Over the weekend, I had the privilege of speaking to the New Student Orientation Leaders at Keene State College in New Hampshire. They were amazing, as orientation leaders always are, and made me feel welcome. (Even singing me a special birthday song!)
In preparing to talk to these student leaders, I reflected on my own experience working with first year students and having been an orientation leader. I came up with a number of tips related to social media that staff working with first year students should keep in mind. Below I’m sharing three of them.
Remind your first year students…
1. To not constantly compare themselves to others on social media. It’s fruitless and a waste of energy.
First year students, typically as a result of their developmental level, will often compare themselves to others online and measure their self-worth in comparison to what others are posting. This phenomenon isn’t new, but with the online space it takes on a more pronounced form. Students feel pressure to always put on a “happy” face and show that they are having an amazing college experience. This can hide the fact that on the inside they may be nervous, scared, or homesick. Let first year students know that this is natural, and that what they see online is not always a full reflection of reality. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s also okay if your pictures doesn’t get 100 likes. (Photo credit: comicalconcept.com)
2. To engage with people who are different from themselves.
This advice isn’t new, but it also extends to the online environment. When students are searching for friends or roommates, there is a tendency to look for 100% compatibility. Of course, as we all know, this isn’t the best way to pick your new friends in college. College is a time of great change and discovery. Students are leaving behind their high school selves and becoming their new college selves. This entails exploration and change. Engaging with others who are different from you is an excellent way to do this. Encourage first years students to do this both online and off.
3. To use social media to connect with new friends, but be careful not to miss out in the in-person orientation experience.
Social media is an amazing tool in the college socialization process. Students can meet each other before orientation, and maintain ties after orientation. During the orientation experience, however, caution students to not spend all of their time on the phone. There should be a balance. Meeting and connecting with people in person will deepen their experience. Participating in and sharing their orientation experience through social media is also an excellent way to enhance it. Make sure new students are getting the best of both worlds. (Photo credit: Colorfully.eu)
I think I would add that first year students should try to actually keep in touch with the people that they add on Facebook during orientation. They tend to add hundreds of new friends immediately and then never speak IRL to any of them again afterwards–making a conscious effort to meet up again with friends that you met during orientation is not always easy when things get busy, but it is a good way to make sure you have a wide net of friends for when they’re stressed or feeling lonely.
Totally. I found this in my research.