What if you don't want to be social?

Okay, so that title’s a little misleading. Of course, I think everyone should be social to some extent. You need to be able to conduct an interview, carry on a conversation with someone and be able to justify why you make certain decisions. For me, those are aspects of “being social” that everyone should be capable of. For this blog, however, I’m talking about a different type of being social:

Social media.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a phrase we’ve heard a billion and ten times and if you’re reading a blog (which I hope you are, for my sake), it’s highly likely that you’re involved in social media yourself. You’re probably on Facebook, Twitter or maybe LinkedIn. For those of us that seem to spend a lot of time on the web, statistics show that social media sites are where a lot of that time is being spent.

But what if you don’t want to spend your time in social media?

A few weeks ago, I was given the chance to present in one of my classes about social media and how I’m using it professionally. For those of you that read this blog frequently or know me from another site, you’re pretty familiar with the fact that my passions lie in education and communication about agriculture. You might even know that I try to be very active in the #agchat community on Twitter, participate in College Aggies Online and use my Facebook as an “agvocacy” vehicle in addition to personal use. These were the types of things I got to share with my class and I absolutely loved it. I mean, this is the stuff that gets me geeked!

Which is why I was so surprised when I was asked, “I don’t really want to be in social media. Does that put me at a disadvantage?”

Huh. I’ve been so wrapped up in the idea that millenials my age love the Internet so much and so MUST love social media that…I guess I’d never thought about it before.

The student who asked the question proceeded to share with me why he had no interest in a social media presence. First off, he was well aware of the fact that anything you put online is there for good. He didn’t want to run the risk of posting something somewhere that may come back and haunt him later. Second, he doesn’t really categorize himself as a super social person (and that’s not a bad thing) and doesn’t see the need for social media in his career. His degree will be in forestry and he plans to pursue a career where he works outside a lot of the time, mostly by himself. Finally, he was very blunt about the fact that he doesn’t like how, in today’s society, you don’t find the news because the news finds you. For him, staying offline as much as possible is a way to prevent that.

Now, this really got me thinking. Is social media for everyone? Should all college students have to learn how to utilize social media for their professional advancement? Are there careers that could really care less if you know how to use Twitter or Facebook?

My answer to the student was that I didn’t necessarily think he was at a disadvantage if he chose not to be online, but he may be missing out on opportunities that are there (I used finding job and internship notifications as an example). It could also depend on the job whether you’re at a disadvantage or not. For me, being in communications, I think it would be a major disadvantage. For him, however, I could see where it really wouldn’t matter. I also pointed out that I’m all for being able to choose whether you want to have an online presence or not. I don’t believe anyone should be forced into having a Facebook or Twitter account if you don’t want to and was disappointed to hear that there are professors who are making students create these accounts for class, without giving them another option if they don’t want to. For me, that’s a personal choice you should be allowed to make without your grade depending on it.

What do you think? Did I give him the right answer? Are those seeking jobs and internships at a disadvantage if they don’t know how to utilize social media or if they refuse to?


4 responses

  1. Your answers were right on. While I don’t think social media is for everyone, our world is growing increasingly dependent on the internet and technology.

    College students should learn to utilize social media not just for their advancement but as standard business skills. It’s like when typing was introduced, it made us more efficient and increased our productivity (once we figured out how to do it right).

    There are careers that really don’t care if you are social media proficient (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). However, I know of a lot of folks utilizing social media who aren’t normally considered techy.

    Pest removal companies, painters, independent contractors, ag Tweeple and so many others network to get leads, create symbiotic relationships with other social networkers and generally get ‘er done in this economy because of it.

  2. Great post. (I’m an Ag Communications major actually)

    We were literally JUST talking about this last night at our Ag Council meeting, the governing body for ALL student Ag organizations.
    We are about to launch a new site in January where our entire goal is to showcase our students, our clubs, and promote interactivity between them. Too divided and segregated right now.

    Part of this process is learning the power, and ease, of using social media as our primary source and method of communication for our students (instead of the website, which is just for showcasing and basic information for “outsiders”).
    I gave this rousing speech about WHY this is important to them, using the same concepts about jobs, internships, etc. We had a GREAT response.

    I wrote something for a blog a little while back that talked about bridging that gap between people who were still on the fence about this whole “technology in my life” thing. We’ve seemingly got two different sides of thought. One side is just 100% out of the cannon on fire, but has no idea how to explain it. The other side is interested, but needs help implementing it in a slow and careful way. That’s where we need to be bridging the gap.

    Here at Auburn University, we are. We had 100% positive response from all the clubs about hosting a seminar with social media and communications professionals here on campus and with the Extension Program. We’ll keep you updated!

    1. I just have to mention that we had a great communications intern from Auburn. She did the blog for a cotton meeting for me in January and worked for us over the summer. I love that she’s blogging and on Twitter!

  3. I’ve got to tell you that I have seen social media be a real differentiator in job candidates (you know I’m in a professional communicator). If you have the interest to do it and the commitment to learning it, there is something to show for your time and effort. Almost like a portfolio. But I would also suggest that in plenty of other fields, it may not be a big deal.

    And while Amanda definitely doesn’t need this caution, I’m going to put it here anyway….

    By far, the biggest deal is if people use social media wrong, whatever field they are in! Understand the privacy settings and use them. If you are using social media to communicate with a lot of the sorts of people who can help you get a job or who you would like to work for, be sure your communications style reflects that.

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