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Social media guidelines to promote positive experiences

Social media activity has become an area of concern on many college campuses, and has created challenging situations for students and sometimes for the institution. Social networking provides many opportunities, but it is important that students also are aware of its risks.

The following guidance is intended to promote positive experiences on social media that do not have unintended consequences — now or later.  

Community members at Augustana seek to hold themselves to higher standards than is sometimes observed in social media. Please be respectful as you post. As a rule, postings are most likely respectful if you would not be afraid that a prospective employer might see them. 

Augustana College subscribes to the PEN America Principles on Campus Speech, which state that respectful responses honor "the idea that the preferable response to differences is to try to understand them and, even if one disagrees with them, to express that dissent in a way that fosters dialogue rather than escalates tension.”

Too much information?

Be careful how much personal identifying information you provide on social networking sites, to avoid the risk of stalking or identity theft. Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on your sites, and remember that regardless of privacy settings, information you share can become public.

Do not post your address, birth date, class schedule, Social Security number, or any other identifying information.

Know what to do.

If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them and report them using the reporting function provided by the social channel. Report any actual or suspected hacking, impersonation, harassment, threats or online fraud for referral to law enforcement authorities or to the Dean of Students.    

Are you building a positive online reputation?

Your information will be read if you write things that people will value. Identify your goals and motivations for the content you post.

In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. You are constantly creating perceptions about your character that can affect your present and future. Be sure that all content associated with you is consistent with your values. Understand how others are likely to react to your posts.

Controversy and reactions

Making controversial posts, including many political posts or posts involving controversial issues, can trigger aggressive and sometimes rude responses and personal attacks.

If those responses would cause you anxiety, avoid making posts on controversial subjects. Controversial posts are generally protected by Augustana’s freedom of expression policies unless they violate other college policies.

The fact that you can say something, doesn’t always mean you should.

If it gives you pause, then pause.

Stop and think before you write a message or post pictures. Ask yourself if the information you are sharing is something you want your parents, grandparents, future employers or college administrators to see. Remember that even items you delete can remain on the internet for years.

If you're about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don't shrug it off; think through the future implications and possible consequences.

Inappropriate and/or unprofessional photos, comments and references that you post or ones that are posted by others can hurt your credibility and damage your professional reputation.

An increasing number of admissions officials and employers consider candidates' social media activities in making their selections. According to research conducted by CareerBuilder (2018), 70% of job recruiters screen job candidates with information they found online. 

Consider the privacy of others.

Postings of other people which have not been cleared can be considered an invasion of privacy. Think carefully about a posting or photo and how it would impact another person.

Be cautious on social networking sites.

When "friending," make sure you know the person. Even links that look like they come from friends sometimes can contain harmful software or be part of a phishing attack. If you are at all suspicious, do not click it. Contact your friend to verify the validity of the link first.
Social networking is not a safe haven.

Conduct and speech can have consequences, including disciplinary action on campus and even criminal charges from law enforcement authorities.

While the college does not monitor social media, if the college is made aware of social media activity that may violate the Student Code of Conduct — for example, harassing or intimidating community members — the matter will be investigated and handled in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.

But, there is no general “Code of Civility” either.  

Engaging in social networking also can mean being subjected to rude, aggressive, offensive and even hurtful behavior for which there is no recourse. We hope that the Augustana Community Principles, along with respect and tolerance, guides all of our communications, including those online.   
When social media is getting to be too much and you feel like you need a break from the pressure it creates, take a break. Log off. Consider social media abstinence. 

Thanks to the University of Louisville for sharing its some of its guidelines.