Social media! It has a very interesting intersection between professional, personal, social, and academia.
Since their development, I’ve used social media platforms to connect with others, share interests, and spill the latest tea. From recipe ideas to politics to the oh-so-loved cat videos, I’ve been using social media in a way that allows me to present myself as authentically as possible, express my beliefs, and still have civil discourse about certain topics or ideas.
However, as a genderqueer person, social media has become an avenue of deeper expression of myself and has also operated as a moderating variable.
On Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, I’m able to be my most authentic self with my followers. However, not being out to everyone in my immediate circles, Facebook has become an area of strain. With the ability to connect with people like me, I have not been able to be my authentic self to every person on my friends list. I have a general fear of judgment, discontent, lack of understanding, or straight up hatred.
So while social media allows me to expand, it has also made me contract as I’ve discovered more about my identity. As an #SAPro on social media, I’ve run into authenticity issues while moderating my online messages with students and colleagues. Quite a balance we all play, wouldn’t you agree?
Expectations for Engagement
Professionally, I also struggle with the social media game. In student affairs, there seems to be an unspoken rule about the necessity to be constantly engaged in recent news, politics, and academically focused ideas and theories and their applications. While I love social media, I struggle with this. To properly take care of myself, I need to be disconnected.
Social media and the weight of its expectations in this field can be detrimental to those who do not wish to be involved to a high degree. While individuals can choose to not participate, I have felt and seen judgments related to incompetence, selfishness, and carelessness for others and the ideas discussed across platforms due to a lack of engagement. I engage as much as I can with my real world responsibilities, but I still feel it’s not enough. In a field that focuses on supporting all voices, competition and validity of popular and conflicting ideas is still very apparent.
I have also seen a complete silence of moderate and conservative opinions in student affairs. While my political ideologies lean left, I have experienced silencing of my more moderate opinions, and I have witnessed attacks on conservative-leaning folks on social media. While many conversations are vital to educate, inform, and advocate, people often cross the line between advocacy and shaming.
Should people be open to learning about how their perspectives and practices can be harmful to marginalized peoples and identities? Absolutely! Are there always opportunities to increase dialogue without accusing or belittling someone? Definitely.
Concluding Thoughts and Rambles
Engagement on social media across generations has created some of the greatest opportunities for conversations and education. I firmly believe that social media enhances the good in us. It creates an environment to discus ideas and challenge one another. However, we must also be aware of the negative side of social media that silences, alienates, and creates dissonance between people.
All in all, social media has helped me connect with others, discuss ideas, and challenge hegemonic ideologies, but there is room for me to better my engagement and continue to use it for good.