You’ve probably heard that as an RA you’re living life “in a fishbowl.” This means that your residents will see you as their RA no matter where on campus or in town you might be. In your hall, at the student union or in Wal-Mart, you are “the RA.” This extends to your web life, too. No matter where you are on the web–twitter, instant messenger, blogs, Facebook, online photo albums, etc.–when your residents see you, it’s you, “the RA.”
Being “you the RA” comes with certain expectations from your residents and your supervisor, foremost (and vaguest) is that you are a good role model for your residents and a good representative of your university.
Many of you are probably used to posting very personal sorts of pictures and information on what you believe to be your personal web spaces. However, almost nothing on the web is truly private and information is surprisingly easy to find. For example, you might think your LiveJournal is fairly private because you have only given the name to your closest friends. But is that the only way someone could find your LiveJournal? What if someone followed the link on your Facebook profile to your best friend’s website where he links to his LiveJournal and your innermost thoughts appear on his LiveJournal friends page? How about if they just typed your AIM screen name into the search feature on Xanga? It might sound crazy, but residents will follow those links and even intentionally search because they’re curious about you. Unfortunately, they’re also sometimes looking for ammunition to use against you if they don’t like you. Your supervisor will be obligated to follow up with anything that is drawn to his or her attention, regardless of why it was brought forward.
Knowing residents will snoop (and your supervisor will follow up) are you comfortable with the kinds of things they might find online? Is everything you’ve posted in line with your duty to be a good role model and good representative of your university? Is there anything that might make residents feel like they couldn’t trust you? Is there anything your supervisor might find questionable? How will you react if someone draws something like this to your attention?
Take some time to review the life you have online. Do a Google search on yourself. Think of what’s already out there and what you’ll continue to post and ask yourself the following questions:
• Does this identify me or lead to any identifying information?
• Where else does this lead and how can someone get here?
• Could this make a resident feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?
• Could this be used against me if I ran for public office in the future?
• Would my supervisor or institution have problems with what is posted online?
•What would someone who doesn’t otherwise know me assume about my character based on this?
Based on your answers, you might need to move some entries off the Internet, change privacy settings, or remove links. Sure, the Internet is a place of protected free expression, but a resident who’s been exposed to “TMI” about you may not feel comfortable approaching you when he or she needs your help. Your position as an RA makes you a public figure, and with that comes a responsibility to make yourself approachable and trustworthy to ALL of your residents.
Submitted by Dawn Vavrik, Area Coordinator, Appalachian State University