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Modern first impressions

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You only get one chance at a first impression, right? Well, nowadays, not exactly.

It used to be that first impressions meant everything. They were the first time someone saw you, heard your voice, shook your hand and concluded things about you all in one go. On the first day of school, you probably sorted through the best of your closet, trying on several outfits before making a final decision. Walking into a job interview, presenting the best version of yourself was nonnegotiable. It was imperative to be professionally dressed, have a firm handshake, etc. Your achievements and beliefs were, for the most part, inaccessible until you articulated them for yourself to whoever was listening.

Of course, all of these things are still important and will definitely help make a strong first impression. However, with the introduction of social media, this entire playing field has been flipped on its head.

Now, if you walk into a job interview, there’s an 80 percent chance that a potential employer has googled you before you enter their office. They’ve definitely sourced your LinkedIn and likely glanced through your Facebook as well. From these social media platforms, preconceived notions have been formed about you before that first impression even had the chance to happen in real life. Even though our online footprints have shattered the possibility of genuine first-encounter perceptions, first impressions remain crucial now that they have a new role. Instead of helping someone form initial opinions about you, the first time you meet someone can confirm or deny hasty judgements and suspicions. The projections of people online never convey a complete or entirely accurate picture. Real life interactions are still key for discovering the majority of someone’s character.

Besides formal interactions, like job interviews, social media has affected how we first meet and interact with other people. For instance, following someone on Instagram or another form of social media before actually meeting them can definitely confuse in real life introductions. I’ve been in full conversations with people while being completely unsure of whether we’d met previously or just liked each other’s posts. Just like with LinkedIn profiles, social media accounts are often inaccurate and incomplete representations of who a person is. Due to the invention of social media, first impressions are perhaps even more important than they were without technology, because they are the key to contradicting any inaccuracies and proving any positive assumptions concerning who you are.

 

Contact Elizabeth Dunn at eldunn14 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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