As student affairs professionals we often think about how our students are using social media platforms, but rarely do we look at ourselves. We are always being watched by our students. Whether we like it or not, they are watching our every move, much like a child watches their parents. With that being said, it is important to ask ourselves how they view us and our behaviors online. If we choose to connect with our students on digital platforms, are we being mindful of what that experience is like for them?
A (semi) recent situation that highlights the importance of this idea is from this summer, when East Carolina University’s new chancellor, Cecil P. Staton, blocked a student on Twitter. In this specific situation, a student expressed her concern about the new chancellor and his previous political agendas.
Unfortunately, the response that the student was met with did not put Staton in a great spotlight. Staton blocked this student on Twitter and then proceeded to update his Twitter bio to say “social media trolls and bullies will be blocked”.
Staton later changed the bio to say “On Twitter to boost ECU, not to respond to your political views. Abusers may be blocked.” This resulted in the trending hashtag #alreadysilencingstudents, commenting on the way Staton chose to respond to this situation.
If you are truly on digital platforms to boost the university you work for, doesn’t that also mean you need to engage with students when they voice issues or concerns? This is an important factor for you to think about as you decide to connect with students and the purpose of why you are connecting with them.
The Dean of Students at Ohio University, Dr. Jenny Hall-Jones, asked the question to her students of what they actually thought when she follows them.
While it is great that most of her responses were positive, it is still important to note that some students feel they have to monitor their behavior or feel like it is an invasion of privacy.
A recent survey I completed at Ohio University was intended to gauge the perceptions students have of administrators on social media. I was curious why they connected with faculty or staff members, how they came about connecting with them and how they felt when faculty or staff members connected with them. The main highlight I found from this survey was that students primarily connected with faculty or staff members on digital platforms to stay up to date with news and information related to the university. With that being said, it is likely that students are following more administrators on social media platforms to get quick and timely updates on the university. So some questions to ask yourself when engaging with students on social media platforms:
Have you asked your students how they view YOU on social media? Share any additional thoughts, experiences, tips or tricks in the comments below. And remember, they are always watching you and what you do.