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Digital Identity Reactions & Resources

Part 1: Current Climate of Higher Ed Online

I still have extremely mixed feelings about the use of social media in higher education. I completely understand the "amazon prime generation" of students are more engaged with their cell phones than in face to face (F2F). Fredrick Smith said in Monday's FB live, referring to today's higher education professionals, "if you're not connected on your phone with students then you're not connecting with students at all." However, I must also acknowledge what neglecting the F2F experience and privileging engagement through mediate channels of communication can lead to. Gergen (2000) argues "the self becomes saturated with to many identities because of the increasing amount of relationships individuals are exposed to and expected to maintain" (as cited in Whitty, 2011, p. 97). This can lead to unintentional false representations of self or stress and anxiety around managing multiple facets of self across platforms (Egan, 2016). There is no doubt that technology affords education its continuation through the current global pandemic (pro), but the quality of education online is subpar F2F courses (con). We must also question how moving higher education online contributes to widening the gap of privilege and access (Levander & Decherney, 2020) as well as how being so accessible can become problematic when a tweet is over-sighted, misinterpreted, or issues get inappropriately brought to the internet and small issues become even bigger issues - now who looks bad; the student, the institution, or the dean? I think some people can and do, do a great job at managing social media. I also think some people do a great job showing up for themselves and their everyday and should not be judged as less capable because they choose not to do social media.

Considering the global pandemic forcing higher education to transition to a digital format, I think the Digital Decision Making Model (Ahlquist, 2016), provides exceptional direction for diving into deep and dark waters. Reading Patrick Love's story (pp. 32-33) provoked President Thrasher's response to the recent demonstrations of BlackLivesMatter in Tallahassee. Students wanted to feel heard but due to campus closings this was difficult. Twitter and other social media platforms provided space for physical demonstrations to reach student affairs professionals on campus. As much as I do not wish to have to manage multiple platforms and aspects of my identity as well as the trepidation of #CancelCulture, I do see how valuable curating a proactive, prosocial, digital presence will be for my future as a #SApro.

Part 2: Professionals with Intersectionality

I will take the question quite literally and respond:

  • Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are owned by Mark Zuckerberg (a white male, with questionable ethics regarding privacy)

  • Twitter is owned by Jack Dorsey (also a white male)

  • LinkedIn's parent company is Microsoft which is owned by Bill Gates (also, a white male)

So then who's tool is social media? Yes, we "own" our accounts as users, but our usage is policed by #CancelCulture, the abilities of the platform (groups, privacy settings, word length, inclusion of or emphasis on pictures), groupthink (trending topics, people, places), and algorithms. Algorithms approved by platform owners, which are primarily white males. Identity construction in mediate spaces are dominantly controlled by one perspective which strongly reinforces Golden's (2019) claim that online discrimination requires professionals of color to consider the institutional climate in which they were hired.

My approach, then, to my digital identity must include a reflection of social justice which includes race, gender, citizenship status, physical and intellectual ability. Regardless of the privacy settings or platforms, I must critically engage with combating the patriarchy and celebrate, follow, share, content which aligns with my values in social justice. Even if my identity is forever evolving, it is always rooted in social justice. I admit, I have not been an active or engaged social media user for mental health reasons and do hope this course facilitates a streamline of platforms which make managing my digital presence less stressful and less time consuming. I also admit that reflecting on who owns social media as the antecedent of who's tool it is, has inspired me to become more engaged by promoting, at minimum, the two areas of social justice which I focus on, (dis)abilities and recovery/sobriety, which also extends to my personal identity as a female and attempting to empower and promote other women.


Ahlquist, J. (2016). The Digital Identity of Student Affairs Professionals. In E. Cabellon & J. Ahlquist (Eds.), Engaging the digital generation (New Directions for Student Services, No. 155, pp. 29-46). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

Levander, C. & Decherney, P. (2020, June 10). The COVID-igital Divide. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Smith, F. (30 Jun 2020). Facebook Live for EDH5309. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Whitty, M. T. (2011). Chapter 4: Manipulating of Self in Cyberspace in B. H. Spitzberg & W. R. Cupach (Eds.), The dark side of Interpersonal Communication (pp. 92-120).

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