Student Affairs and Social Media

Warning:  I’m about to sound like a curmudgeon.  I’ve held my tongue (so to speak) on this topic for several years now, but Eric Stoller’s post today in Inside Higher Ed was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And to be clear, this has nothing to do with this specific post, or with Eric personally.  I’ve never met Eric, and I find many of his posts thought-provoking and entertaining.  I just had to put what I’ve been thinking about into words.

Maybe I need to broaden my online reading horizons, but whenever I see posts about technology in student affairs, nine times out of ten it’s about social media.  Social media and leadership.  Social media and identity.  Social media and the admissions process.  Social media and emergency notification systems.  Social media and campus climate.  Social media and why you’re missing the boat if you’re not on the latest platform.  Enough already!  Without a doubt, social media is important, and there are interesting ramifications for students with this new “permanent record” that we older folks haven’t come to grips with yet.

Many rising stars in the student affairs profession are brilliant at using social media as a platform for self-promotion.  An irrepressibly upbeat attitude coupled with a positive message goes a long way in this field.  If you have an EdD, you’re probably also an unstoppable force of nature and you don’t give a damn what I think.  Popularity contests don’t bother me.  What bothers me is the implicit connection being made that somehow social media IS technology.

That’s wrong, and it really grinds my gears.  Mastery of social media is not the same thing as mastery of technology.

Legions of IT pros in student affairs support an incredibly diverse range of systems, services and infrastructure.  Most of them work behind the scenes and don’t draw any attention to themselves.  It just so happens that the things they work on aren’t perceived as being as sexy as “SoMe.”  But the systems they manage are an integral part of what makes a university run.  And if any of those systems fail, boy howdy.

What makes social media interesting as a technology (at least to me) is that they’re platforms designed from the ground up AS PLATFORMS.  They’re easy to integrate with and can “talk to” virtually any system you can shake a stick at.  But this isn’t what student affairs social media evangelists talk about.  They instead use it as a fulcrum to leverage against current hot topics in the field.

I usually don’t complain without bringing some sort of solution to the table, but in this case I’m annoyed and need to vent a bit.  Maybe the quiet techies need to speak up more and participate in standards-making bodies.  Maybe they should be more active in (gasp) social media.  The only thing I can say for sure is that I’d really like to see the student affairs social media evangelists slow their roll a smidge.

Frankly, I doubt this post will resonate with anyone.  Hardly a surprise, given my massive double-digit readership.  Maybe I should take the hint and use social media more effectively << sighs >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *