Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

by Niki Messmore

Social media platforms that provide anonymity are rarely used for the force of good. The opportunity to step outside of social norms is tempting when provided an opportunity to be anonymous on the internet. So what happens when a small number of individuals at the 2015 NASPA Conference (#naspa15) begin using the app Yik Yak?

The following: Yaks complaining of sessions, trying to hook up, sexist and sexually suggestive remarks about women, body shaming, entitlement of a ‘vacation’, etc. However, on the positive side there are Yaks with thoughtful ideas and social justice education. A full list of screenshots has been compiled on Storify, along with some Twitter commentary.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with Yik Yak. This social media platform is like “The Force” from Star Wars – it exists and can be utilized by either the Light or the Dark Side, depending on the character and the choices of the people using it.

So why do a small number of individuals out of a conference of 8,000 people opt to embrace the Dark Side? Dr. John Suler of Rider University argues in the article “The Online Disinhibition Effect” (2004) that there are six factors why people engage in nasty antics on the internet – dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority.

That’s deeper than my word count will allow. However, Suler had a nice summary: “Rather than thinking of disinhibition as the revealing of an underlying “true self,” we can conceptualize it as a shift to a constellation within self-structure, involving clusters of affect and cognition that differ from the in-person constellation.”

So it’s not necessarily that we are seeing the “true selves” of these likely Student Affairs professionals and graduate students when they make awful anonymous statements, but rather we are seeing an aspect of these folks under a certain set of circumstances.

That still doesn’t make the issue any less awful.

I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by the sexually suggestive remarks about women that were made [link]. Some appear benign, perhaps even categorized as compliments rather than harassment, but the individual who wanted to “call dibs” on the “Jennifer Lawrence look-alike” is a total creep. And the body shaming comment [link]? Please have several seats.

Besides exposing some sexism and sizism, the Yaks have also shown something that we already know – some folks believe that conferences are vacations. Now, sometimes people have to fully fund their conference attendance so I say they can vacation their little heart out. But the entitlement of some people, such as this Yak, is eye-wincing. Comments like this also go back to the issue of “work-life balance”. To be honest, we probably don’t have any balance because we waste so much time discussing this subject, but there is something seriously wrong when student affairs professionals feel their conference trip is the only time they get to be away from students…

The responses to these Yaks has been interesting. Many have harshly condemned the yaks, a few have joked about it and don’t take them seriously, and some see the Yaks as part of a larger professional crisis.

Regarding the latter, I have to say this: Student Affairs does exist in external formulas when it comes to the profession’s credibility. I’ve seen quite a few tweets worrying how these Yaks could ruin ‘everything we’ve worked for’ to make ourselves credible to faculty, administration, and other key populations (something I think we need to stop worrying about altogether). But let’s stop that hand-wringing right here: Student Affairs has problems, yes, but so does every other profession. Academic Affairs is always in the news for scandals, whether it is the behavior of professors smoking on airplanes or the many accounts of racism, and sexual harassment/assault. We’re gonna be alright, #SAfam.

So, how should we respond?

The statement by NASPA was a great addition to the chorus of folks calling out the behavior on Twitter. I hope we continue to have this conversation within professional development for staff and graduate students. Additionally, I hope that we can be professional in these conversations online and offline – already I’ve seen comments that I perceive as unprofessional in the method of how they are critiquing the #naspa15 Yik Yak people.

PLEASE watch this TedTalk by Monica Lewinisky (“The Price of Shame“) that has been receiving acclaim lately. Recognize that cyber-bullying hurts – this is for both the people that have been mentioned on YikYak as well as how we treat the people who made the mistake of posting harmful and sometimes disturbing comments.

In addition, please read this series of tweets by @BlackGirlDanger on how we shouldn’t publicly shame people who mess up and instead provide space for them to do better. Remember – even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself from the Dark Side.

Thanks,

@NikiMessmore

 

Yik YUCK: Anonymous Social Media at a Student Affairs Conference

On My Desk: Function and Fun

By Josie Ahlquist

I recently reclaimed my desk.

It was taken by books, random post-it’s, binders and too many picture frames.  In every office and campus I have worked, office visitors have commented on the “liveliness” to my office.  Call it busy, full or colorful.  There has always been a lot going on.

Not messy, just full.  I like to think full of life.  I want my personality into my work, which includes function and fun.

Especially working on a college campus, if I was going to spend so much time in the office I wanted to be comfortable.  Not like a couch and sleeping bag, but memento’s, books and photos.  For some I know this wouldn’t work.  Simplicity and empty shelves may bring on a sense of comfort.

Now, working from a home office it is nearly impossible to make a distinction from personal and professional.  I share my office with what serves as a guest bedroom, extra storage and an ever-present puppy ready to play.

Moving into the dissertation phase of my doctoral program my desk is going to be crucial.  From data collecting, analysis and reporting.  Nine-month countdown is on to May 15th 2015!  I recently wrote about my dissertation topic on my blog, feel free to read more about that here.

I am a visual person, color-code addicted and in love with my label maker.  This is obviously going to carry over in how I stay organized and even in how I conduct my research.

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When I reclaimed my office, I moved around my desk and the objects on it.  The one item that I added was a bulletin board that corresponds to my research participants.  It is a visual, colorful and secretly labeled object that allows it to remain in plain sight, yet completely informative and inspirational just to me.

photo 1
I love it because it is functional, yet fun.  It represents my personality.I think these ‘secret’ items are the coolest additions to have in your office space.  They can be used to break the ice with a student or have significant meaning so much that just seeing it is uplifting.  Maybe it’s a quote, a card or a weird pencil you received when you were five at Disneyland from your grandpa.

Professionalism in the office doesn’t mean leaving our whole selves back home and that includes the items we choose to lace in our work-spaces.

What is on your desk?  What does your desk/office say about you? 

What is your stance on personal items in your office?  Do you want clean lines or okay with clutter?  Do you have one item that will always be in you office, no matter where you go? 

Tell us about it in the comments below!

On My Desk: Function and Fun