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This is a guest post from Shannon Dea, FAUW vice president and professor in the Department of Philosophy. It was originally published in her regular University Affairs column.
“Is this thing muted? Can you hear me? Sorry, I forgot to unmute.”
As thousands of academics worldwide shift to virtual meetings and technology-mediated learning, these phrases have become ubiquitous. While many of us need to do a better job of remembering to unmute before we speak in our new Zoom and Teams reality, we also need to learn when to mute – or at least modulate – some of our communications.
Marshall McLuhan famously declared that the medium is the message. It is a good lesson to remember in the era of COVID-19. Whether we are teaching, participating in a meeting, or just grousing about stuff with our friends and colleagues, online modes of communication affect who we are communicating with, how they understand what we’re saying, and the downstream consequences of what we say. Combine this with some colleagues’ unfamiliarity with how online platforms work and you have a perfect storm.
Consider the good-hearted U.S. prof who last week tweeted out a compassionate thread detailing the hardships her students were experiencing because of COVID-19 and pleading for colleagues to be compassionate with their students. The overall message was a good one, but Twitter was the wrong place for the private details about students’ poverty, mental health and family deaths that she included in the thread. When the thread went viral, she realized her mistake and deleted the thread, but not before several people had screen-capped it. Now, that version is all over the internet, despite the original poster’s efforts to pull the thread.
While physical distancing might tempt us to talk on social media in the same way that we would at the water cooler, your social media remarks can attract a much larger and much different audience than you predict, and once your comments are public, there is no way to reel them back in.
Continue reading “COVID Coping Strategies: Avoiding communications snafus in the era of COVID-19”