The Back Story
First, there’s the 140 character limit: who can express a complex thought in so few words? Well, Orwell, I guess, for one . . . or Hemingway . . . but I’ve always been an external processor.
Facebook is more my style, where one can write half the length of a Hemingway novel in one status update (no joke– the maximum FB post is 63, 206 characters). That is 451.5 full Tweets.
And Facebook, perhaps because it was originally grounded in F2F relationships, seemed safer– more intimate– less overwhelming. Twitter, because it is more public, seemed dangerous (the way MySpace eventually became for me)– there was nothing to hold users accountable for their online, asynchronous actions.
Another thing . . . there were so many Tweets! Perhaps because Twitter is really just an isolated feed (without the more portfolio aspect of Facebook’s pages), I never really felt connected to any of the individuals I was following. Because I wanted to give Twitter the old “College Try,” however, I did the lurking thing for a while, but it was all just too much for me to keep up with.
Plus there was the whole hashtag thing. I’m not going to lie– the # symbol completely eluded me for something like three or four years. It looked so foreign, cluttering up a few of my friend’s lovely FB status updates (I’m friends with a lot of writers) with that strange symbol. I would ask my students, occasionally, to try to explain it to me, but it all just went right over my head.
I went to a great session at this year’s CCCC’s, in Vegas, where one of the presenters walked us through an assignment she uses in her classroom that involves Twitter– her version of the slowly-growing-ubiquitous 48 Hours of Twitter assignment. She got me (and several other attendees) all excited about tweeting the session, but it was not very clear (ironic for the nation’s largest conference of writing teachers) what the conference hashtag was. To further complicate matters, when I went up to her after “class” to show her my one Tweet (I felt a little guilty having my phone out during the talks) and ask “Did I do this right?” (I’m such a student), she pointed out that I had typed in the hashtag wrong.
She was very kind, but also a little patronizing, and I gave up on Twitter once again.
My Twitter Turning Point
And then, this summer, a friend of a friend decided to get married. I have never met the friend-of-the- friend (she lives in another state), but my friend confessed to me, in a moment of bonding, that she was seriously considering de-friending this woman due to her annoying FB posts– complete with even more annoying Twitter hashtags.
One such posting, which accompanied a picture of the friend sitting by her pool with a margarita, joyously complained, in the first clause, about an exhausting day dress shopping with her bridesmaids, whilst the second clause eagerly anticipated more of the same the next day. The hashtag was #ISaidYes.
The incongruity of this struck me as funny, and for the next few weeks, I found multiple contexts to verbally punctuate my oral statements with “Hashtag I Said Yes.” While camping with some old friends (who are also in their late 30’s) a few weekends ago, we all started doing it– especially if we really didn’t feel like saying “Yes” to a question or proposed activity (or we knew we shouldn’t really be doing it):
Sugary cereal in the morning? #ISaidYes
Workout in the field above the campground instead of eating another bowl of sugary cereal? #ISaidYes
Cookies after sugary cereal for breakfast on the final day? #ISaidYes
By Sunday, we were all making up and verbally employing new hashtags and laughing ourselves silly at our ironic genius (this could also have been a symptom of internet withdrawal as our phones batteries slowly lost their charge). What this impromptu exercise did, however, was connect me, playfully, to the logic of hashtags.
As it turns out, experimenting with hashtags and 140 line status updates in the virtual word was just too much pressure– I had to do that kind of risk-taking orally, in the company of friends, while engaging in what Erasmus or Derrida might call serious play.
The Emergence of #NFI13
I’m not sure why or how, in the last few weeks, I got the idea of having attendees of the New Faculty Institute (which I now think of as #NFI13) tweet the conference, but ever since I first googled “Why Tweet at an Academic Conference?” I’ve been obsessed with making it work– sort of my own 48 hours of Twitter assignment, with the conference attendees as my students.
I’ll spare you the details of what I’ve learned in terms of encouraging a conference backchannel on Twitter (new vocabulary! A former English professor’s dream!) and how few of these 25 Ways to Use Social Media I actually made it through– suffice to say I will be prepared for a large scale 48 Hours of Twitter at the triple-the-size Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference in May 2014. ATL Twitter team, what up?
But for now, I’ll say this: not only am I in the process of learning a new literacy (and thus remembering how our students feel when faced with the discourses of our disciplines), I am truly excited about the potential of teaching the faculty who teach in our 34 colleges how to use Twitter.
In terms of the conference, I created a Prezi that gives the highlights of the WHY– for the individual faculty member, for the conference facilitators and presenters, and for the larger ATL community. I’m particularly proud of its title (You Want Me to What the Conference?), Subtitle One (Twitter, #NFI13, and Growing Community), and Subtitle Three (Everyone Wins with Twitter). And, the Prezi template I chose has an owl sitting on a tree. Get it? I mean, Owls don’t chirp . . . but close enough, right?
And in terms of the larger ATL network, I’ve been thinking about it this way. My friend Lorelle VanFossen, WordPress evangelist and social media goddess, calls the various social media sites “Playgrounds,” and in terms of connecting the 15000 faculty across the system, I’ll need to utilize as many playgrounds where faculty are currently playing (or get them playing there) as possible.
This site, my blog, is the equivalent of my home– a place to invite my friends after a rousing day on the playground of Twitter.
But perhaps this is another blog entry . . . on on the (pardon my switching metaphors) e-ecosystem I hope to create over the next few years.
Twitter for Newbies
If you’d like a VERY good five minute overview of Twitter (created for attendees of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education (aka people like us)), this is the Twitter 101 to watch.
I’m not using Twitter perfectly (I recently engaged in a long e-mail conversation with a colleague about our slippages in the vernacular of Twitter and the evolution of these sorts of emergent technologies from a genre perspective), but I am using it. And I will learn (and hopefully my old-person mistakes are cute).
One of the major focuses of our opening session is on the potential challenges and benefits of innovation– that innovation comes with a risk factor, is a potential time-suck, and it often can feel very draining in terms of energy invested. However, taking the risk can result in added value, be a time-saver, and actually lead to renewal of the personal and professional self.
I am hoping that my personal risk with Twitter pays off– as well as the larger-scale, more professional risk I am taking by encouraging this Twitter experiment at #NFI13.
In other words, #ISaidYes. I hope the faculty attendees of #NFI13 do as well.
- Are Facebook hashtags a big fat #failure? (digitaltrends.com)
- Hashin’ It Out: What You Need to Know About Marketing With Hashtags Across Social Media (business2community.com)
- Why You Need a #PersonalHashtagCampaign (sys-con.com)
- Twitter Teaches You How to Hashtag (mashable.com)
- #Clueless? Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Hashtags (makeuseof.com)
- Hashin’ It Out: What you need to know about marketing with hashtags across social media (ubervu.com)