“My Professional Development Happens on Twitter”

By Ryan Manning — If you own a computer, which I’m pretty sure you do, since you’re reading this, you’ve probably noticed the massive trend of YouTube videos that document “Things a specific population (for instance: white girls, grandmothers, carnival workers, etc.) Say” which comically attempt to comment using sweeping generalizations about whatever subgroup they feel an expert on. Some of them are funny, especially if you can relate to them. Some of them aren’t really. But that’s how the internet works most of the time.

From the early days of the listserv, many Student Affairs professionals, in an effort to stay current in order to best relate to and meet the needs of the modern college student, have sought to become experts of social media, and many of us use whatever downtime we find in our days to update our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or what have you, accounts. We also have a knack for scouring the internet for hilarious YouTube videos and sharing them with everyone we know, typically other Student Affairs professionals. We have real jobs that keep of busy most of the time, I promise.

So, it ought to come as no surprise that this new string of videos caught on pretty quickly in student affairs circles, partially to share and laugh about, but eventually to also use as teaching tools. What are we doing to help our students realize why the content of a “Things Girls say to Gay Men” video is worthy of so many head shakes? It’s a great way to frame conversations about stereotypes, multicultural competence, or just thinking before you speak. Ideally, this is why we’re on YouTube so much. I encourage more educators to take this approach, familiarize yourselves with today’s hot topics, and find ways to use them in your day-to-day work with students.

But that’s not really why we’re on YouTube so much.

We’re also on YouTube to find out that there are videos like “Stuff RAs Say,” “Stuff Resident Directors Say,” and “Stuff Student Affairs Professionals Say.” Needless to say, I find these videos more hilarious than anything. It’s been great to share “Stuff RAs Say” with my friends who were RAs with me in college and laugh about how, even four years later, we still can laugh about waking up in the middle of the night imagining that the duty pager is going off.

At a recent staff meeting with my current RA staff, one of my RAs wondered, “Someone I’ve never met today told me that they could tell I was an RA just because I used the term ‘active listening.’ Is that an RA thing to say?”

I couldn’t help but laugh and think about how unique of an experience it is to be an RA, or any student leader on campus. Then I went back on YouTube and watched Stuff Hall Directors Say to RAs, to laugh some more. It shows you that while my work as an RD can be grueling at times, especially given the massive spike in alcohol, drug, and mental health-related crises around the country, laughter really is the best medicine. And nothing makes me laugh more than thinking about how often i utter the phrase, “so how does that make you feel?”

So that’s why nearly everyone you know who works in student affairs tweets more than you think is humanly possible while still having a full-time job. For the most part, social medial is an amazing tool for those of us in higher education to connect and share ideas and best practices for the wide variety of institutions that we work at, from large to small, urban to rural, and I can imagine that it could be used the same for K-12 educators and administrators. And by better understanding the ways in which our students communicate and the messages that they are receiving, we are better equipped to help deliver the most comprehensive out-of-class education possible.

But, we also just like watching hilarious videos.

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