and sometimes it means freestyle rap about fictional animals. That’s what makes social media valuable, it can hep people get a better look at you. Not your résumé, not your profile or your CV, you. How you act around people every day. I’d never make the mistake of saying it’s the real you, but it can be closer to the real you than your CV will let you be. Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes you say things that are hurtful, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We all do. What people are looking for on social media is what you do after that.

So get out there! Tweet, blog, podcast, make videos, don’t just take content in, make your own! The value outweighs the work, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re a student and already doing this, leaving a comment with a link to your channel, blog, twitter, etc!

Jim Tigwell has written four hundred blog posts in the past two years, as well as podcasting and videoblogging. After his degree, he became the Communications Coordinator for the University of Waterloo Faculty Association. Chat with him Twitter, or come visit him in MC 4001.

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