Have you ever written something and felt as if a huge weight was lifted off your shoulders? Maybe this was a note to a friend, a graduate school paper, an email to your colleagues, or even a Facebook post about something you are passionate about. After graduating this past May from my Master’s degree, I have begun to recognize the positive impact and opportunities I am gaining through use of social media as a professional. I finally feel like I am using social media to advance my perspective, foster new and ongoing relationships, and benefit my development as a newer professional. Social media often gets perceived negatively as a waste of time, can damage your image, only gets used for event promotions, or serves as a space to vent online. However, with each of these negative connotations I see a component of vulnerability. It is not always easy to post pictures of a weight loss journey or a piece of art you created, or maybe an article you wrote or a controversial piece you have a reaction to share. Vulnerability comes in many different forms. Whatever the story or post, each is filled with a level of vulnerability. Although a variety of high-risk or low-risk vulnerability, I think each post or story told gives us a chance being vulnerable to allow others a sneak peek in our lives. Below are five social media platforms where I have found opportunities to challenge my comfort level and be vulnerable in my ongoing professional development.
Twitter has allowed me to connect with many new and seasoned professionals, while staying updated on my favorite celebrities, newsfeeds, and friends. I recently made the decision to change my Twitter profile from private to public. I asked myself what I was trying to hide in keeping it private. My tweets are really not that entertaining and typically are me promoting an event with a hashtag or trying to get @TheVoice to follow me (welcome to my Monday and Tuesday nights). However, since opening my profile to be public, I am finding tremendous opportunities to connect with other professionals in higher education and my other affiliated organizations. It was somewhat nerve wrecking opening my Twitter account, allowing anyone access to my thoughts. However, my thoughts these days are more compiled to only 140 characters and focused on my professional experiences or in response to a fellow post. The most recent benefit I am finding on Twitter is joining the #sachat conversations to learn what others in the field are thinking, experiencing, and talking about. Although not required to contribute and can just read the posts, I found so much gain in joining the conversation and sharing my thoughts with other professionals. Twitter is serving as an avenue for ongoing learning and more opportunities to connect with others in the profession. #chat
LinkedIn is a platform that I use in a more career-oriented focus. My approach with LinkedIn is to hold me accountable in keeping my credentials and experiences up to date, developing relationships with professionals I may not connect with on other social media outlets, explore what opportunities are available in the profession, and stay connected with organization pages. The benefits of LinkedIn vary between the professions and how a professional choses to utilize their profile. I elect to include my resume information on my profile, which often makes me feel vulnerable to what others know about me, because I see LinkedIn as an information sharing tool to see how others list their experiences compared to mine and how we can share summaries of our different roles at institutions. #connect
Facebook, the most familiar platform of mine, and has been holding me accountable to this new work-life balance I am trying to find. I am realizing it difficult to post a random silly thought, because I have many colleagues as my “friends.” Yet, I also find it difficult to only post articles or responses to items related to higher education, because I have many friends and family as my “friends.” With Facebook there is more space to give details, provide more elaborate explanations, and directly receive notifications from friends or groups. Facebook is a platform to further articulate my thoughts, more than Twitter offers, but also allows opportunities to join communities of shared interests (campus groups, national organizations, or created groups). I am finding myself more conscious of the content I post, recognizing the variety of my connections, and sometimes uncertain how specific individuals may respond to content I, or others, post. Facebook is helping me be conscientious of the using a social media platform for personal or professional use, and how I see these two components of my life intersecting. #balance
Pinterest is the social media platform I am most unfamiliar with, and has led me to being vulnerable in conversation and my application of this platform. I was rather clueless, and it was visible, the first time I utilized Pinterest and the assumptions I had of this platform got the best of me. My vulnerability with Pinterest came in the form of learning with others who were far beyond my competency level of this platform. Pinterest was incorporated in one of my graduate courses, and it frankly made me nervous to be evaluated on the use, incorporation, and understanding of an unfamiliar social media platform in my career preparation. Honestly, my perception and knowledge of Pinterest was that its use was for wedding planning and do-it-yourself crafts (I wasn’t kidding that I was clueless). Until I took the chance of looking at the site and learning how to navigate its use, I would have never understood how beneficial and resourceful this platform can be in higher education. This avenue for information sharing offers a space for local groups (such as classes or student staffs) to connect, large groups across the nation to share resources, or to use as a space where students can share their thoughts related to an article, song, book, website, or many others. Learning about this platform in the classroom environment offered me an opportunity to learn about idea sharing, creativity in staff training and development, and how to be vulnerable in learning about something unfamiliar. #learning
Blogging in my mind is like hanging a giant banner saying, “Welcome to my brain.” Whatever the platform might be, blogging is a space which offers a person to share a large amount of authentic vulnerability. Whether in response to a news article, recent changes in law, an experience in your work, a personal life event, or just a rant and ramble, blogging is a very personal avenue to sharing beliefs with others on the web. There are many applications available for blogging (WordPress, Blogger, Wix) or some individuals chose to create their own webpage. I have found tremendous value in reading blogs from my supervisors, faculty members, colleagues, and friends. Hearing what others say in their blog helps gain insight to their thought process and perspectives on higher education topics, but also serves as an avenue to connect on issues we may not regularly discuss. Blogging is a platform where I feel in control of my thoughts because I can type and delete, but also respond on my own time without the pressure of responding directly to someone in front of me. This level of vulnerability is to connect with others, challenge mine or others perspective, or bring online conversations to face to face interactions. #share
In the above platforms, I see many opportunities to be vulnerable. I also see many great outcomes to connecting with others and pushing yourself to meet someone new, talk about something different, or try something unfamiliar. Using social media can be uncomfortable to both beginners and seasoned users, especially when asking the deepest question – is it socially acceptable to friend/follow this person? I recently attended a meeting for the Associated Twin Cities College Housing Administrators (ATCCHA) where we explored the use of social media in our profession. Two of the presenters shared that the first interaction they had was over Twitter. When they met in person, it was not an awkward conference introduction, because they had already built a professional relationship through social media interaction. Through these various social media outlets we can begin to develop and foster relationships, increase connections across the profession and functional areas, utilize spaces for ongoing conversations, and provide opportunities to be vulnerable in sharing our thoughts with those who we may directly or indirectly work with.
If you chose to look me up, feel free to follow/friend/connect with me and let’s #sachat!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Josie & Lloyd Ahlquist on YouTube & College Students