In a recent interview with author Jennifer Egan, Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point on NPR, asked the question, Are we living curated lives? With so much of our lives happening in real time, on social media channels that may or may not include privacy walls, are we being our honest selves or are we self-censoring? It’s an interesting question. But a better question is, How can we afford not to?
Between July 2010 and October 2011, we went from “most companies use social media for recruiting” to “91% of Hiring Managers Use Social Networking to Screen.” After calculating for margin of error, ninety-one percent is just about everyone. And this trend is not unique to hiring. The use of social media as a research tool among college admissions boards has doubled in the last year, according to a recent survey. Twenty-four percent of respondents revealed that they use Facebook or other social networking sites to learn about applicants. According to the survey sponsor, Kaplan Test prep, 20% of respondents Google applicants as part of the admissions decision process. The most shocking thing about these numbers (to a hyper-connected individual like me) is how low they are. (It reminds me of Luke W’s statistic that 39% of survey respondents admit to mobile phone usage in the bathroom. Which makes the other 61% liars.) It seems to me that savvy admissions counselors, those most likely to use social networking sites as research tools, are also the ones least likely to admit they are doing it. They don’t want to give away their secrets to prospective applicants. (Which makes this like the worst kept secret in town. We know they are doing it. They know we know. Why the charade?)
And of course dating can kick the butt of all these statistics. With most dating meet-ups happening in virtual territory way before any in-person interaction, can you afford not to Google a potential mate in this day and age? Just today I had lunch with a girlfriend who admitted she checked LinkedIn before emailing a friend of a friend. She was proud of herself; she was being smart.
In the absence of honest information from a friend with good intentions who will probably skew the facts in favor of her recommendations, we rely on self-reported lies from a prospective date. Whoa, that was snarky. My point is matchmakers have their own agendas; we want to see our friends happily matched. And so we tend to stretch the truth a bit to fit our ends. Meanwhile, people in Dating Land need to put their best face forward at all times. That face may be a bit of a mask to make it beyond the screening process. When dating feels more and more like an interview, we resort to the same tactics we use to land a new job. We all do it. I’m just as guilty as the next person. I choose the words on my resume carefully to make myself look good. That’s the point of a resume; to make my professional life look good, especially now that it’s so easy to find on the Web. And that’s why I agreed; LinkedIn was the perfect place for my friend to look for information about her potential date.
My friend would be remiss if she did not check out this potential date wherever she found information he has posted about himself. If he’s the kind of person who posts the unedited, unvarnished version of his life on the Web, that says a lot about him. That fact alone means something. It can mean different things to different people. It could be a turn off for some and a turn on for others. Whatever it may mean to my friend, surely having that information is better than not having it, right?
So do I think we are—or that we should be—choosing our words carefully when we post them out here? Heck yeah, I do. Am I constantly self-monitoring and filtering? Heck no, I don’t have time for that! Some days I just want to rant, vent, snark, swear, criticize, and complain. Some days I want to sing, praise, applaud, admire, and adore. That fact says something about me. It means different things to different people. I want it to mean different things to different people. Because I mean different things to different people. And because I want to cultivate relationships with people who are attracted to me, personally and professionally. That first impression happens online now. And I want it to be a good one. Therefore I am the curator of my own words and thoughts and deeds. And I am proud of that fact.