Great Social Media Idea: Not Being Scared

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like I've noticed lately that a lot of higher ed social media is pretty tame. Not that it's a bad thing, necessarily. The internet is littered (for reals... Iron Eyes Cody is getting dusty all up in this digital sphere) with examples of brands trying - and failing, miserably - to be edgy. 

Instead, what I mean is that potentially controversial subject matters are often simply avoided. Maybe it's higher-ups finally paying more attention to the social sphere, but I have experienced first-hand much more sensitivity to anything that could possibly result in a negative comment or "debate" about an issue. Not that I'm an advocate for comment flame wars, but if colleges make a policy change or a professor releases some ground-breaking research that could be seen as controversial, I think it's totally fine to still share something knowing full well that it might not be universally loved by everyone. Hiding from something generally increases ire by an infinitely greater degree than posting it, owning it, and responding.

Which is why I give big props to Willamette University - located just an hour down I-5 from me in Oregon's fine capital city of Salem - for posting, without qualification or equivocation - the story of a player on its football team who came out to his teammates, making history as the first college football player to ever do so.

Willamette could have so easily made the choice to ignore it. To let other people post it but not promote it themselves. To let the buzz just sort of wash around them.

But they didn't make that choice. They embraced the story, gave a full-throated message of support, and took the "risk" of opening themselves up for criticism. But, shocker, every comment on the story was positive, with many expressing pride in the fact that Willamette made such a strong statement.

Being edgy for the sake of "shock" and laughs? Generally not a good idea, unless you are 1) really funny or 2) really adept at knowing exactly where the line is and not crossing it. But being willing to potentially open yourself up for criticism? That's not always a bad thing, especially when talking about something that is relevant to the times and impacts a lot of people.

Bravo, Willamette!


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