Chris Pendleton Teaches About the Perils and Possibilities of Social Media

· September 21, 2018

Chris Pendleton, Southern Virginia executive vice president of enrollment and marketing, presented in forum last Friday about digital wellness and the importance of personal branding on social media.

In his presentation, entitled, “Social Media: Perils and Possibilities,” Pendleton taught students about curating their digital footprints and building a positive personal brand, while avoiding some of the pitfalls of social media use.

While he outlined many of the dangers misuse of social media can pose, Pendleton maintained that we can use social media to have a hugely positive influence on our lives and careers if we so chose.

“Our happiness depends a lot on what we heed, and on social media there are opportunities to heed negativity, criticism and sarcasm,” Pendleton said. “But there are just as many opportunities—if not more opportunities—to heed lots of good and uplifting things.”

Pendleton began by describing an experience he had when beginning an internship at The White House shortly after graduating college in which several fellow interns jeopardized their opportunity when Facebook photos surfaced that contradicted information they had filled out on their applications.

“I feel like I got a jump start on some of these issues and how they can affect your life in ways you don’t expect,” Pendleton said of the experience. “I’ve been interested in the topic ever since, and it’s been my primary focus during my masters [at Johns Hopkins University].”

Pendleton gave examples of social media blunders and outlined some of the challenges associated with social media use. “I think the challenge of our generation is understanding the stage and the stakes are much higher than they seem when you’re looking at your phone,” he said. “The things you post, the things you tweet, can be read by 3.6 billion people. That’s a pretty incredible thought.”

He invited Dr. Chad Kelland, Southern Virginia professor of psychology, to speak for a few minutes about the relationship between social media and mental health issues like anxiety, depression and addiction.

Kelland cited studies showing how social media, while it can be a wholesome and socially helpful activity, can cause problems when used too much. He also invited students to come to Southern Virginia’s Wellness Center for help with overcoming such issues.

Pendleton focused a large portion of his presentation on the impact social media can have on a career. “Social media has become, for this generation, a new hurdle that you have to cross in your career that wasn’t there for previous generations, and that’s because of our digital footprints,” he said, explaining that a digital footprint consists of all the data collected from all of our online interactions.

Pendleton also invited Cameron Crowther, Southern Virginia executive director of student professional development, to spend a few minutes discussing how employers use social media in the hiring process. According to a survey that Crowther cited, 91 percent of companies confirmed that they screen potential hires on social media, and 69 percent said they had rejected candidate because of their social media.

While a large majority said they had previously rejected a candidate because of what they found on the applicant’s social media, many also said they had hired candidates because of their positive use of social media.

“The reality is that it’s also a great opportunity, because hiring is about a comparative advantage,” Crowther said. “Social media is really important; it’s an opportunity to show the world who you are and to show employers what you have to offer them.”

Crowther also announced that Southern Virginia will now offer LinkedIn profile consultations for students to help them raise the effectiveness rating of their professional profiles.

“Social media is an opportunity to think about personal branding,” Pendleton added. “What do you want your brand on social media to be? I would think super intentionally about that—the most important thing is not to be fake, it’s to be authentic but intentional.”

Pendleton ended by discussing Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, found in the Book of Mormon. He noted how the rod of iron, which symbolized the word of God, runs along the bank of the filthy river, which represents the depths of hell.

“I think that’s kind of a symbol for mortality: that in life there’s always going to be opposition, and there’s this sort of duality of good and evil and a collocation of those things,” Pendleton said. “I think that’s really applicable to technology, to the Internet, and to social media—just as much as they can be used for good, they can be used for evil, and it’s up to us and our agency to decide which we will chose.”