140 characters is the new communication medium.
Twitter connects people in a way never used before by using fewer characters than Facebook allows in one’s status update.
A by-product of this new medium is Tweet-Ups, personal interactions between various members of an online community. Tweet-Ups occur when a group of people who met on Twitter get together at a specific location. Members may be faculty, staff, students or anyone involved in the College community. Often, they know each other on Twitter because they attend the same university, work in the same academic field, or share similar interests. The person in charge of the Tweet-Ups posts when and where the meet-up will be on his or her Twitter page, then anyone who subscribes to the feed can attend the session.
As a result, faculty, staff and students are provided with a more casual means of communication. Where faculty previously used to hold communications on academics only in classes and offices, Tweet-Ups now provide them with alternative places and topics beyond the college atmosphere. These meet-ups bridge the barrier once found between the two groups, or even within the groups’ various dynamics.
“Social media, to me, is a gateway to personal interaction,” Ashleigh Heck, staff member of the Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center, who founded the program at the College of William and Mary, said.
However, Heck also recognizes the faults of Tweet-Ups. Twitter limits users to 140 characters, and some users opt to use those characters to emotionally express themselves rather than communicate with other users.
“The 140 characters are not meant to be a mini-blog,” she said.
Heck also stressed the difficulty in getting the campus to participate in the new idea. Due to the disconnect between social media and the students, Heck recognized the potential skepticism on campus.
“Getting people to buy into this is an issue,” Heck said. “There’s a lot of skepticism, and not just among students. There is as much skepticism among faculty and staff as well.”
Heck brought Tweet-Ups to the College’s campus from her experience as a graduate student at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich. According to Heck, the large number of graduate students made personal interaction difficult. Tweet-Ups provided the MSU graduate school community with a chance to interact on a more person-to-person basis.
Heck used this experience, plus her general use of Twitter, to connect with the College community when she moved here in August. Using both her professional and personal Twitter accounts, she set up the first Tweet-Up off campus at the New Town Green Leafe Cafe a few weeks ago.
“It was a meeting of the social media user group,” she said.
About 20 to 30 members of the community filtered in throughout the evening. Members included faculty, staff and newspaper reporters from the Daily Press and The Virginia Informer.
Heck said she hopes to instill better town-gown relations — through industry internships and job opportunities — using Tweet-Ups.
“I hope members of the campus get to know local businesses,” she said.
Because of these hopes and the success of the first meeting, Heck anticipates holding another meeting in the near future. The meeting might be held this week, so keep an eye out and join in the College’s newest form of social interaction.
“I want it to be a spring break theme. Faculty and staff are as happy to have a break as students are, even if they don’t get the week off,” she said.