I had just gotten back into higher education in 2003 and in my first semester my department chair asked me a question. “What do you think our communications program needs?”
I didn’t have a great deal of time to think about it, but I did have one idea which seemed obvious to me. “I think we need to acknowledge somewhere the impact technology is having in the way we communicate personally and professionally.” Now at this time we were seeing the exploding use of email, instant messaging, and email lists as well as online forums. No one at this time had any idea how text messaging would rule the day or the rise of social media and dedicated messaging apps like Snapchat, etc.
The next semester I was knee deep in all of this since my chair put a seminar course called Electronic Communication on the schedule. I was teaching it and needed to get to work quickly. I wasn’t too intimidated by the task at hand but I relied on my confidence with technology and four plus years experience using the web for marketing and working as a project and account manager for an ad agency.
I say this as the smartest move, at least in my academic career, because all you have to do is look around and see where the road has taken us. Its no longer about email and online forums. It’s about social media, messaging aps, and mobile communicating. As a communications scholar, I don’t think my colleagues in other disciplines understand just how challenging it is to be specializing in this area.
It means constant reading, watching and listening to stay on top of the latest trends. It means having to constantly defend what you do to well-meaning, but ignorant (not meant as in insult), colleagues who think all we are going to do is teach people how to use Twitter and Facebook. Don’t even get me started on what happens when you tell them you are using a Snapchat project in your class.
But in the end, it was a smart choice in 2003 to build on my interest in communication technology and ride the wave into social media. Even today, among my peers in communication studies, there aren’t too many who have a firm or even semi-firm grasp on social media.
Next time, why communication scholars might have it wring in their approach to social media instruction.