Rethinking Snapchat

When released in September 2011, many of us dismissed Snapchat. I certainly did.

Snapchat was a thing people did to get away with sexting each other with limited consequences. Those who know me well know that I’m a smartphone prude. I won’t download GRINDR (WARNING – any web search for this will most likely be not safe for work) much less take sketchy photos on my phone.

But this didn’t really matter as I’m an Android fan and Snapchat was an IOS app… until it just an IOS app. Snapchat came to Android last November. But still, I refused.

Last month, #MyEric, who has no use for social media in his life, downloaded Snapchat. Between that and the gentle prodding of two former students, I gave in last week and checked it out.

I should have jumped on the bandwagon earlier.

Why the sudden change of heart?

  • I read too much into the negativity of a social media platform and couldn’t move out of my own way.
  • We have the ability to craft social media and technology into ways that it is useful for us.
  • We have the ability to put our thinking caps on and see how we can interact with people in new ways.
  • I called myself out – didn’t I initially reject Facebook & Twitter? And look at me now…

After playing on it for a just a few days, I found Snapchat to be a lovely way to share pictures and videos with friends and students. My mind jumps at using this to show what’s happening on campus and how we can integrate it into our current social media strategy.

That said, send me a snapchat! I’d love to see what your day looks like – jasonrobert99

I’m going to enjoy Snapchat. I just had to get out of my own way first.

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Rethinking Snapchat

On the topic of goodbyes

There are a lot of goodbyes happening right now… undergrads graduating and moving on, grad students getting their first jobs, friends moving on to the next stage in their lives.

At dinner last night with two recently graduated students, we talked about moving on and saying goodbye. What struck me  was the nonchalance we now have when we say goodbye.

I’ve had 17 different addresses in my life. That’s one address for every two years of my life. Most of these were accompanied by a big move and the need to say goodbye. It was never easy but I learned to let go and move on… to say goodbye.

Before email and social media, we were reliant upon letter writing as the primary means of staying in touch. As the world’s worst letter writer, that meant I had to learn how to say goodbye. That’s not the case anymore.

Social media keeps us clued in these days. It’s not that people say goodbye and move away, it’s that people and their relationships with us move to a digital space. Feelings, news and statuses are still shared. A connection is still easily kept, just in another way.

And I wonder if we’re not worse off because of it. Maybe its because I emotionally compartmentalize my life, but I feel more able to cut my strings and move on. I am equipped and able to say goodbye to people, experiences and institutions. My ability to let go and move forward is something I consider to be a strength.

I’ll give you this: My relationships with former colleagues and students remains strong because of social media and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. 

A book that has always stayed with me is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This quote sums it up for me:

If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?
– Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  Richard Bach
To those of you we’re saying goodbye to, I’ll see you in the middle of Here and Now.
On the topic of goodbyes

Going off of the grid

On Valentines Day 2012, something strange hit me. No, not a loose arrow from cupid’s quiver, rather a weird desire to go off of the grid.

Inspired by a friend who had done the same a few week’s prior, I gave my cell phone up for 48 hours. Short of jailing my cell phone, I put my cell phone in my boss’ hand and told her not to give it back for 48 hours.

cellphonecage

Hence began my first real experiment with going off of the grid.

Without constant work emails, facebook and twitter, I was able to spend a nice night cooking Valentine’s Day dinner with #MyEric and focus on the life around me. I instinctively reached for my phone more than once, but found no major withdraw symptoms. I learned I wasn’t nearly as technology dependent as I thought I was prior to going off of the grid. Truth be told, this was more stressful for my boss than it was for me.

So here we go again. Tomorrow, I board a boat and head off to the great wilds of Canada, essentially going off of the grid until noon on Sunday.

No texts, no email, no tweets, no facebooking, no friends bitching about the Red Wedding on last night’s Game of Thrones.

Two takeaways here:
1. A vacation is rarely a total vacation because we’re still on the grid. There are still glimpses of work emails, students tweeting, Facebook events, etc. Going completely off the grid turns your vacation into a real retreat.

2. In Higher Ed, we spend too long worrying about our absence and what it means to our campus. We have to get over ourselves. Truth be told, our absence rarely means anything. Students will still learn. Classes will still be taught. The world will continue to turn, even if I’m not tweeting about it.

Going off of the grid

When Confession Hurts

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about an article written by a friend at BostInno.

In her piece, Lauren dissects the Facebook trend inspired by PostSecret[insert your college here] Confessional. You can find the entire article here.

Our own campus has its own slew of [insert your college here] [insert other word here] pages on Facebook. Like Lauren explores in her article, Emerson Confessional started as a fun account. It was cute. It was silly. And then it took a turn in some serious territory. Students share stories of sexual assault, depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and drug use.

And I worry. I worry about a student holding the names and identities of so many personal stories. I worry about a student holding a secret over other students. I worry about students one-upping each other. I worry about an entry triggering an emotional response an average college student isn’t equipped to handle. I worry about why students reading aren’t recommending people to go visit our Counseling Center or the Center for Health and Wellness. And, I worry about casual administrators seeing this unfold and how we react (or, even IF we react).

Someone has told me this is no different than the JuicyCampus craze a few years ago… but I disagree. Unlike with JuicyCampus, our own students are holding the gossip. They’re the ones with the names and stories. If your story is power, people participating in this craze are giving their power away.

When do we say enough is enough? There are students (and staff) savvy enough to understand this is a loaded and potentially unhealthy avenue – but they continue to read it, continue to send their own confessions and continue to feed into this frenzy. The competitive desire to one up each other is dangerous and unhealthy, to say the very least. When do our students realize by feeding into this frenzy that they are part of the larger issue?

Is anyone else dealing with this on your campus?

What are you doing about it?

When Confession Hurts

Leveraging your voice

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 27, 2011, I watched in horror from Boston as my former home and community in Alabama was torn asunder from a devastating string of tornadoes that cleared a path from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, winds reaching over 190 mph. As my friends picked through the rubble and helped a community rebuild, I toiled from afar, safe in my apartment in Beacon Hill. I was desperate to assist.

From home, I tweeted this: “Frustrated that I’m not in Alabama doing something. I hate this feeling.”

That’s when a friend in Birmingham called me out on Twitter – “You have over 1000 Facebook friends and 500 Twitter followers. Do something.”

It was a shock to my system. I was embarrassed to not think of this, to not use my voice to help tell a story. I was a self-professed social media fanatic. Why didn’t this dawn on me? It was the first time I was conscious of having a voice and having the ability to use it in a positive way.

Today, I was conscious of it. It started with a Facebook status.

FacebookStatus

I expected to get some likes and some comments. I thought it would stir the pot a bit and would get a rise out of some people. All in all, it was an honest statement and I was interested in seeing what came from it.

Truth? I didn’t expect what came next… I didn’t expect to hear dozens of stories from friends and family members, colleagues and students from all across the country.

Status4

Status5

Status3

Status2

I could keep going, but you get the point.

I watched these statuses tag me over the course of the day. It was a beautiful thing to see my simple status come to life. I’m thankful to have so many thoughtful friends who tell their stories to their own friends and family.

While the visibility of the HR sign is nice and makes you feel like an ally, changing your profile picture won’t actually change anything. Taking action, writing your legislators, working in your community, telling your story is far more important than a two-click profile pic change. Take a few minutes, be intentional and actually do something.

Leveraging your voice