I have to admit that I find this Yik Yak debacle intriguing on a lot of levels. Though I wasn’t at NASPA, I was able to peek at what was being said in New Orleans. What I found was that it was likely unprofessional, yet untraceable. It was the most raw expression of “authenticity in student affairs professionals.” yet chastised by the much of the community. This debate has revealed a much bigger, much more pressing question about student affairs professionals online— When, how, and who can be “authentic”? What does it mean to be a “good” higher education professional online?
On one hand, there’s an argument being made that we should be able to express ourselves how and whenever we want. On the other hand, there’s a clear undercurrent that encourages a very narrow definition of authenticity online— and that definition often comes from a place of privilege and specific ideologies. I think what truly set the student affairs online world aflame was that the Yik Yak posts were neither fully authentic nor in line with our current definitions of professionalism. It was the ultimate purgatory for a field that states such an emphasis on online participation, bringing your full identity to the table, and definitions of professionalism.
In reality, authenticity within professionalism is closer to learning how to ride a bicycle. You shift when you go too far in one direction or another. Just as I wouldn’t wear jeans to the office, I would think nothing of tweeting about hunting with my dad or my faith. In another institution, in another position, as another person it would be a different scenario. But the real danger, and paradox, occurs when we try to broaden the definition of authenticity to suit ourselves but narrow it for others. It becomes a zero sum game for most of the community; that our definitions of both authenticity and professionalism become performances to suit ourselves.
We have a responsibility to start changing this culture one tweet, one post, one conference at a time. We can’t silence the unsavory parts of people that exist offline and online and turn around and talk about being authentic two days later. Our community can’t have it both ways. At the same time, we each have to recognize that there are ways to conduct ourselves ethically, professionally, and authentically. Let’s start that conversation.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media