An introduction to my graduate thesis work on social media identity development
The school year is well underway and seeing as I am in my second year of #SAGrad, I am turning a lot of my focus on two things: my integrative thesis paper, and my eventual job search. However, for now, I must focus on creating my thesis! And I figured, what the hell?
Why not blog my progress! Note: Much of this first post is very preliminary—sort of a collection of thoughts, angles, potential. I am still working through many aspects of what this final paper will look like, I simply wanted to offer a working progress report on how this thesis writing process will take place for me.
|The analytics from #NASPA14 were very impressive!|
ALL OF THE ENGAGEMENT
I engage with our students on social media.
There is active learning and development happening on social media. Sure, some engage differently than others—I attribute this to the fact that students are constantly in different stages of identity development than others. Thus, since students are at such different stages, institutions and student affairs professionals must recognize that some students will not respond to certain modes of communication. If institutions/professionals don't make an effort to meet students halfway on social media, there will always be a disconnect. I currently work and study at an institution (UMass Amherst) that has a massive disconnect with social media and its student population. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because I would argue that the vast majority of institutions are terrible at engaging students through social media. So, UMass is not alone in this. Yet, there is hope! Many administrators at UMass have placed trust in me to go forward in this research in hopes that it can influence and educate how we approach engaging students online, as well as how we develop policies around social media! Therefore, I am quite thankful that I have faith from my institution. Yet, it is also kind of intimidating. But here we go!
|It's all about student development in social media.|
Theory & Identity: Much of my mission in conducting this research for my thesis is rooted in my belief that social media can and does support the identity development of students. danah boyd (2014) discusses a phenomenon known as context collapse, which can be best described as instances when generations collide—e.g. parents feeling out of touch, youth feeling as thou older folks don't understand them. These collapsing contexts are the basis for why the mainstream media constantly harps the negative aspects of social media use among my generation and younger—the so-called, digital natives, These collapses not only harm the benefits of social media, they also create barriers between generations, which can be equally harmful if we ever want our society to coexist functionally online. My hope in developing this thesis will be to prove ways in which students utilize social media platforms and online technologies throughout their development—for better or worse. In doing this, I anticipate that these data will provide administrators, professionals, and faculty with useful information on how to support their students through social media instead of approaching the subject from a place of fear and confusion. If you have suggestions for lenses and/or perspectives for me to gauge this research through, please let me know! I am all ears!
|Been reading that danah boyd book under the best circumstances.|
Or you aren't, in which case, GET READY TO LEARN ANYWAY! I am currently creating a social media survey that I hope to not only spread around to students at UMass Amhest, but also on the INTERNET! So, if you would like to be data in my thesis, please take part in my survey once I post it. Trust me, you'll know when it is posted. My primary assistantship is in the Center for Health Promotion at UMass, where I work on peer health messaging. This is my beacon of social media work this year. Through this work, I will be able to collect specific data on the many platforms our offices utilize on campus. I also have access to TAing a course on Embracing Diversity, which has over 125 students for potential surveying. Pretty excited to see how this goes. I am also doing a number of smaller pieces of research collection like utilizing a few focus groups with students here at UMass, as well as tracking a number hashtags during my research. There are also some books! Oh, you bet there are books in this research! Like many who are reading higher education books, I am going through Rey Junco's new release, "Engaging Students in Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs," for the purposes of this research. So get ready for some posts about his work. I am also going through danah boyd's latest release, "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens." This book takes a more qualitative approach toward how social media and technology can function to benefit the development of student identity. In addition to boyd and Junco, I am reading Erving Goffman's 1959 book, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." These three books, among many other articles, will contribute to how I develop my literature review for my thesis.
|Excited for a book that can teach us|
so much about how to support our
students through social media!
Questions Moving Forward: I have very high expectations for this thesis. And I realize that I’ve left much to be desired in this first blog post, but I look forward to filling in some of the gaps with the next post! I am very aware that this is going to be a challenging thesis to work on. I like challenges. I like creating new conversations and developing new data in he field of higher education. Here are some of the preliminary questions that have come up during the early stages of my thesis writing process:
- How do we differentiate between the factors that necessitate social media usage--i.e. person, process, service/platform, outcome/interaction?
- How can this research influence the development of social media policy on college campuses?
- How do social media platform challenge and transcend each other?
- If people aren’t interacting with an account is is still “social” media?
- Is active interaction a basis for definition of “social” media?
- Why should institutions invest in social media if there is no profit?
- What theories support students development through social media?
- How do students prefer to interact on social media?
- How do we maintain anonymity in an arena where we don’t have privacy?
- How do we manage past versions of ourselves?So, there is my initial brainstorm about all of the chaos I am trying to work through in order to create this thesis. I am excited to continue blogging through this thesis writing process because I feel this will be a fun, transparent way to shed light on final projects in student affairs/higher education graduate programs. Hope you are all well. Get ready for part two shortly! - Craig.