In today's world of digital hyper-networking, it is clear that self-promotion has taken on a new role. Tools like Twitter are used not only by French rappers claiming D.C. roots, but also by businessmen, corporate firms and colleges. This is especially good for schools because it allows them to follow student dialogue and identify people who are in the process of searching for schools. It works out great, and 140 characters is just enough to share a thought or welcome potential students. But a tweet is not so long that you can do damage to the reputation of the school, right? I wouldn't have thought so.
This brings us to GW's social networking presence. Just under a year ago, a study by universitiesandcolleges.org found that GW is one of the most prolific Twitter-using schools in the nation, with dozens of Twitter accounts and nearly continuous postings. Even among all this noise, there is one feed in particular that stands out: the GW Today feed, or @GWToday in Twitter slang. As a representation of GW, this feed is often overly personal, unprofessional and generally irreverent.
What does a prospective student, current parent, alumni or anybody else think when he or she sees a posting like "@jaylovepopa thanks 4 ur spam reply. just wanted to message u b4 i blocked u & reported u as spam. best of luck. thanks for clogging twitter"? Is this the kind of presence we want coming from an official GW feed?
Now, let's be clear on the context of the @GWToday Twitter feed. It is the voice of the larger publication GW Today, produced by GW's Division of External Relations. So it is natural to expect that the feed would occasionally be personal and offer more than a robotic delivery of GW-related info. However, the content that is regularly produced by @GWToday often consists of inside jokes, personal musings and random subjects.
In an attempt to be a mainstay of GW's social media presence, the publication has treated the feed as though it were a personal account, leaving an extremely awkward digital footprint. For example, if you root for the Yankees, GW Today would tell you that it's "like rooting for Empire in Star Wars."
Beyond the awkwardness, though, there has been at least one tragically serious and inappropriate posting. On May 15, the feed retweeted a Hatchet post related to sophomore Taylor Hubbard that went "RIP RT Newsroom: #GWU Sophomore critically injured after fall from window." It might be good to look back to the beginning of the Tweet. RIP? Maybe you can blur the line and occasionally make more personal posts or engage individuals via Twitter, but to accidentally put RIP - rest in peace - in a tweet about a critically injured student is egregious. The post was subsequently removed, but it would remain present on RSS feeds; and as we all know, once something goes online, it's probably not leaving.
It's amazing what can be done in 140 characters. You can connect with people and make them feel like GW is a comfortable place to be. But at the same time, we probably didn't need to know that not everybody in the external relations office doesn't believe America made it to the moon - "overheard in the #gwu 2day office 'it is beyond belief that man landed on the moon. we have a conspiracy theorist amongst us."
-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs and was the former opinions editor for The Hatchet. He is currently the managing editor.
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