The three aspects of social media that I am most looking forward to learning more about in this course are:

  • How social media websites like Twitter and Snapchat can help advance my professional career in academia;
  • The true ethical repercussions of reckless social media use;
  • How to best utilize social media to gain reputation and attention for the Siegel Institute.

Social Media and the Academic Career

When it comes to social media, I have a hard time imagining it as a tool to further my career goals in academia. When I scroll through Twitter (rarely actually posting myself) I do not see how this fly by the second format of communication can help me build my professional academic reputation. I understand that many departments and offices on college campuses have been encouraged to engage students through the mediums by which they communicate most often, Twitter being one of many, but in terms of true career focused academia, I just don’t see it. Maybe I am too much of a traditionalist when it comes to how I believe academics should communicate, but 140 characters has never been enough for me to complete a coherent thought.

I actually have a very specific example of how social media is actually hurting an academic institution. I will not reveal the guilty in this situation, but a little over a year ago I was very interested in a particular PhD program who was also very interested in having me as a student. I had submitted all necessary documentation, and I was one essay away from submitting my full application. As the deadline for admission grew closer, I began getting e-mails on almost a daily basis from “students” in the program inviting me to apply as soon as possible. I say “students” because these were clearly form letter e-mails that were very spammy in content. I made plans to attend an Open House reception to meet the faculty a couple of weeks before the application deadline. I’ve been told over and over again that you need to be completely certain before leaping into a PhD program, so I was taking every precaution possible. A day before the Open House event I received an e-mail touting a special offer on discounted application fees, which already sounds like a red flag, but the e-mail went on to state that in order to get the discount I needed to come to the Open House event and “snap a selfie.” While I am one who loves taking photos of myself, the idea of “snapping a selfie” did not exactly scream upstanding PhD program. After thinking for a full day, and talking to many other academics about the situation, I decided not to complete my application to the program. This may sound outrageous to some, but I did not want to trust my PhD education to a department that was so desperate for applicants that they would sink to the level of “snapping selfies.” I can definitely see where this is a great marketing tactic for college freshman, but it seemed wholly out-of-place in a PhD program.

It is this exact situation that I think of every time I try to consider how social media could help my professional academic career. I am keeping an open mind as I advance through this course, but I’m still far from understanding the potential.

Social Media and Ethics

The second thing I hope to gain from this course is a better look of how social media is impacting the field of ethics. As an ethicist, I love case studies and I truly believe in learning from the mistakes of others. I know there are countless examples of ethical issues that have occurred through the magic of social media, and I can’t wait to learn more about them. In the ethics institute, we often “joke-on-the-square” about how ethics is constantly sprinting to keep up with technology, and social media is no exception. The Institute is often asked to give workshops on Ethical Decision Making Skills, and for these workshops we ask out Graduate Research Assistants to write case studies relevant to the workshop audience.

While our case studies are original, they are often based on true ethical issues. One such recent example of a real ethical issue that we have used as a basis for a case study involves how social media is utilized to garner support for the sick. An article posted in early August highlights how social media has become a source of pressure for healthcare providers to give preferential treatment to those who can gain the most support through social media outlets. We often see sad stories about sick children needing special treatments on social media, and those posts usually include an urgency to share, share, share, but in reality, should healthcare be divided up based on a popularity model instead of legitimate (paid) access, and who gets to decide?

The Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character

Lastly, and really the true reason I am seeking the Graduate Certificate in Digital and Social Media, I need to learn how to best utilize internet presence to further enhance the visibility of The Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character. In my role as the Programs Specialist, I wear a plethora of hats, one of which being marketing strategies. I do not want to make the same mistakes as my example above, but I do feel a pressure to increase the Institute’s online visibility. The Siegel Institute’s Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Ethics has recently been fashioned where it can be completed entirely online, increasing our reach greatly. Our certificate is still the only academically accredited graduate certificate of its kind in the Southeast United States. That said, there is so much marketing and reach potential that we at the Institute have a lot to learn and I look forward to gaining that knowledge in this course.

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