As I was driving in this morning, I was listening to NPR Morning Edition, and they aired a story about British Ambassador Tom Fletcher‘s farewell letter to Lebanon. Ambassador Fletcher has been at his post for the past three years, a time of tremendous strife with the Syrian conflict so close.
As moving as the story was, it was 5:30 into his interview that I heard something that really resonated with me as an educator. He was talking about how the British Foreign Office encouraged its members to take risks, and he noted:
“…particularly with social media, the biggest risk is not to be engaged…”
He went on to note that of course there was the risk of saying something stupid, or of saying something that might inflame the wrong party, but that in many ways, the “best use of Twitter” is to use it for discourse and debate. He noted that diplomacy is full of difficult issues, and Twitter provides a vehicle for “picking arguments and challenging people.”
It would be foolish to equate the risks that Ambassador Fletcher faced with the risks that educators face in their classrooms, but I do like his take on social media and the opportunity it affords to take discourse and debate and move it outside the classroom. Social media gives faculty the ability to engage with each other, with their discipline in and out of academe, and with their students, in ways we never had a decade ago. One could “argue” that the heart and soul of scholarship and research involve picking arguments and challenging people (and ideas).
So what is your take? Is there a risk for faculty in higher education to not engage with social media?