Social Media Wisdom from Princess Leia

This weekend I attended a free one-day Higher Education conference put on by two fabulous women, Renee Hirschberg and Lori Ioannone, from Boston University’s School of Education.  The program was chock-full of great speakers and interesting insights into the emerging challenges and opportunities in our field.  I took enough notes at the conference to write six blog posts, but today, I am going to focus in on just one topic, the Social Media wisdom of Princess Leia.

Attendees of the conference will remember the hilarious moment in Eric Stoller’s presentation when he inserted a Star Wars quote to illustrate the psychology of social media use.  This got me thinking: I bet there are many more gems from the beloved movie series that would be applicable to our approach to social media.  After all, Star Wars was inspired by the work of anthropologist and psychiatrists (as articulated by Joseph Campbell) and the movies contain lessons  that be can be much broader than the stories they are contained within.

 “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” – Princess Leia

Eric Stoller used this quote to illustrate how difficult it can be to try to control Social Media.  The bottom line is that we can’t.  We won’t be able to ban students from talking about their roommates on facebook, posting pictures of classmates without permission, or slamming your office via twitter.  These things will happen whether or not you are on social media channels, so the question really is whether you want to be a part of the conversation.

Once you are on Facebook taking to your first years on the incoming 2016 page, you have the power to shape the conversation by giving great information about your services, funnel the correct questions off-line, and most importantly, be present where your incoming students are “hanging out.”  Eric argued that while it may be frustrating for you as an administrator to see your students posting pictures of other students without permission, anything that a student puts online “belongs to the internet,” so students must understand that as soon as they put pictures or statement online, anyone has access to reuse, remix, or reinterpret what they put out there.  We can’t control what students use the internet for, but we can guide the conversations before and after incidents happen and engage in those “teachable moments” we love so much.

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
So you are captured by the evil empire, being held captive by a man that can crush a person’s throat with his mind, and being threatened to have your home planet blown up.  Under these circumstances you have an excuse to ask for rescue.  But I have a hunch that many of you are not facing this particular problem; so I am going to say, don’t sit around waiting for the right person to be hired to bring your office into the social age. Do it yourself.  Feeling intimidated?  That is okay!  Eric Stoller gave us the advice, “Play in the sandbox, get dirty.” Try things out and watch others to learn.  Also, visit for guidelines on how to get on twitter or visit Ed Cabellon’s blog for a multi-part blog post on teaching twitter to higher education colleagues.

“This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?” – Princess Leia
Luke didn’t really think everything through and perhaps that got them into a bit of trouble.  Leia was a woman of action, but didn’t have time to get a plan in order.  Try to find the balance between jumping right in and having a plan on what areas of social media you want your department to be involved in.  Don’t try to start a blog, open a twitter account, a facebook page, a pinterest, and a tumblr all in one afternoon.  Build each platform one at a time so you can do it well.  For more information on creating a social media plan visit:

Princess Leia: Luke, don’t talk that way. You have a power I don’t understand and could never have.
Luke: You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power too. In time you’ll learn to use it as I have. The Force runs strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And… my sister has it. Yes. It’s you, Leia.
One thing I have recently been coming to terms with is how often women discount their own contribution.  Leia didn’t want to believe that she was as strong as Luke, or perhaps even stronger than Luke in the force. Leia came across as strong-willed and directive to others, but she was too comfortable being in a supporting role fighting the rebellion.

It is important for us as women to be leaders in the field of technology.  You have the power to inspire the students and staff who work with you, and you have the ability to show how women can be leaders in social media just as well (or better) than our male counterparts.

One of the things I took away from #WLSALT/NASPA’s Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community webinar with Tara Sophia Mohr is that we need to silence our inner critic.  Give your inner critic a name, a face, and a personality. That way the next time you hear them telling you can’t do something (like a new type of tech), you are more likely to give them a piece of your mind.  Just imagine what Princess Leia may have accomplished if she had just envisioned her inner critic as Darth Vader (or Han Solo).  Leia would have been the one throwing the Emperor to his death, because women are just that powerful.

Social Media Wisdom from Princess Leia

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