I was recently a victim of harassment by one of those incredibly annoying Twitter notifications informing you of a tweet, which has absolutely nothing to do with you, that so-and-so retweeted. Out of curiosity I viewed the tweet and, seeing that it was actually quite funny, I decided to visit this particular individual’s profile in the hope of finding tweets of a similar nature just in case I decided to follow them (not to steal their tweets and post them on Facebook as my own). I was flabbergasted when, after camping on this individual’s timeline,I realised that he was actually one of our lecturers.
I discovered several other lecturers with tweets of a similar nature, i.e. ”personal”, relatable and actually quite funny. Call me Fifty Shades of Late but this is something I only discovered recently. I knew that you could follow members of the Wits staff on Twitter but I always thought they had an online presence like an A-list celebrity, i.e. they don’t follow back, tweets are hardly ever personal and most of them are promotional or links to articles that involve them somehow.
Initially I thought it incredibly awkward for students to be interacting with their lecturers (and vice versa) on such a personal level on a social network because I felt it crossed certain boundaries Although (to my knowledge) there are no laws against this, it seemed to me like breaking one of those unwritten rules that exist silently but we are all aware of. And imagine finding yourself in a situation where you’ve failed a test and are seeking a re-mark from that particular lecturer and you have to hope and pretend your lecturer didn’t see you promoting #TurnDownForWhat at the devil’s hour days before your test.
After giving it much thought, I realised that it wasn’t entirely inappropriate that students and lecturers could interact on such a personal level using social media. I thought perhaps lecturers were indirectly reaching out to their students and showing them that they are actually really cool, normal people.
What I especially love about these informal online student/lecturer relationships is that they make lecturers seem a little more approachable, unlike in high school or primary school where you viewed your teachers as some sort of higher power and felt uncomfortable whenever you saw them doing normal people things outside the classroom, e.g. shopping. These relationships make us feel more comfortable around them and encourage more one-on-one consultations and student participation during lectures.
As a generation of prolific tweeters, whenever we have a school-related question we can just tweet it to our lecturers, as opposed to going to their offices (when are they ever really there?) or doing something as tedious as sending them an e-mail. The response is also almost immediate because, unless you are @Beyoncé, who doesn’t check or respond to their mentions? And information is quickly shared with and viewed by several of your classmates.
I am eternally grateful to our forward-thinking lecturers who avail themselves in such a way that makes them easier for us to reach out to and, who knows, perhaps one day students will have such a strong relationship with their lecturers on Twitter that we can just “slide” into their DMs and get useful information on what exactly is going to be in the next test or exam instead of studying 100% of the work and being asked only 5%. [Sigh] Such wishful thinking