By Jennifer Keegin
Today I turn 35. I swear it feels like I’m turning 40 or something. This one is hitting me hard. But here’s the thing – at this point in my life with a toddler at home I should know more about Yo Gabba Gabba and Nick Jr. (which I do know alot about) than I do about Gowalla or Twitter. Or should I?
In the field of Student Affairs we have the curious task of noticing ourselves getting older while our students stay the same age. This obviously can lead to the phrase, “Well that’s why I work at a college. The students keep me young.” I’ve said that so many times. Usually that’s completely true. I hear about students and their interests and the shows and movies they grew up with that are “back in the day” for them. I learn slang from them, learn about hip things going on in “the city”, (If you live in NY State “The City” is NYC), and learn about their reality when it comes to dating, Facebook’ing and drinking.
Within the last few years, however, I’ve noticed that many times myself and my colleagues are far more advanced than the students when utilizing the newest trends on the internet. Facebook aside (everyone’s Mom is on Facebook, it’s not the newest hottest thing like it was when it first started and you had to have an official college email address to participate), most students on our campus are not using Twitter. They are definitely not using Foursquare (all mayors in town are over 26 years old here in Binghamton) and have no idea what Gowalla, Scvngr, Miso, or GetGlue are. Which leads me to this question – Why do I as a newly crowned 35 yr. old full time working mother know more about this stuff than a 19 year old?
Perhaps it some sort of old timey idea that I have that mothers can’t be connected and hip and know what’s going on in the world. That could be true. I know that this is simply not the case in general. These days women much older than me are blogging their brains out with craft blogs, cooking blogs. They are selling their jewelry and art on Etsy.com. They are running side businesses and creating, working, doing and being awesome.
Back to our students. I had a conversation just last night about Foursquare. I signed up our Late Nite program and the Undergrounds coffeehouse that houses the heart of the program up for an account. I’m the one who found it valuable. I’m the one who came up with the special giveaway for multiple check-ins, I’m the one who sent away for the official sticker. I asked the students if anyone had checked in more than five times. They had no idea what I was talking about, and still don’t understand the concept of Foursquare and why it was useful and/or something they’d like to do around town. Why do I care about this if the students don’t? I also was speaking with a bunch of Greek students during their Leadership Retreat and out of three back to back sessions of approx. 25 students each – 2 people the entire time was using Foursquare.
We talk alot in Student Affairs at our University about utilizing Scvngr.com for Orientation, First Year Experience classes and Late Nite events. Do these plans work well when considering most students work with Facebook and Facebook only? Are we encouraging students to participate on-line in a manner they don’t want to? I think we all have the best intentions when it comes to their development and teaching them about the campus, safety, and attempting to create community – but are we forcing the issue? Are we talking to them in an advanced language that they can’t hear or process? We say “Watch yourselves on-line. Watch your privacy.” but then encourage them to use all sorts of sites that track their business on-line.
As an X’er I noticed a year or two ago that a co-worker of mine (a Millennial) was frustrated by the lack of interest her students were showing in advancing the presence of the office on the internet, using Google docs, and thinking outside the box when advertising via places other than Facebook. I think that this a trend that all of us will need to pay attention to. Just because those of us who are tech savvy see the benefit of multiple uses for social media and other cool nerdy internet widgets – doesn’t mean our students do and probably won’t without guidance on how to use it appropriately (once they get why they need to use it in the first place).
For now I will have to be content that I am staying on top of trends and will be ready for the next big “thing” that students get into- yet- am I on the other side of the trendy coin? Am I so trendy that the students can’t relate to my ideas? Is this as bad as being too far behind?
(On a side note – I think I should be sooo trendy that I get back into MySpace before it’s even cool. How meta would that be?)