Beauty and the Beast*

*in this post, The Beast is social media. I am quite obviously The Beauty.

One of my internship supervisors and colleagues–who also happens to be a CSSA graduate–told me that in every CSSA cohort, there emerges one or two “techies.” Apparently, in my cohort, I’m one of those (our other stand-out techie is someone who is logical and rational, not quite as off-the-walls bouncy and aloof as me–so naturally, I question this label I’ve gotten). I just happen to be a young woman that’s a social butterfly, and if that means connecting from the comfort of my room whilst on my laptop, so be it. There are so many people out there, and they have so much to say!

I suppose that’s why I’m a nerd for social media. It’s especially helpful that social media has played a large part in my sanity during a turbulent transition out of college, into the working world, and back into the academic zone.

Let’s look at a run-down of how social media and communication shaped and influenceds my student affairs grad career thus far:

  • In 2007, a friend tells me about “this new website that’s kind of like… just Facebook statuses.” I get a Twitter account, post one update, and remain confused.
  • Late in 2008, I begin a blog called “Word Whirl Too,” which will eventually be exported to a WordPress.com blog called “Trains & Sunsets.” Its intention is to log my professional growth and serve as an electronic career portfolio.
  • 2008/2009, I slip into a valley of depression. I start questioning my choices about my industry and purpose in life. I begin using Twitter to connect with old friends and businesses, trying to distract myself from the poor choice in housing I made.
  • Spring 2009, a local life coaching company follows me on Twitter. I take a look and an am inspired to rev up my efforts in finding my purpose in life. I have previously decided to investigate the world of “student affairs in higher education.” Luckily, I realize that there are several outstanding resources in SA, both in the blogosphere and on Twitter.
  • At some point, I connect with an individual named Eric Stoller. He seems to be well-versed in the world of student affairs, as well as familiar with the Pacific Northwest. I start following his blog and Twitter account, connecting with more SA folks from there.
  • I decide to commit to the student affairs graduate program search. I concentrate my search in the western United States. My former roommate jokes that I should look at Oregon State University for grad programs. A quick internet search shows that OSU is home to a Master’s program called “College Student Services Administration.” I panic because it’s the only program on my prospective schools list that requires professional experience. Eric tells me he’s CSSA alum.
  • I start subscribing to SA blogs via RSS feeds (in Google Reader). Blogs of note include those focusing on international education/study abroad, women in higher education, and graduate students in student affairs. The list continues to grow into my initial ventures into my graduate program, and I eventually find myself focusing on topics like non-traditional and transfer students.
  • I start using Twitter to connect with other prospective student affairs graduates. We exchange questions and stories about the application and interview processes. Most of us will end up at very different institutions, but we will continue to connect using the #sagrad hashtag. The #sagrad community is a great resource for support and collaboration, I soon find out.
  • 2010 rolls around. I officially enroll as a Master’s candidate at Oregon State University. It doesn’t take long before I decide to convert my “career portfolio” personal blog into my capstone project for CSSA.
  • Network, network, network. I connect with the #sachat community, a community made up of professionals and hopefuls (a.k.a., #sagrad, etc.), which carries out a weekly discussion via Twitter about issues in student affairs. Not only are there many perspectives shared, I am also exchanging ideas and thoughts with new professionals as well as seasoned professionals across the country and throughout the world. The communication major in me is thrilled as my own notions are consistently broadened and challenged.
  • In 2011, I become a part of the HigherEdLive.com family as a production assistant and intern for Student Affairs Live. This show utilizes live webcasts, as well as conferencing software and Twitter, to deliver a show about issues in student affairs. Eric Stoller functions as the host, and I take a behind-the-scenes function, sending Tweets out throughout the show containing related links, comments, and questions. We use the #SAlive hashtag to facilitate a running conversation with Twitter followers concurrently with the show. The internship allows me the privilege of learning from others in the field while also exploring first-hand the power of social media’s information delivery systems.
  • Additionally in 2011, I attend a “Tweet-up” (a.k.a., a meet-up for Twitter users) at the NASPA annual conference. I connect with several #sagrad members and professionals in real life–including making a memorable connection with Mamta Accapadi, who happens to be the Dean of Student Life here at OSU.
  • I take on a role as the Technology Chair for NASPA’s International Education Knowledge Community. This allows me the chance to explore working with website design and updates. I translate this over to my Fall 2011 internship, learning how to edit pages using a different type of editor.
  • Currently, I’m working via Google Docs with a colleague based out of the University of the Pacific to put together a conference proposal for the NASPA Western Regional 2012 conference. We initially “met” over the phone during CSSA interviews, then became Twitter pals. We have briefly met for only a few minutes on my last day at NASPA Western Regional 2011. The power of the Twitterverse compels you.

These are all reasons why I believe that social media is a powerful tool for student affairs professionals. While I am not at all discounting the value of traditional face-to-face networking, I find that using Twitter and other outlets has allowed me to vastly expand my network, my knowledge of relevant issues, my familiarity with the diversity of institutions which exist, and my ability to communicate via different media.

Additionally note: It’s not just all business! A lot of SA folks are into sharing music and decompressing using turntable.fm where people can play and share music.

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Text me: I’ll over-analyze it. (via A Nice Ring to It)

I’ll own up to the fact that I prefer texting to vocal phone communication. It’s not to say that I fear having conversations over the phone; it’s just that I’ve always felt that I can communicate better with the written word.

That said, texting has its downfalls. Seeing that I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus and that I’m still trying to collect all my thoughts surrounding the experiences I’ve had during this first third or so of summer, I’m going to get back into my “regular schedule” by reblogging this cute little piece. Enjoy!

Text me: I'll over-analyze it. "Hey." Not a particularly welcoming salutation. Not unfriendly, but no enthusiasm. It's firm. Finite. Is he mad? "Hey" This one's completely different. It's casual. The lack of punctuation says, "I'm on the go — Just didn't have time for that little dot!" If you find this analysis over-the-top and slightly nauseating, I'm wit … Read More

via A Nice Ring to It

So Connected

Recently, I was challenged to think about the implications of “Generation C,” and what technology and constant connection means, especially in terms of the college experience.

It’s easy to immediately say that essentially being online all the time is terrible. For me, I’m constantly checking my Twitter feed to see what others are up to in the world, and my phone battery started dying faster once I pushed my work emails to my phone. Yet at the same time, being connected means I am only a touch away.

That’s right. A touch.

I am not even a phone call away anymore. All someone needs to do is push a few buttons, and I instantly know they’re thinking of me, or conversing with me thousands of miles away. It means that those awesome people I meet at conferences or while traveling are no longer a cumbersome email away or a long-distance phone call away. I know what’s going on in their lives as they simply live them.

And they know what’s going on with mine. They knew on February 5th, 2011 that my dad had passed away. They didn’t find out months later over a random newspaper clipping. I didn’t have to slave over a prolonged obituary; instead, a simple tribute on my blog broadcast the news.

Impersonal? To some. Simple, sincere, and meaningful? To me.

With the connections, though, comes information overload. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with conflicting news stories coming in at all angles. Sometimes I don’t know how to process other people’s feelings on the recently-failed consolidation efforts of NASPA and ACPA. Sometimes, I just want to find a picture of the perfect short white wedding dress that I hope to don light years into the future. Yet there’s so much thrown at me, it leads to shut downs.

How does a person filter out the unnecessary then? How does a person step back into his or her own being to reflect, to be?

Unplugging.

I unplugged a few weeks ago, and it was wonderful. No phone calls, no Facebook, no TV–just some books and some music and some time to myself. People can mourn the passing of a time when what I just mentioned was the “norm” and the only way to live; however, my generation and future generations can learn to appreciate even deeper the peace-of-mind one finds in disconnecting.

I know at least for me, I want to actively educate the future generations on the simple pleasures in life. But to do so, I first need to remember to appreciate those things. If the portion of our culture that allows us to disconnect becomes entirely lost, it is our own fault (“our” referring to not just my generation, but those ahead of us). It is our fault for falling into the trap of not seeking out balance in the face of growing technology. It is our fault for thinking that the “best” form of communication is electronic. It may be more effective for many (including myself), but it should complement, not replace, face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. It is our fault for either being too rigid in old habits or falling completely to the other side of the continuum and buying blindly into the world of technology.

And yes, some technology is allowing us to bridge the gaps in distance and still hold onto more “traditional” forms of communication–it opens up the possibility of exploring the world with fewer limitations, in my mind. Long-distance relationships and the challenges found there came up in a discussion in the #sachat community. For me, a relationship is best sustained when there is good communication, regardless of proximity. If I could work anywhere in the world and know that my partner or my friends could be anywhere in the world as well, yet that we could still have a quality relationship with lots of interaction–I would be incredibly happy with that. I’m in a place in life where restrictions and boundaries are meant to be challenged. It’s not for everyone, but try to think of the possibilities technology holds for quality communication.

In the Meantime

Yesterday’s computer set-up process was way too smooth for today’s to be any good. Yesterday, I got onto the network in one of my new offices, got all the required folders, everything looked great– yay, happy times for all.

Today, I called up the tech people to hook up my computer(s) in the other office, and everything went wrong. Okay, not everything, because the only thing that went wrong was the fact that the computer couldn’t detect the correct network.

Which means I couldn’t log on or do anything else. And tech couldn’t figure out why the network wasn’t available.

Instead, I rearranged some furniture in the office, then switched buildings to draft e-mails to send out next week for recruiting assistance for various events, and then I made a draft of a “HEY! DON’T EAT IN HERE!” sign for a classroom. I also worked on various other tasks that needed to get taken care of, and then I decided it was time to eat.

I live an exciting life.

Actually, last night was fun. There was a “fall harvest” festival in the dining area of the hall I live in (did I mention my GTA is a live-in position?), and the RA’s, RD, and I all ventured downstairs for some rather good food. Pulled pork sandwiches and berry cobbler? Yes, please. It was a good way to connect with the RA’s here, and as I told my boss today, “I figured it would be nice to let them know that one, I’m not a big, scary grad student, and two, I’m actually not a first-year student, despite what my size and appearance may say.”

Off I go again.