Anna Boyle is a third-year Scots Law LLB (Hons) student at the University of Strathclyde and President of the university's Law Society for the 2020/21 academic session. Here, she looks at how our usage of social media has increased throughout the pandemic and whether it's a good thing professionally?

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in a multitude of ways. One such significant change is the increase in use of technology: Ofcom estimates that one quarter of an adult’s waking day is spent online.

While much of this time involves positive uses of online platforms, such as communicating with colleagues or family through video calls, the switch to a predominantly indoor life has led to an increase in the dreaded social media scroll.

We are all familiar with endless scrolling.

We begin a five-minute break from studying by watching one post about a puppy, only to find ourselves refocusing an hour later after also watching that puppy’s first day at home, walk in the park and every other milestone you can think of.

However, scrolling on LinkedIn differs to watching endless puppy videos. As we look through LinkedIn, we are learning of our peers’ successes. Perhaps without realising, we are continually comparing ourselves to them. In the time we spent scrolling through canine milestones, it feels as though our connections have managed to secure two internships, attended three webinars and obtained a first-class mark for their coursework.

As firms begin to notify their successful applicants, the sudden surge of “I am delighted to announce…” posts or bio descriptions being changed to “incoming intern at…” can be overwhelming.

Of course, that is not to say that these successes should not be celebrated. Receiving an offer for any of these programmes is a monumental achievement that should undoubtedly receive the commendation it truly deserves.

What you see on LinkedIn, however, is the finished product.

Behind these successes, there may be years of rejections and disheartenment, due to the lack of feedback received from a 10-hour application. As of late, there has been a definite upward trend of sharing a more honest interpretation of the journey that people have taken to reach their success; albeit a number of these are from distinguished leaders in their respective field.

While I am sure many find comfort in these shared stories, once the individuals have reached their peak, it becomes more difficult to relate to their now-distant struggles. 

As a student, finding the correct balance between your studies; a part-time job - essential for many people to fund their studies; involvement in extra-curricular activities - that many firms value in deciding who to appoint to lucrative traineeships; and using your remaining free time to maintain a healthy mind and body – another necessity - is challenging.

Finding enough time to complete the necessities can be difficult at times. So, upon discovery via LinkedIn that your connection has been able to attend two webinars this week on top of the essentials of life, it is easy to feel a sense of inadequacy.

However, it is important to ensure you don’t directly compare yourself to another. No two sets of circumstances are identical.

During a week when you have completed your tasks ahead of schedule, allowing time to attend webinars or training courses, the peer you envied two-weeks ago may be struggling with their demanding workload.

It is rare, if ever, to see a post detailing the tribulations of a taxing week that led to no time for extra-curriculars. For your connection to have attended a webinar, they may have rescheduled an engagement, or worked longer hours the previous day. Yet, they aren’t likely to include this detail when they post about the fantastic advice they were given that they plan to use in interviews from now on.

As is the case with many social media platforms, it is important to remember that, while LinkedIn often portrays a flawless picture, the reality of the steps taken to reach that stage may not be quite as picturesque.

Of course, LinkedIn has a vast number of features that can be beneficial when the platform is utilised effectively.

From my own experience, sharing details of the Strathclyde Law Society’s upcoming events with connections has proven to boost registration numbers, allowing students to attend useful events they may not otherwise have known about. The platform allows for connections to be made between professionals and students, giving the latter an opportunity to network with individuals they may not have met otherwise.

This alternative method of virtual networking has proven to be invaluable throughout lockdown periods and seems set to continue to thrive.

Additionally, through reading a connection’s profile, you may discover the steps they have taken to reach their current position; this can be extremely useful if you aspire to follow a similar route. There are also a vast number of individuals who volunteer their help, or give advice to students, or post useful resources that they have compiled. 

LinkedIn provides a multitude of opportunities to which we, as students, may not otherwise have access. However, it is important to remember, just like a duck floating serenely on the surface of a pond, beneath the water there’s a power of hard work taking place to reach such serenity.

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