Look around any crowded room and you'll find people peering downward, engrossed in smartphones glowing in their hands. A gaze across The Loop will yield a similar scene. As smartphones become more integrated with our daily lives, Whitworthians consider how social media is changing the way we teach, build community and develop identity.

Tim Caldwell

Director of Residence Life

As I think about social media's impact on residence life, it is easy to think only about the negatives as it relates to body-image concerns, fear of missing out (FOMO) and mental health. However, we sometimes miss the positive effects of social media within our residence halls. During the 2015 windstorm, residence-hall leadership used the social-media app GroupMe to keep residents up to date and safe. The residence halls livestream many of their programs to advertise and recruit participation (and parents love seeing their students through the live streams of a hall's Instagram or Facebook story). We can also address issues of identity and belonging by telling specific students' stories to a community. It's easy to vilify this new and emerging technology, but it is also important to leverage it to connect with students in new and innovative ways.

Erica Salkin

Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Many of my classes incorporate social media – it's a significant part of the modern media landscape. Social-media platforms help us reach millions of people with valuable information, and best practices have emerged from professionals and researchers to show us the most effective ways to use these new tools. That's the important word here: tools. Like any tool, it can be misused by the untrained, so teaching social media means looking at opportunities, responsibilities and impact. Most of my students are "self-taught," so it also means embracing some new ideas in the face of existing habits. If we treat social media like the tool for expression that it is, we can create informed users at both the professional and personal level.

Jeff Debray, '18

President of the Associated Students of Whitworth University

The friendliness of students and their engagement with each other in the coffee shop, on the Hello Walk or in the classroom have been unchanged by technology. For Whitworth, the biggest challenge is reframing how we are defining a fun activity that meets student interests. With the rise of technology, more students define a "fun night" as watching Netflix or playing on their smartphones alone in the residence hall. Whitworth will need to rethink the opportunities it is providing students and how we can outdo the option of time spent on social media. If we actively seek out the interests of students and know their ever-changing preferences, I believe we are up to the challenge.