I had a really hard time thinking about what I was going to write about for this entry. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say I just couldn’t pick one particular topic, as I have many interests and passions that I have been reflecting on lately. As I was brainstorming, it came to me that I should write simply about this blog and more broadly, social media, I should say. Social Media is a hot topic not just in higher education but in multiple industries. Countless websites now display, links to Facebook profiles, Twitter pages, YouTube channels, and hundreds of other new and emerging social media platforms.
I am not writing this entry to encourage you to be engaged in social media if you are not, nor am I writing as an expert on this issue. I am simply sharing my experience as a member of multiple online social media communities and how that impacted my graduate experience, impacts me personally and consistently expands my experiences professionally.
Before June 2006, I had no idea what social media was and for good reason, as it was still sort of an emerging topic. I remember meeting a young man at college orientation who mentioned that he had a Facebook profile. Of course I asked him questions and how you join. Who knew that not only would I leave orientation, with endless brochures, business cards, folders, and a Facebook profile?
Fast forward to 2010, I had plenty of experiences by this time browsing Facebook in lieu of doing schoolwork. During those four years, I never thought about being intentional with my social media usage. I was inspired by a member of my cohort to get involved in social media; she introduced me to Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram. I was so fascinated by various levels of interaction that could take place through an online venue. Before I knew it, I was the host of several social media profiles, including a blog to share my experience as an ACUHO-I Intern in my graduate preparation program.
It was during my job search process that I noticed how powerful social media had been in my life. As I attended conferences I was able to put faces with names, and meet people that I interacted through social media venues. Engaging in social media has showed me that the word doesn’t seem as big. It reminds me that in fact it really is a small word after all and that the opportunities and connections are limitless.
Social Media has allowed me opportunities to share pieces of me with others. As an introvert social media allows me to process and share my experiences openly, which has become increasingly significant to who I am professionally. Through social media I have been able to become a food, movie, and film connoisseur, a photographer, an expert, correspondent, and analyst on personal, professional, and worldly life events.
Social media has aided in my personal and professional success through:
- Increased self-understanding and awareness.
Since being a host of multiple social media profiles (i.e., Twitter, Linked In, and WordPress). I have been challenged to think about the congruence between my online personality and my actual personality.
1. Discovering me interests and passions.
I often ponder, am I interested enough in this issue that I will add it to my timeline, wall, blog, or list of places I check-in. I also think more intentionally about how those interests translate in my real life. Through social media, I have discovered my interest in photography and very soon will be purchasing my first Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR), which I am soooo excited about!
2. Giving me a voice.
Microblogs like Twitter, have given me another venue to be heard. They have also challenged me to think intentionally about saying a lot, but in just a few words (nothing can be as challenging as consolidating your thoughts into 140 or less characters). I try to govern myself in my day-to-day role as a Residence Life professional. I call it saving my voice (using your voice when you can make the most impact).
3. Developing connections with others.
Through social media, I have begun to build a strong professional network. Engaging with folks who use hashtags (#) like #sachat and #wlsalt via twitter, amongst other social media venues, I have and continue to expand my professional network. It is great to encourage and be encouraged by others.
4. Increasing my awareness of world issues and current events.
It is true. Yes, I am a millennial, and I want to know everything. I am much more informed. I often take screenshots of articles and resources that I am interested in. I enjoy the fact that I can I can rely on others in different parts of the world to keep me updated on things happening in their lives and in real time.
5. I can lend myself to others.
Through theses online communities, I have opened up myself to others. Through these sites I can share my knowledge, resources, celebrate, and sympathize with those who care about me and who have similar interests.
As self-proclaimed popular culture enthusiast, I find it fascinating that it not just important what a celebrity like Kate Winslet is wearing at the Oscars. Through social media we can brand ourselves with #safit and #safashionista (the list can go on). We can celebrate each other, becoming a celebrity in our own right.
Engaging in social media changed my life. Now I would be wrong to not acknowledge the ways in which social media can take a turn for the worst. Maybe you have referred to a picture from Facebook or Flickr in a conduct hearing. Though, when used intentionally with a plan and a purpose it can be an amazing tool. A tool that encourages us to celebrate the connectedness amongst each other, in this world, that in fact is not so small after all.
Shanoya Conner is an Area Coordinator in the Office of Residence Life at Davidson University. Follow Shanoya on Twitter @shanoyamc.