During my fifth year as an undergrad, I took an introductory PR class. Not only was I still adjusting to the switch from the English Department to the School of Journalism at the U of O (English major, Comm. Studies minor), but I was also adjusting to a particular style of class interaction. There were the vocal discussions much like my English classes, but in this particular PR class, Twitter was used – in fact encouraged! – as a medium to engage the course material.
Ever since that class, I have loved using Twitter. And in a weird way, it helps me to take notes during lectures. If I can process the concepts I learn in class well enough to make a joke about them (many of my tweets are sarcastic remarks), then I’ve processed them well enough to remember them. Knowing what those concepts are about is a little bit trickier, but that gets balanced out with an extra bit of studying. As far as the tweets themselves are concerned, they only seem to help me.
Over on my own blog yesterday, I talked about the challenges this introvert (myself) faces when engaging larger groups of people. During class the night before, we had used Twitter to share thoughts, jokes, and questions about the book of Esther (we listened to an audio version of it – feel free to read tweets here). While, for the most part, I sat back and read all my class mates’ tweets (sharing a few of my own here and there), I noticed how I felt much more engaged with the rest of the class – something that doesn’t necessarily happen all the time in a regular class without the utilization of social media. Don’t get me wrong; I always feel present in the class, but hardly ever a part of the class – like a simple observer occasionally brave enough to raise his hand once every month or so.
Much of it is my own choice. I mean for one thing, I always sit in the back of the class. And for another, I prefer to listen to what my classmates have to say simply because my own thoughts are still being processed – in other words, I don’t process them very well vocally. Obviously this is why I write in general; to process things. Yet with a medium like Twitter (or this blog or Facebook – well, kind of with Facebook), I’m able to write my thoughts and still partake in the class “discussion.”
Why then am I taking in-person classes when I could be taking online classes? Ironically enough, I learn better in the in-person environments. Like I said, I enjoy listening to what my classmates have to say in the spontaneous moments that in-person classes provide. In the online settings, thoughts are shared and they’re great, but they’re a little more edited, a little more refined. I enjoy seeing the beginning stages of thought development because most of the time that is where I feel I am – in the beginning stages.
What I find even more wonderful about Twitter are all the connections I’ve made in the four years I’ve been tweeting. Just a couple weeks ago, I met a newfound friend (Natalie Trust) for Mass – I had never attended Mass before, so a blog post is most certainly in the works. Before that, I received a book for free (believe it or not, from Joel L. Watts himself). And even (long) before that, I started following Brian LePort and Near Emmaus’ posts, which means I may not be blogging here if it weren’t for Twitter.
Social media, I don’t believe, will ever be a replacement for true, genuine human interaction, but I have enjoyed the many times it has supplemented those interactions. Similar to my question in my own blog, how do you – as a student, seminarian, pastor, professor, etc. – see the integration of social media platforms into your church, classroom, or even workplace? Do you see it as an enhancement to the already-present social dynamic or a hindrance?