Before you begin, if you are new to this series, please read the introduction blog here.
For today’s blog, Ashlee Roberts, the Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement at the University of Missouri-St. Louis weighs in on her experiences navigating social media:
How do I navigate social media? Somewhat carefully and somewhat openly. I operate from the space that being connected on social media doesn’t mean we’re friends, so I will engage socially but keep many things for people who I know in real life and/or have built personal connections. I have a Facebook and two Twitter accounts. I’ve seen some [white] professionals comment on the inauthenticity of having two accounts, but in considering how I navigate social media as a black professional, those two accounts are best for me. I initially started with a single Twitter account. Facebook is my most personal use of social media. That’s a space where I share my family, friends, and professional life. It’s a conversion of all of me. I can’t say that I operate on that platform differently than my white colleagues. I rarely, if ever, add professionals with whom I’ve not built a rapport, as friends, regardless of their race. I am mindful of the things I say and do in regards to reputation, but that mostly shows up in how I operate in professional groups. I typically show up as a helper-I’ll share opportunities, advice, or insight where it’s fitting, but I don’t see the groups at-large as my friends so I don’t really indulge in being snarky or shady. I’m sarcastic and no-nonsense in person, but online, I mostly abide by my mama’s life advice that I don’t I have to say everything I’m thinking. Plus, I have friends and colleagues who I know offline with whom I can vent and make snarky commentary, if I feel so compelled.
As I thought of this topic, that idea of “digital codeswitching” came to mind. Twitter is where I switch it up and have two accounts. Once upon a time, I had a single Twitter account. I reluctantly created an account shortly after I graduated and was applying/waiting for a job. As it goes when most people initially join Twitter, I only had a few followers and offered random musings. I knew most of the people who followed me, including three white professionals with whom I worked closely and knew from grad school. I probably posted a couple of times on Facebook sharing that I have an account. Even though I only had like 30 followers, my account was locked because I was on the job search. I eventually learned how that reduced my engagement with people, so I opened it. Fast forward to a year and half into professional life and one of my [black] students followed me. I blocked her and kept it moving. I’m not really crass or vulgar on social media, but it felt as if my personal space had been infringed upon and I wanted some separation from work.
As I gained more followers and engaged more with “Black Twitter,” I didn’t feel like I could wholly be myself with white SA pros who I don’t personally know, so that, coupled with the potential of students following me, prompted me to make a professional account. I also don’t know my “Black Twitter” followers like that and didn’t want to explicitly share about my career, especially as I grew to know more people in my city, closing the degrees of separation between me and my students (this was also critical to me as a professional who was barely older than my students).
On my personal account, I can tweet a Yo Gotti lyric or line from The Players Club comfortably and know someone will finish it for me. I also don’t have to concern myself with my character being negatively judged because I indulge in entertainment with heavy themes of misogyny, drug use, etc. On my professional account I give a glimpse into my musical preferences, but it’s to a lesser degree. I still display my personality and share my non-work interests and happenings, but I don’t feel compelled to share much of the aspects of my “ratchet” side. I do think I’d be judged harshly and that those things could overshadow other aspects of my character with white professionals, especially. Black tax is real.
No one taught or instructed me on how to navigate social media and I’ve not read much on it, but I do present to student organizations about the topic. I’m a naturally guarded person and while I’m naturally helpful and want to see people win, I’ve never been concerned about being Miss Popular or having a ton of friends. Considering that, I honestly don’t feel suppressed in this decision to have two accounts, though, because everyone in the world doesn’t need to know everything about me. If they have the pleasure to meet me in person, they’ll likely learn those things about me, but I don’t feel like I have to give anyone all of me to be an authentic person or professional.