Today in Agricultural Communications class, we learned that professional communicators must build a web presence and personal brand for themselves through the use of social networking platforms. Almost every professor in the journalism department stresses the importance of wowing the web with our social networking capabilities. We must have at least one Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Youtube, Storify, and WordPress account. Furthermore, we must glean these accounts with contents that will impress future employers. Pictures of us having actual social lives could make or break a job opportunity. If you’re a professional communicator using social media, forget about the “social” aspect- it’s all media, period.
I hate it.
Professor Gearhart’s lecture reiterated common fears I have when using the Web. Google has a search bar built in to almost every web browser. They offer email. They can stand in for your Microsoft Office suite. They now have Google+, which is something like Facebook. I learned from Professor Gearhart that Google tracks your computer’s IP address, and keeps a complete history of all your searches. Ever. You can also link up your Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts so advertisers can categorize your interests and head hunt you.
Think you can opt out? Think again. When I was absent- mindedly Googling Cosmopolitan one day, I learned that one of the biggest faux- pas a girl can make on a first date is revealing that she has an email account other than Gmail.
So if you’re not betraying all your interests and hobbies to advertisers, you’ll be ostracized as a ho.
Today in class, one gentleman mentioned that he didn’t have any of the aforementioned social media accounts. The response? Get one. It looks like living off the grid is no longer an option for those looking for careers in business or media. Communication is faster, cleaner, and more accessible on the Internet. Why wouldn’t you make your whole life there?
But this brings up an important point: to what extent does virtual life affect real life? Why does society obsess over social media? Maybe people think that if they document everything about their life online, they’ll live forever. Maybe everyone just wants to be a part of a new chapter in history. There exists, in fact, a dimension in which conversations are not recorded. There are parts of your life nobody photographs. There are actual activities other than surfing, browsing, tagging, posting and updating. And believe it or not, there are some people in the world who don’t even own a computer. I’d be willing to bet that there are some people who have jobs and not Facebook accounts.
It’s important to remember that although the Web is a powerful tool, we are more powerful. Personally, I have a love/ hate relationship with the Internet. I love free, instant information. I love that I can look up anything and read about it from ten different sources. I’m just bothered by how personal Web browsing has become. Google tracks all your searches and then shows you ads? Really? But I guess we should expect it; everything free comes with a price.