confused in cambridge

Dear Meryl,

I recently graduated from high school and am currently applying to Ivy League universities and I don’t want to run the risk of wrecking my image through social media platforms. I understand that there is a need for some professionalism through these accounts, but am unsure about the extent of it. Do you have any tips on how I should vary my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts?


Confused in Cambridge

Dear Confused in Cambridge,

Congratulations on finishing high school! Welcome to the world of all-nighters and binge drinking on nights you should probably be writing your final essays that are due in two days. I’m very happy to hear you’re keen on taking extra caution on your social media image as you enter this stage of your life.

Every few years, the next big thing seems to appear on the social media horizon. With that, your information becomes readily available to those connected to the Web. The way you present yourself through different platforms is important and certain limitations apply to all.

The screenshots below will give you a gist on portraying yourself through Profile Pictures on different social media platforms.

As you can see, the Profile Pictures on all platforms vary in terms of professionalism. For LinkedIn, your image should allude to your persona in a manner you would want prospective employers to view you.

On Facebook, for example, since privacy settings can be altered, and it is not really a means of communication or highlighting your educational or work experience, you can add a little bit of funk – but not too much! If the photo didn’t crop out the half full bottle of Jack Daniels, it would be slightly problematic.

On Twitter, Reena left out her surname from her username as she does not want anyone knowing that one of her favourite tweets is the confirmation of the existence of the Brontosaurus… Although, that is life changing.

Finally, for LinkedIn, a social media platform that is career and business-focused, your personal profile should be a lot different. According to Forbes, LinkedIn is especially helpful when it comes to landing higher-paying jobs—“informal recruitment” is a favourite of hiring managers aiming to fill positions which are high on the pay scale. Having no picture at all is a huge mistake, but if you do have one, show yourself, not your airbrushed, floating-on-a-cloud, self. Show a simple headshot with your bright eyes and your gleaming smile. Don’t wear a wig. Don’t include your boyfriend. Don’t put a photo of your cat, Sprinkles.

I hope you’re less confused.

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dull in denver

Dear Meryl,

I recently started a blog through WordPress that pays attention and documents the migration of pigeons in Canada, along with several other migratory birds. My intent is to regularly inform the readers of the flight patterns of these species. Despite my attempts with various informative charts and records of the flights, I seem to receive little to no response toward my posts. How can I make my content more appealing for readers?


Yours truly,

Dull in Denver

Dear Dully,

Your hard work is quite admirable if not endearing. But as easy as it is for you to read your chart, my fragile brain and everyone else’s is hurting from the amount of information. Frankly, I’d rather watch ice melt. Lucky for you, Avinash Kaushik, blogger of Occam’s Razor, wrote 7 Data Presentation Tips, to help you organize your data. One tip that I think you can benefit from is: Bring insane focus, and simplify.

I’m sure a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into the formation of this chart, but frankly, it’s not very attractive. Out of the kindness of my heart, I revised (a part of) it so that everyone can understand your document, ergo, more (potential) readers.


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As you can see above, I changed the name of the species to their common name, simplified the text, and minimized the numerical information.

Condensing and shrinking the information allows people to read and understand it quicker. Because we live in an image driven society, there has been a rise in visual culture as we use images in order to communicate (i.e. Emojis). With a graph that’s colour coordinated, the rows can be distinguished from each other, making the information easily read.

If you want to go the extra mile, you could even add an additional column for pictures of each species.

Good luck,


shamed in sherbrooke

“Just like in every social setting, online interactions have their own set of etiquette rules. Evolving over time, the rules of online communication involve knowing when to ‘like’ a status, how to write a comment, and when to stop commenting.”

– Gulf News, January 17th, 2015

Dear Meryl,

I recently applied for an internship at an advertising agency in my hometown. I was the front-runner as far as experience and interviews went, but I didn’t get the position. I emailed the agency to ask what had happened to my application and they told me that upon further inspection of my social media, that I didn’t seem like I ‘emulated the qualities’ they were looking for.

I have a lot of photos on my Facebook and Instagram that reveal a lot of skin, but is that really an issue? I like to have a good time and I don’t care about showing it online. Do employers really mind if I drink and smoke.

The advertising industry in my hometown is small and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get a position anywhere now.

Is this true, Meryl!?


Shamed in Sherbrooke

Dear Shamed in Sherbrooke,

A good reputation, once lost, is not easily regained, and in a time when your every day actions are documented and published online, this is truer now than ever before.

In the past, people could have varying lives and personas according to situation. For example, a person might act very differently at work than they would on a weekend. Now however, a person’s persona and reputation is wrapped up in the social media profiles which are easily accessible to the general public (depending on your privacy settings). Therefore every action and posted item counts.

Regardless of your own personal views or your habits, you must always be cognoscente of public opinion based on these aspects of your life. If you value your career or reputation as a whole, social media has to be a reflection of how you want to be viewed by the public, and not a photo-log of your less than kosher behavior on weekends.

Be careful, Shamed. Clean up your social media act if you value your future at all!



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stalked in saratoga

Dear Meryl,

Every time I log on to my computer, I’m terrified. I searched for an STI clinic recently after a risqué Saturday night last week, and now all of the ads on the sidebar of my browser are advertising for related clinics and treatments. It’s my family’s home desktop and I’ve already had to do a lot explaining to my parents.

How does this happen, Meryl? Is the internet stalking me!? I hate being afraid of browsing, every time I need to look up an issue that is even remotely sensitive. How does the internet know about my deepest secrets?

Please send help!

Stalked in Saratoga

Dear Stalked in Saratoga,

I’m very sorry about your STI scare or your STI reality. Neither are pleasant. The truth is that third party websites are gathering your information constantly as you peruse the internet. Advertising and marketing agencies pay top dollar for your information and cookies data in order to cater advertising directly to you based on your search criteria and URLs which you visit. Hence your misfortune with your previous searches on the family desktop.

Try downloading Lightbeam on your Firefox browser and you may be surprised. Lightbeam tracks third party websites which are accessing your information when you visit websites and turns this data into comprehensive visuals which illustrate the extent to which your information is shared. You’ll be shocked, I assure you.

Next time you have a sensitive issue to search that you don’t want your family to necessarily know about, try entering incognito mode on your browser so your information won’t be tracked, or try installing adware that will disable third-party cookies from accessing your information. This way you won’t feel as if the internet is stalking you and spreading your secrets to the public at large!

Happy browsing!


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pizzaface in pittsburgh

Dear Meryl,

There’s a girl in my homeroom biology class that I’m head over heels in love with. The problem is, she’s a social media guru who never even likes my Facebook profile pictures. How can I jazz up my profile pictures in order for her to reciprocate my feelings? I need some major photo editing help in order to transform myself from a pubescent mess into a social media hunk!


Pizzaface in Pittsburgh



Dear Pizzaface,

There are many image alteration tips one can use to simply amp up what your mother gave you. Adobe Photoshop is commonly used in the digital world to perfect what is considered undesirable. With these simple tools, your biology babe’s knees will be knocking in no time.

The clone stamp and patch tools are best used in order to cover up the pepperoni on your pizza face. Think of them as adding another layer of cheese. They simply duplicate pixels from areas of your skin that are clear and overlay them on the desired area or blemish.

Another useful tool in the digital beautification process is the liquify tool. This tool allows your face to be malleable, like dough, enlarging or shrinking features that you would like to alter.

Take all of this with a grain of salt though, Pizzaface. Your biology babe should appreciate you for who you are, regardless of your social media display pictures. Images on the Internet can be a dangerous thing as alteration software is so effective and readily available. That being said though, I gave your display picture a little help in hopes that you may receive some attention. Additionally, learning how to take an effective selfie may also be beneficial.

Best of luck, Pizzaface!


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