Friday, August 05, 2011

Amusing or Worrisome

There's a social media thingy set up for students at the Study Abroad Program I'll be teaching with this fall, and they invited faculty folks, and it looks like students, and probably folks who are staff and such.

There are occasional postings by staff folks about trips, what to bring, preparation, and so on.

And then there are posts by the students. I'm going to make it sound like these are discrete, but of course there's a lot of overlap. At first there were introductory posts, and then posts about what to bring and such, what majors are people, and so forth. And then posts about travel, about who wants to go where together, or where it's too scary because someone's parents said so. And now there are the party posts. Who likes to party? And then answers about how hard people are going to party.

Naturally, I have to wonder. First, does a real partier bother with social media? I'm wondering, for example, does Charlie Sheen have a page where he talks about how he's such a hard partier? (I realized, as I was trying to write that sentence, that I have little sense of who is a famous partier or not these days. I originally started with Mick Jagger, but I'm guessing he takes his fiber and gets his sleep more regularly now, than not. The infamous partiers I remember reading about when I was a kid, the sorts who regularly trashed hotel rooms and got in stoned driving scandals or whatever, are all either dead or much quieter than they used to be.)

To what extent is talking about how hard one parties a matter of bragging? And how many people don't answer those because they don't think of themselves as partiers no matter how much they go out or not?

It would be more work than it's worth to look at which students posted about studies and which about travel and which about parties, and see what sort of overlap there is. Do social media type students answer everything, or are they fairly selective?

And finally, do they not realize that the official social media thing set up by the college is a weird place to talk about how hard they party, or do they just not care?

And there's a weird disconnect between someone talking about how hard they party and another post about how someone's parents told them it is too dangerous to go to [European City] and told them they couldn't go. (Probably they aren't the same students posting, right?)


  1. From personal experience:

    1- They will party. No matter what you do. The question is making sure that they understand that if it gets out of hand (hotels room trashed), you are sending them back to the US is the first plane and THEY pay for the return ticket.

    2-"does a real partier bother with social media?" Yes, they do. In fact, that's how they organize their parties. However, if I understand correctly, they are doing it in some official page hosted by your institution. That's not the place for it. Somebody has to be able to moderate those comments. I would talk to that person, and ask the comments to be removed.

    3-" do they not realize that the official social media thing set up by the college is a weird place to talk about how hard they party, or do they just not care?" I think they don't realize.

  2. I think they don't care. (for #3) And the nice thing about using facebook and social media as a comp essay topic is that I get to find out a lot about how smart and not so smart young people are using social media. They are _totally_ using social media. It is a given that all my students all have facebook up and are posting away while they work --- and also our campus BB site, which often has discussion boards and stuff for each of their classes --- regardless of how much they hate to read or how bad of writers they are or how anti-intellectual they are. Social media are not seen as writing or thinking at all --- especially since with facebook you are mostly uploading pictures and clicking "like" on various things.

    I was surprised, however, this last time, by how many of them are rabid Twitter users --- the class was about evenly split (I am a "what's the point of Twitter" person.) The same students who were flabbergasted that they had to write more than a page for their essays could easily (so they say) follow hundreds of people on Twitter, celebrities and schoolmates alike, and claim they probably posted 10-20 tweets a day.

    And this came up in my section where we read an article about changes in sexual and dating norms, so I got to hear a lot of detail about what kids are posting and tweeting that *nobody* should really know about them. If they're cool with emailing penis pictures to each other, they see no problem with posting pictures of them puking or discussing how hard they party on facebook. Or the school website.

    Whether this comes back to bite them on the butt, however, is another story.

  3. PS Charlie Sheen's infamous Twitter feed (with the whole "Winner" and "Tiger Blood" thing) is one of the most followed in the world right now; I forget the numbers.

  4. i think there is wide variation in what students will post about.

    i don't see a problem with a student saying their parents won't let them go to [eurpoean city] because it's dangerous. other students will not have that restriction from their parents, but it might make them think about safety issues more than they might otherwise. presumably these kinds of side-trips to witness educational things are part of the whole educational experience.

    discussions about partying on a school sponsored page, though, raise a lot of questions. first, i assume the school is not advocating partying, and it might have liability issues for allowing it to be promoted on its page.

    second, the students either don't know or don't care about [a] their immediate audience on the page, which includes teachers and a bunch of other strangers, or [b] leaving their comments for posterity on the internet. depending on the settings of the page, anybody might see what they wrote. parents, future employers, other teachers -- are they writing something they want everyone to see?

    and let's say something goes bad -- a crime, an injury, something that results in a lawsuit -- comments they write could become evidence. they could be subpoenaed and turned over for litigation purposes.