Memo from University President Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ on Social Media
5 December 2016
Memo to : The University Community
Subject : Social media
Social media is a double-edged sword. It nurtures friendships, facilitates communication and debate; it allows us to learn new things and exposes us to diverse ideas. At the other edge, social media can be deceptive and manipulative, inaccurate, even shrill.
We would be doing our university and our profession a disservice if we contributed to the increasingly rancorous online discord. Simply put, decent people act decently whether they interact online or not. We do not shed our inhibitions and dignity as educators and citizens when we log on to our social media accounts.
Imposing absolute rules of conduct, however, would be foolish and I trust your personal and collective capacities for discernment. Below are just some guidelines, suggestions, on staying within the lane of responsible expression. I am hopeful we can discern when a situation warrants crossing these lanes.
1. Sharing: be careful about sharing articles from unverified or dubious sources. Such sources and outright falsehoods do not advance any argument and are not in the public interest or even yours.
2. Hearsay: discussing rumors and innuendo damages not only the subject of the intrigue, but your own name and that of the University as well.
3. Complexity: don’t fall for easy or stereotypical answers. You know life to be bigger than tweets and sound bites.
4. Self-inflation: you may be truly sincere in what you are advocating, but be critical and honest with yourself. Examine your motives. Ask whether or not your post is a carefully curated construct of an idealized self-image.
5. Trolls: don’t feed them. You will find people online (and off) who are only interested in shouting and burning instead of dialoguing and building. When faced with these types, say your piece and end it there.
Our use of the internet should remind us that we are all situated in a web, that strands link us to family, friends, colleagues, students, acquaintances, strangers. Our online actions can strengthen the links of this web of relationships or sever them irreparably.
Lastly, social media equates popularity with goodness or quality. What is controversial garners shares, likes, tweets, infamy. What is loud and popular does not necessarily lead to wisdom or the greater good. The Book of Kings has Elijah looking for God in noisy and awesome events, e.g. a mighty wind, an earthquake, a great fire. But the Lord was in none of these. Instead, after all the drama, from the silence of a cave, there was only a whisper, a still small voice.
Before joining the cacophony of online space, we do well to listen first to that still small voice.
Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ