From Flip Phones to Facebook: Adapting to Social Media

This is a guest post from Sara Klemowitz (@saraklem), a former student of mine from Richard Stockton College. In this post, Sara talks about how she was initially resistant to using Twitter in the classroom, but muses on the ways it has been very helpful for her career post-graduation. 

“Re-reading my response to Beauvoir’s essay has me thinking about stereotypes about feminists again. @adelinekoh #femtheory”

On January 26, 2012, this was the first tweet I, Sara Klemowitz, or @saraklem, ever made. It’s a pretty
loaded tweet, now that I look at it. What kind of person do you have to be to waste your social media debut, which could be witty or entertaining, on Simone de Beauvoir, not even hashtagging her name? What kind of Twitter naiveté does it take to put a person’s username at the end of the tweet, rather than at the beginning?

There’s a lot behind it. Mid-January marked the beginning of my last semester at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey before obtaining the coveted bachelor of the arts in Literature Studies with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Professor Adeline Koh’s Feminist Theory class stood between me and sweet, sweet freedom. But she wasn’t going to make it easy – at least, not for a student like me.

It wasn’t the research papers or the heavy reading or even the emphasis on in-class participation that made me break a sweat. Those were in my comfort zone; I was a pro. The most fearful aspect of the course to me was the day Professor Koh took us into the computer labs and told us all to make Twitter accounts. And by “us all,” do know that I mean the few of us that didn’t already have them. Most of the
class happily logged in and posted a few tweets, enjoying that they were actually being encouraged to do so during class time. But not me. It was almost my knee-jerk reaction to resist. “Twitter? Twitter is stupid.” 

Looking back I’m not sure why I was so unwilling. I think I was just ‘too cool.’ I didn’t have a smartphone and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get a Facebook account until two years after all my friends did because I thought it was stupid. I was one of those people who bought everything on vinyl and would occasionally type poetry on a typewriter in hopes that I’d somehow channel my inner Allen Ginsberg. Social media was out of my comfort zone because I didn’t know how to use it, and my internet ignorance made me feel insecure and vulnerable.

Our professor explained that we’d be using the hashtag (“What’s a hashtag?”) #femtheory to be discussing the material assigned to us each night, and I just didn’t see how it would work. How could you possibly say all you need to say about something so deep as The Feminine Mystique or Cowboys in Paradise in just 140 characters? I made my resiliency known far and wide, asking other students outside of class what they thought of the idea, trying to encourage them to hate it with me, and even eloquently asking the professor, “What is the point, though?” Yeah, I was that student.

But Koh didn’t really want to hear any of that. She was firm in her requirements, and though at the time I rolled my eyes, I have since thanked her for it, because of course I ended up loving it. I could tweet my thoughts as I was reading (which was often at 3 a.m.) so I wouldn’t forget to bring them up in class the next day. My classmates could respond whenever they saw my tweets – it didn’t have to be immediately. And, coolest of all, feminist theory enthusiasts from all around the world would catch wind of our online dialogue and join in. I had stood too firm on my opposition to the medium in the beginning of the semester to express it at the time – but I was loving Twitter.

Fast forward to two months after I got my degree. I made a post on Facebook: “What am I doing with my life?” It was in reference to my indecision about attending grad school and my apathy toward my current part-time job. Within seconds, a friend I hadn’t seen in years responded, “Are you still writing? Need work?” She was the head of the social media department at an internet marketing company, and there was an opening for a writing position. I had an interview by the end of the week, and on my first day of training, I was asked to create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest if I didn’t already have them.

I know – the irony is just palpable.

One of my first tasks at my new job? Writing out tweets for a golf services company based out of Las Vegas. That was months ago, now, but it’s so ironic I can’t seem to forget it. I actually thought to myself, “If six-months-ago Sara could see me now…” My favorite part of the job? Running my own blog– which I also have to manage a Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ account for in order to maintain my
following.

How could school have better prepared me for my new position as a writer at an Internet marketing company – which, mind you, is one of the fastest growing industries right now? I’m not too proud to say it. Our schooling systems need more professors who are in touch with technology and, in particular, social media. Aside from general writing and critical thinking skills, the Twitter usage in that class is one
of the only aspects of my education that stands out and is put to the test in my job every day. And, let’s face it, I got this job because of connections I’ve made and kept via Facebook. I’ve since encouraged my friends and former mentors, who teach in high schools, to consider incorporating social media into their curriculums. In order to stay on top, you’ve got to remain relevant, and right now, social media is what’s
relevant. I’ve got to stand up to my boldly unwilling undergraduate self and side with Professor Koh on this one – give Twitter a chance.

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