We speak a lot about the meteoric rise of student affairs professionals communicating on Twitter. Within #SACHAT, our participant numbers have grown 500% since our October 2009 debut. We have so many colleagues engaged that we had to add a second chat time three months into the venture. Our #SACHAT meet-ups are occurring around the spring professional conferences and organically as our student affairs family find themselves in similar locations.
I had an opportunity to meet several of our #SACHAT friends in conjunction with the ACUI conference and spent some time exploring New York City with one of those friends. We made a day of it, walking and sharing stories, stopping for lunch, shopping a bit, and before you knew it, found ourselves uncertain how to make our way back to the car. We stood at a busy street corner, attempting to get our bearings. We asked a passerby for directions and then headed off to find our way. After covering quite a few more blocks and not yet seeing any landmarks leading to the car, it dawned on me that I could use the map function on my phone to aid our quest. This handy little GPS tool is not essential for navigation in my small Midwest city, so I had forgotten that I had it.
We determined our present location, entered an address for the parking garage, and lo and behold, walking directions were magically provided. So, we started out again in the direction of our vehicle, enjoying the city scenery, chatting, and enjoying the day. Only to miss a turn and get off track, again. Ah, but this time we had the map and directions. We backtracked, paid more attention to our map, and finally made our way back to the car.
Early in my student affairs career, I found easy ways to network with colleagues. I joined professional organizations, served on committees, and chatted regularly with colleagues at other institutions as we planned trainings and conferences. As I advanced in my career, it seems that I lost some of those opportunities, as my own work required more of my time and focus. At some point along the way, I lost track of most of my network, also losing the community that helped me brainstorm and recharge with energy and new ideas.
Then along comes a social networking tool like Twitter and fun little communities such as the Student Affairs Blog and #SACHAT. Once again, I am linked with other professionals, sharing ideas, and learning new ways to do things. I am engaged in building a community that challenges and inspires me. It is a community that grew through social network technology and like a GPS, helped me find my way.