Princess Leia and Social Media Nuance

Guidelines, control, best practices, personal branding and Star Wars.

October 17, 2013

This week's #SAchat topic was "Social media conduct as an SA professional." Now, before I dive in with some thoughts, note that I missed most of the conversation because I momentarily forgot how to calculate timezone differences. Thankfully, I was able to listen in on the conversation before I took a moment to add in a couple of thoughts.

Essentially, today's chat revolved around several core issues within student affairs when it comes to social media: guidelines, control, best practices, personal branding, and Star Wars. Okay, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. However, this is where Princess Leia comes into the picture. A theme of how much our communication is controlled and/or governed by professional norms struck a cord with me and I tweeted this out:

My intent was to provide an alternative point of view with how we control, manage, and even "perform" our online selves. Many chat participants tweeted about having separate accounts for their professional and personal social media lives. Several people tweeted about the struggle that they were having in finding balance between being authentic while still maintaining a sense of appropriateness. And, as is usually the case, the question of friending and following students was brought up. It's fascinating to me that this is still a question. The answer is of course that there isn't a set standard or practice. But, most of the time, I recommend that people "friend" their students on Facebook only if a student initiates the friending process. On Twitter, it's really about individual preference. If you want to follow students, go for it. Their accounts are public and they can choose whether or not they are going to follow you back. Social media are fantastic because they challenge our conventions for what it means to be professional. The usual separation of work and personal gets all muddled up with our digital identity. And, I think that's a good thing. We need to shake up some of our traditional norms.

One of the richest aspects of the #SAchat conversation is the final thought (FT). Participants are asked to give their FT on the topic of the week. People always post thoughtful ponderings and the conversation ends on a high note. My final thought was driven in part by the idea that many in the conversation were seeking more structure for how we conduct ourselves on social media:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with structure or the contemplation/creation of best practices. However, social media create spaces that are quite nuanced. It's like we want to have a set of rules that can guide what we do on social media that will cover everything from professionalism to personal life balance and beyond. The good news (for some) and bad news (for others) is that we will most-likely never have an agreed upon standard for how we do social media in student affairs. Communication platforms evolve and are fluid…we need to recognize this, grab our digital surfboards, and ride the unpredictable wave of social media.


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