This being my seventh semester at a Jesuit university, I’m honestly surprised whenever I don’t have to complete a reflection for a class. A personal favorite is The Examen, (coincidentally the Spanish word for exam…though a reflection is much more preferable) which is a daily Jesuit reflection.
A common structure for a [Digital?] Examen is as follows:
Understand [Social Media]’s Role in Your Life
Review the Important Events of Your [Semester]
Were You Drawing Closer from [Social Media], or Farther Away?
Look Toward Tomorrow
Now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, let’s begin.
“Take a deep breath in and close your eyes…”
WAIT ACTUALLY NO DON’T! I need you to read this, so that you can comment on this, and then vote it as one of the best you read this week, so that I can get a good grade. (Lesson 1 from the semester.)
I began this semester fairly confident (as any good Millennial should be) that I understood social media’s role in my life. I used Facebook and Snapchat. That was it. That’s all I had time for, and all I needed in order to keep up with what was going on with my friends and the world at large.
And in that, I was correct. I’ve since doubled my social media presence (getting myself caught up in LinkedIn and Twitter) and never lost more time. Yes, I did get a job after joining…but I’m not convinced that was at all Linked (In?) to me joining the platform. My first blogged reflected on whether or not “Connor Desmond [knew] How To Tweet” and while my initial reaction, was “Duh.” clearly I still have some room for growth in this space. Despite more than 60 tweets and 34 followers (5 of whom are my direct roommates…come on guys, throw me a bone), I’m probably averaging around 0.3 likes per tweet.
On my personal views of these social media platforms, honestly, little has changed over the last 14 weeks. As a comment on my first blog post, @gkhanlon shared the following quote:
“Never has a generation so diligently recorded themselves accomplishing so little.”
I only wish that I had thought to sum up my thoughts so eloquently. When you’re scrolling through it all, that’s exactly what a lot of social media looks like. But perhaps my biggest realization of the semester is that I wasn’t seeing the larger picture; missing the Twitter Feed for the Tweets, if you will.
Social media today is about so much more than just photos and links and posts and tweets and vines and likes and favorites. It’s truly ingrained in our society and going to be a major influence throughout the rest of our lifetimes. If there’s one thing we can all take away from this election, it’s that the only thing Americans seem to have in common anymore is that we’re all paying attention to social media.
I remarked in my blog on Ken Bone (I can already imagine my future groan at this phenomenon if I ever come back to read this) that “This is truly the first ‘social media election’ in the United States.” To which Professor Kane apparently actually LOL’ed, because everyone’s been saying that since 2008. But, he noted, that because our definition of social media keeps changing, it technically keeps holding true. Post mortem, I would amend my remarks and say that this was probably the most important election for social media. Nearly every major platform came under fire for some sort of scandal or misstep, and I’m confident that we’ll be seeing some major changes before 2020 rolls around.
This election & semester saw us question Facebook’s role as a self-proclaimed “news outlet” and the legal and ethical obligations that they need to take on if they really hope to gain credibility in the public eye. We examined the propagation and detriment of fake news, and the ways in which we are creating it for ourselves by falling into biased feedback loops where we self-select ‘news sources’ with which we agree. We delved into the future of our sharing economy and the role of social media in distributing the so-called memes that denote the spread and acceptance of thoughts.
As a result of this course I’m finding myself drawn further from these platforms, but more deeply into social media. And I owe a substantial debt of gratitude to Professor Kane for encouraging me, from my first post, to look past platforms and dig into the “affordances” of social media instead. For affording us the opportunity to discuss the macro-trends driving the news that pulsed through our digital feeds, and discover the places where the next big ideas will be born.
It will probably be awhile before many companies have worked this all out, but I am excited by the prospect of being a part of that process. The timing certainly couldn’t be better. It’s only 1,425 days until the US has to decide between electing Biden, Bone, or Trump—and we’ll definitely be a part of that conversation.
At this point, as the Examen wraps up, I’m normally supposed to say:
“Remember that [Social Media] is good. Take advantage of this and grow.”
I’m definitely not at that point in my journey, but I will offer this parting thought instead:
“Remember that Social Media is here to stay. Take advantage of this and grow your business, because this is the way that the entire world is moving, and if you’re not stuck on creative new ways to harness it, then you’re already behind. Social Media is one of the threads of our society now. Digital Business today necessitates anticipating the upcoming trends and being selective in finding the tools that will actually help you enhance your consumers’ experience—help them engage with your brand in new ways.”
“When You’re Ready Open Your Eyes.”
This course has certainly opened mine.