Social Media and the “Real World”

An overarching theme in this week’s reading was the use of social media in the “real world” of technical communication, and how that can be translated to students in technical communication programs. I think this is an excellent area to look at, to see both how social media are becoming increasingly utilized in the field and how introducing students to the professional use of such media is highly effective.

Social media tend to get a bad rap – many see the various popular social networking sites as encouraging narcissism and inflating individuals’ sense of importance. In a sense, this is true – they provide users with a “public” platform on which to display personal information and opinions openly. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing… I’ve seen social media bring people together and help others increase self-confidence. Often times social media can be a huge benefit.

This explains why it is also utilized by professionals, technical communicators in this case, though I’m sure most professions have similar usage. The ability that this media provides to collaborate and connect individuals has been immensely beneficial to many. Not only does it allow colleagues and people from the same or similar fields to connect, it also provides a way for (in the case of technical communicators) the writers/creators to communicate and interact with the consumer/user. This interaction can help strengthen technical communication in a way that was not possible prior to these technologies.

Incorporating social media and its myriad of professional uses into the classroom is an excellent way to help students learn to use these media and appreciate their strengths and shortcomings. Although many students are already utilizing at least some variety of social media in their private lives, providing a look at the professional use of such technologies can help shine a different light on them. Using such social media to provide a platform for students to connect and share their ideas in a “professional” way, helps to highlight the potential uses for these media in their future fields as well as drawing attention to the difficulties they may face with them. As Longo (2014) points out:

If lively and robust discussions result, all parties can learn from each other. But even in situations where discussions are fitful and sparse, classes can learn about the difficulties of establishing trusted and meaningful communication channels. (p. 31)

In this way, students will learn how to navigate social media in a productive and professional manner.

Posted on November 11, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve always used this blog space for this course, but have gone back and forth with my requiring of social media accounts in undergraduate courses. I think it works better here for a couple reasons: 1) several MSTPC courses rely on discussion forums and it can get monotonous reviewing all of those posts, 2) graduate students better understand the separation of professional, personal, and pedagogical uses of different genres, and 3) it only makes sense to practice some form of public writing space in a course that is about emerging media. In all honesty, if this course were taught in person, I’d probably have you all use a few more tools, even ones that just help you organize/archive your research and work [like zotero], but since we have a lot of content to cover, there isn’t enough time to push you into additional spaces.

    For an excellent field research project conducted by one of our recent MSTPC students on the uses of social media by tech comm professionals, check out http://uw-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/STOUT:Stout_Thesis:UWI71384318870002121

    I wonder if in future courses I should have you review these thesis/field projects…

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