This article is by Devon Prince, this summer’s special projects manager at LP Media Group.
While there are many reasons that older generations pick on younger generations, one reason millennials are being picked on is because of good ol’ social media. Millennials using social media can certainly come with some baggage, but do the possible assets of using it match up with the liabilities? Do the assets surpass the liabilities? Let’s take a look.
Having already-existing knowledge and experience with social media, whether professional or purely social, the more millennials use social media, the more they become familiar with the ins and outs of it.
For example, they might know that on Twitter it is easier to get a post shared to a large audience because of the option to retweet or quote-tweet someone else’s post, while the only sharing option available on Instagram is through a direct message, which cannot reach as many people. Little things like this aren’t explicitly stated on the platform so an already-established knowledge might give millennials in the business world an upper hand compared to those who are just starting to learn social media, especially now that more businesses are turning to social networks to expand their followings.
By coming to work with a built-in network of connections, millennials have the ability to bring attention, interest, and new connections, in a matter of minutes, by reaching out to “friends” and “followers” that they already have on their accounts.
The online world is so different from the real world because the possibilities online are endless when it comes to reaching a large audience in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. With the right connections, a simple tweet or post could reach thousands of people in a minuscule amount of time.
Millennials are more familiar with communicating and reaching out to others online because, chances are, if they have any kind of social media, they have reached out to someone online before, whether it be through commenting on a post or “DM-ing” someone on Twitter.
These days, so much of what used to be on paper is now digital, including a lot of communication. By interacting with others online through social media, millennials have the upper hand when it comes to communicating in this newly digital world. To some, reaching out to others online can be a daunting task, as it’s new, but millennials who have been doing it for years will already feel more comfortable with emailing and direct messaging potential clients or partners through platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and more.
While it may be easier to remember the negative moments when it comes to social media, let me give you an example of when social media left a positive impact.
Now, I’m sure most of you who have social media or watch the news either saw or participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014. This challenge reached millions of people, and whether someone knew why the Ice Bucket Challenge existed or they were just doing it because everyone else was doing it, every challenge brought a little more awareness to this terrible disease and eventually helped to raise $115 million for research to find a cure.
While knowing the ins and outs of social media can be helpful, not being experienced in using social media professionally can bring some new problems. While most millennials will have at least some kind of experience with using social media, using it socially can be incredibly different from how one uses it in a professional setting.
This can be a liability for millennials because they might be so familiar with using social media in a purely recreational way that they aren’t quite sure how to use it as a professional advantage.
Now, I’m sure many of you have already heard horror stories about embarrassing or harmful content going viral and ruining people’s lives, but let me give you another example. Just look at the 19-year-old from the University of Alabama who got EXPELLED from her university for posting two harmful videos on her PRIVATE social media account. This woman thought, that since her account was private, she could post whatever she wanted, and it would only be seen by her chosen audience. Someone recorded the Instagram post and put it on Twitter, where it went viral and resulted in her getting kicked out of her sorority and school, as well as earned her negative national attention.
While this might be seen as an extreme example, it can happen to anyone (yes, even you) if you aren’t careful. While private accounts are somewhat more private than public accounts, the second you post something on the internet, it truly is there forever, and you should treat it like anyone can have access to it.
Social media can be distracting, as some millennials have already become so accustomed to using it every few minutes that it has become a habit for them to check their phones constantly for updates without even thinking twice.
This is comparable to someone taking a smoke break. By taking a few minutes every so often to check social media, it is time wasted that could be spent on many other tasks that could help the company instead.
Millennials’ experience with social media can also lead to poor face-to-face communication skills. While millennials spending their time on social media can improve their ability to communicate online to others, is it harming their face-to-face communication skills?
While people can open up to others online much faster than they do in person because they feel like there’s a layer of protection, by not being face-to-face, this might be crippling to millennials in their professional careers as they have little practice at face-to-face conversations.
I know some of you were probably only reading this to find out the definite answer, waiting for me to tell you if social media is more helpful or more hurtful professionally to millennials.
The truth is: it depends.
While I hate this answer and wish I could declare social media use as a clear asset or liability, it truly is up to the millennial at hand.
Whether millennials choose to use social media as an asset through bringing in new connections or they choose to let social media be a distraction to them, social media is a powerful tool. The ways in which a person utilizes social media determines just how effective of a tool it can be.
This article is by Devon Prince, this summer’s special projects manager at LP Media Group. Devon Prince is a junior at The University of Oklahoma. She is studying to get a degree in marketing from the Price College of Business and never misses out on a chance to meet new people.