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Will my social media be looked by admissions?


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I'm planning on applying for grad school this year, pursuing a PhD in physics or astronomy. Do they ever look at your social media (facebook, twitter, instagram) when you apply? This is probably a silly thing to worry about, but I'm wondering because I've become more outspoken on social media in the past year. I have been engaging in discussions (some might call them arguments 😅) with people in comment sections... Mostly expressing my opinions on US 'politics', social issues, religion, etc (if it matters, I am leftist and agnostic). I'm never disrespectful of others' views, it's just that I am expressing my strong opinions via my personal account on public posts. My accounts are private, but anyone can see my comments on public posts. I doubt that this would be an issue, but I just wanted to make sure! Sorry if this is a silly question. 

Edited by taylorj
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57 minutes ago, PokePsych said:

I know some places (especially grad students) do a search and will try to dig up things online. being outspoken can be a pro or con actually, depending on the department and individual professor.

 

58 minutes ago, Boolakanaka said:

Some do, some do not. 
If the program is highly ranked and has resources,  it would not be surprising at all for them to do a check on social media. They are not just checking on you, but also preserving the integrity of the program.

Thank you for the input, that makes sense! I guess I'm wondering about my case specifically: I have mostly private accounts, I post very little, and anything I do post is inoffensive (mostly just photos with friends/family). I have a few posts/highlights on a private instagram account that express strong support of BLM, and one post on a public account expressing strong support of BLM, but that's about it. I've seen lots of discussions about BLM within my department already and everyone is in support so it doesn't seem like an issue, especially since they generally agree with my views.

What I'm worried more about is my comments on public posts. For instance, I follow some large accounts on instagram that make posts on political issues, social issues, environmental issues, etc. I have a habit of looking through the comments on these posts and engaging in discussions with people whose views I don't agree with. Again, I am never disrespectful, but it's a comment section so I'm much more bold and much less formal/proper, because I figure no one I know will see it! I wouldn't want grad schools to see these and think I'm too harsh/blunt or argumentative. I'm not like that in person! 😅 

So my question is, do you know if there's a way for committees to search for things like this (comments on public posts made from my personal account)? Or would they really only know if they stumbled upon it by accident?

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A couple of things here:

1) I seriously doubt any member of the AdComm has time to screen every applicant's social media. Sorry @Boolakanaka but those seem to be rescinded college admissions, which work differently than PhD admissions. 

2) If they do google you at a later stage in the admissions process, it might be before or after an interview. This is something I tell everyone: have a handle of your online presence. Go into incognito mode on your browser and search yourself. What comes up? I had an early control of my presence because I use to teach, so I configured my fb or ig profiles so that people can't find me that easily (which basically means that my fb does not appear on the first page of Google results). 

3) I seriously doubt a program wouldn't admit you because of engaging with others on social media. However, if you shared homophobic, sexist, racist, etc comments or jokes, I think the AdComm might be influenced by that and wonder if they want that kind of person among themselves. I don't think that being outspoken about BLM would hurt you (and if it does, do you really want to be in a program that takes issue with supporting BLM?)

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2 hours ago, AP said:

A couple of things here:

1) I seriously doubt any member of the AdComm has time to screen every applicant's social media. Sorry @Boolakanaka but those seem to be rescinded college admissions, which work differently than PhD admissions. 

2) If they do google you at a later stage in the admissions process, it might be before or after an interview. This is something I tell everyone: have a handle of your online presence. Go into incognito mode on your browser and search yourself. What comes up? I had an early control of my presence because I use to teach, so I configured my fb or ig profiles so that people can't find me that easily (which basically means that my fb does not appear on the first page of Google results). 

3) I seriously doubt a program wouldn't admit you because of engaging with others on social media. However, if you shared homophobic, sexist, racist, etc comments or jokes, I think the AdComm might be influenced by that and wonder if they want that kind of person among themselves. I don't think that being outspoken about BLM would hurt you (and if it does, do you really want to be in a program that takes issue with supporting BLM?)

My point is not if they would, but if they could....

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On 8/20/2020 at 7:48 PM, taylorj said:

So my question is, do you know if there's a way for committees to search for things like this (comments on public posts made from my personal account)? Or would they really only know if they stumbled upon it by accident?

Can they search? Yes. 

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20 hours ago, taylorj said:

Follow up, then: Would they (typically)?

And how does that work? Just wondering now.

No, again, they wouldn't typically Google you. If they do, it might be before an interview (if you program has interviews), but no one would go out of their ways to try to find your hidden posts. I know this is hard to believe, but faculty don't have that much time in their hands.

They would do a Google search like anyone does. I don't think anyone would click on your social media, except maybe Twitter? To see if you follow someone they know. If a university-related post appears, they might click on that because it would be more pertinent. 

Other than that, there is no secret faculty spying on prospective students. And also, just to be clear, the fact that someone Googles you is not a bad thing. It's the most normal thing to do. Just have control of your digital identity.

 

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I doubt that they'll Google you or whatever. Even if they did, wouldn't it be expressed in the admission info that they do actually do something like that? I think that your application alone gives them a good idea of who you are in an academic sense. If they want to know more, I would think they would set up some sort of meeting with you. Maybe out of curiosity they could search for you online, but it's not going to be to the point where they dig up every single thing about you. If you have a strong online presence, then maybe it'll be discovered easier. However, if you have a few accounts here and there and you don't really post much, then I wouldn't see much of it coming up in search results. All in all, don't sweat it.

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This seems pretty unlikely. The application file is mostly about the file and academic achievement. This is probably one of the lesser things to worry about -- along the lines of possible but unlikely. The most likely scenario I could imagine is if you claim some kind of work experience/honor, they Google you, and in route they decide to view your Twitter posts. But graduate admissions isn't like a background check. I doubt this is very likely and even if someone did happen to check out a Twitter handle, why would partisan statements have anything whatsoever to do with the academic criteria required to get in to grad programs?

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