Laura Mack is a Community Director with the Office of Residential Life at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). She also serves as the Advisor of UMBC National Residence Hall Honorary. Laura’s areas of passion are student mentorship and advisement, residential curriculum, student conduct, and social justice & equity work. When she is not leading the charge for staff or students, she is at home with her husband and their triplet boys. Today she weighs in on her experiences navigating social media.
I used to be very much on the Twitter scene in my former life as an avid sneaker collector. Twitter was, and still is, a must to stay in the know with shoe releases, sneaker news, and the personalities that kept our niche community going. Many other groups existed in their silos and eventually those silos broke apart when some populations realized that we are more alike than not. Enter the collective known as “Black Twitter.” My Twitter account became a mixture of sneakers, pop culture, the occasional dip into Black Twitter topics, and many other things. However when I got hired for my first professional position one of the first things I considered was my social media footprint and how that would translate into my work and others perception of me. I asked myself “how I would explain my use of colloquialisms and vernacular?” “Could I?”
I never had to answer that question because 1. It never came up and 2. I got bored with Twitter and started using Facebook more. While Twitter is indeed more fun and speak to the nature of the instant gratification that so many millennials need, it’s not as careful as I would like. My Twitter followers weren’t in a place to understand some the problematic use of their words or ideologies and they do not want to be. They don’t understand their use of possible triggers and would not understand how their tweets made me wince and to me that was more hurtful to me than the possibility my supervisor could see a misunderstood colloquialism.
So what does any of my rambling have to do with the topic at hand? Easy. My Facebook page is the platform in which I choose to show my authentic self. My Facebook is how I show up. There is no witty @ name. There is no possibility of anonymity. It is just me. As is the case with the people I choose to engage with. We have to show up as ourselves. So when someone says something problematic, they can’t hide behind jokes and followers. That reassurance is refreshing and it allows me to be freer with my thoughts and freer with regard to calling in and calling out. I’ll engage online with anyone whether I agree or I stand opposed, which is a luxury I do not feel like I have outside the space because of my identities. I’ve been in situations where I attribute something to my marginalization and someone who doesn’t fit my identity dismissed my experience. I cannot speak for all marginalized people but for me and those I know, it is not only hurtful but in the moment it caused me to free and internally ask “did that really happen?” And while I’m stuck questioning the person who dismissed me and their dismissal, the person opposite me doesn’t see anything wrong and gets to go on about their day and their life.
However I feel safer online in certain spaces because I know I’m not alone. I know that if I talk about an experience that I have that occurred because of my identity, they will understand. I know that if someone tries to dismiss my experiences that someone else will stand with me in solidarity. My advice to new professionals regarding how they choose to engage, is say would you think you need to say but be willing to stand in that truth. I post a lot of social justice related things in addition to the musings of life and I make sure things I post correspond to my values and belief system. That is what authenticity is to me.
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