On Bystander Intervention, Community Standards and Yik Yak

I have a blog, so I’m required by law to say something about the YikYak controversy swirling around the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) National Convention.

We teach our students to model bystander intervention. It’s a key component of Title IX training and paramount to student leadership and conflict management. We teach bystander intervention may cause you to lose friends. It’s hard to speak out. You’ll be called out for being sanctimonious and holier than thou. Others won’t understand why you ratted them out. You may find yourself shunned by certain circles of “friends.”



When comments like this were seen on yik yak, other administrators modeled the way and called out the behavior.They shared what they felt were community norms and shared community values. Administrators monitored their own community. They are and were demonstrating they very bystander intervention behaviors we claim to teach.

Sure, there are plenty of people who are screaming “moral high horse” and accusing people of being “sanctimonious.” But isn’t this what we’ve trained our students for? Isn’t this exactly what we said would happen?

Isn’t this exactly what we want?

On Bystander Intervention, Community Standards and Yik Yak

The unwritten blog

There are many things in life I’m good at:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Rambling
  • Hunting for Unicorns

What I’m not so good at is self-censoring.

Those who know me well understand I don’t have a poker face, I can’t not say something and I can’t not respond when something is really bothering me. These things combined makes having an active and positive presence on social media a difficult thing.

How many times have you opened up Twitter, let loose some anger and then deleted the tweet before hitting send? There’s something beautifully cathartic about putting it out in space and then deleting it before you have the chance to hit send. It’s the modern day “write your anger on paper, crumple it up and throw it away.”

As I was prepping to leave work last night, I had the chance to read the result of a assessment from a program I was affiliated with… a few comments in the assessment were so inflammatory, so outrageous I immediately jumped to my blog and wrote a scathing post. There were 500+ words of pure fury. It’s now sitting in my drafts, never to see the light of day.

Because at the end of the day, publishing a flame isn’t helpful. The constant spur of the moment Facebook updates and Tweets designed to incite feelings of anger accomplish no good. They don’t move the issue further or help make a situation better. Instead, nasty, aggressive statuses only allow you to wallow in that anger… and make the situation even worse.

It was a moment for me. A chance to reflect, check myself, move forward and find some positive things from the situation. It’s our responsibility to model positive behavior on social media, even when we’re in the thick of negative feelings and emotions.

And you can bet there’s going to be an Educational Session about this… we’re looking at you NACA National Convention 2014.

The unwritten blog

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.

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

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