As many of you know I had to be convinced to join social media many years ago. It’s not too surprising that it was a group of new professionals who got me to join Facebook. I was either a faculty member (for four years) or director (for two years) of the SACSA/NASPA Region III New Professionals Institute. For five of those years, at the end, the participants would say “let’s start a distribution list”, but at the end of year six, the participants said, “let’s start a Facebook group”. And so, I joined Facebook. A couple of years later, after spending a few days at NASPA learning about the newer world of Twitter I took that plunge as well.
I think we all know Social Media is a mixed blessing. It’s a time suck, it’s toxic, etc., etc. But I’ve found more positive than negative in my interactions. At UTSA, Facebook gave me a window on student life that I wouldn’t have had access to in any other way. At UT Austin, Twitter helped me be visible and accessible to an enormous student body, again, as little else could. Personally, it’s allowed me to connect with a wide variety of communities based on my profession and my interests, and to learn from a random group of experts, celebrities, and interesting people. Through social media I’ve reconnected with friends from college and stayed in touch with former students and colleagues.
This year, I’ve watched social media create places of community for strangers who shared a purpose around a variety of political and social issues. And this particular semester, I’ve watched communities of friends and professionals share their grief at the loss of colleagues who were also friends, supervisors, and mentors. In both cases, current and former students and staff posted pictures of happy times and shared what they learned from amazing people who had served students, colleagues, and universities with distinction, grace and heart.
I’ve lived long enough to have lost several colleagues who were also friends, friends who were also colleagues. It is its own kind of hard, especially for those who have to keep the work going as they grieve and take care of those who are grieving. But today, as earlier this fall, I’ve watched the flow of mini-eulogies come across my screen and I know why I’m not giving up on social media. Smiling through my sadness, I read the stories, some I knew, many I didn’t, that tell of a life well-lived, work thoughtfully and professional done, and what I think many of us aspire to, a real difference made. I’m lucky to have known and worked with many wonderful people throughout my career and social media has helped me continue to know their stories even when we no longer see each other regularly.
Requiescat in pace Barry McKinney. https://www.facebook.com/barry.mckinney.31