Words count, even on Facebook

The just-announced entry by the New York Times and other major media into Facebook should put to rest any doubt about the importance of social media for communication.

I finally got on the Facebook bandwagon a little more than four years ago, when Wisconsin’s political attacks on education and the middle and lower classes began. Since then, I’ve mostly followed Facebook news and groups, rarely posting except to reply to friends as an occasional method for conversing in the virtual world.

There are a number of reasons for stepping up my Facebook and other social media activity.  Among them is my disappointment with more conventional local means of governance — especially after UW-Stevens Point’s baffling decision to disempower its faculty senate.

On May 6, I cast the sole vote against adopting UWSP’s new shared-governance constitution that firmly establishes a common council in place of the senate (two other senators abstained).  I’ll write more about this constitution and its impacts as the year progresses.  For now, I’ll simply say that while I’m absolutely in favor of a common council that joins all major groups on campus to discuss common issues, I believe faculty influence has decreased under the new arrangement.  It’s a complex story, and the Pointer article linked above only scratches the surface of what has happened and what will follow.

I was often amazed at what passed for logic and rationality in the former senate, so maybe the senate’s death is a necessary step for any rebirth of faculty influence.  In the meantime, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the power of words and images in both traditional and social media, especially when traditional governing bodies fall short.

Two examples: the Times recently ran a fantastic series on exploitation of foreign workers in the nail industry (“The Price of Nice Nails”).  Did it make a difference?  You bet.  It didn’t take New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo long to respond.  And here’s a piece on a Facebook rant against vandalism in parks that probably will have legal ramifications for at least one family and has, at least temporarily, raised the profile of the issue.

All the words in the world won’t make a difference, though, if they don’t fall on the right ears.  Reaching audiences appropriately and effectively will remain both art and science, but there’s no question that Facebook is a primary player in the game.

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