When I read Anitra’s post on January 17, I had to laugh. Technological late bloomer doesn’t even begin to cover the state of affairs here. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve even sprouted yet. I am definitely technologically challenged, and I don’t even have the excuse of being proud to be so. Which is why I’m here: to learn, and to share some occasionally amusing and sometimes pitiful stories of my lack of technological prowess. But I like to write and have been told I do a sort of reasonable job at it, so bear with me for a few hopefully not-too-painful minutes.
I’m the Program Coordinator at the University of Idaho Women’s Center. Students are always strangely intrigued (read: appalled) when I tell them that not only was there no Internet when I was in college, but that I never touched a computer before buying an overpriced, second-hand Mac Plus in 1994 (9-inch monochrome display and 4 whole MB of RAM). I handwrote all my papers. And here’s the thing: I’m Not That Old (really).
Last semester, I started supervising the students who write for our blog. Through this experience, I’ve started to make tentative forays into the mysterious world of blogging, an enjoyable if somewhat intimidating experience for someone who still writes in a leather-bound journal that I keep by the side of my bed. I use Facebook avidly as a means of connecting with the students we serve, Twitter not-so-much-ly. I don’t have a smart phone, an iPad, or a Kindle. Heck, I don’t even have TV. I’ve never played Angry Birds and I don’t really know what Spotify is all about. But I am genuinely fascinated by the opportunities that social media provide for increased connection and dialogue. At the Women’s Center, we’ve found social media to be an invaluable way of reaching our constituents. On the flip side, though, we also regularly reach a number of folks who simply don’t want to be reached, and therein lies the source of my sometime discontent with technology. I can’t help but occasionally feel dismayed and discouraged by the breakdown of courteous discourse that these online discussion forums often encourage.
How do we as Student Affairs professionals using social media set the tone to promote learning and a genuinely constructive exchange of ideas? How do we encourage productive conversations and foster accountability and civility in (mostly anonymous) respondents without invoking censorship? And how do we deal with those who refuse to engage in a respectful exchange of opinions?
Answers on a postcard, please…