If you had asked me at the start of this semester why I was an English Major, I would have said I wasn’t sure. Just a semester ago, I thought I wanted to be an English teacher. My English teachers had helped me discover and love literature, and I wanted to do the same for the next generation. But I learned from my first stent in assistant teaching that teachers have a special kind of bravery that I don’t possess. Dazed, confused, and uncertain, I was fortunately picked up by Dr. Hunter to be Social Media Coordinator for the English Department—something that initially felt foreign to what being an English major meant to me.
I felt something click into place was when I found out I would be doing a story about Dr. Sean Latham, preeminent scholar of James Joyce. Dr. Latham would be coming to UTC to deliver a lecture on his latest research, and I was supposed to do a blog post to drum up attention. I have always loved Joyce, so I was excited. I was, however, much more nervous. Dr. Hunter told me my interview would be emailed to each and every Mocs email account, students, staff, and faculty. Thousands of people would be offered my story to read, unsolicited, on a Monday morning, drinking coffee, straight into their inbox. The power of going public with my writing was intoxicating, as well as utterly terrifying. Shyly, I chose the least intrusive format for a story I could, a direct-to-text interview. I decided to write questions I thought would make Joyce sound interesting, and hope against hope Dr. Latham would spare some time to respond.
If he would let me, I could have just kissed Dr. Latham for what he sent back. Reading his responses was like unwrapping present you know is good the second you get a peek through the wrapper. He had sent me back, in long and lucid sentences, some 1200 passionate, evocative, words, arranged just for me. I was amazed that such talented and intelligent writing had been sent straight to my inbox. Furthermore, I was wild with excitement at the thought of other people reading it.
I describe this experience because I started out this semester not sure if I would actually be happy with a career in social media. I used social media in my daily life, but distantly, somewhat removed from the culture, believing social media to be run by a swamp monster that would suck me into an ooze of narcissism if I got too close. Given our political climate in the year 2018, we all know how real the swamp monster is. However, I learned this semester that there is also a considerable plot in cyberspace populated with authors, librarians, teachers, and other passionate people dedicated to offering an alternative to that swamp monster.
With my internship I felt like I was doing my part to carve out a chunk of cyberspace that was safe, and good. I hoped that what I wrote would bring people to new and greater understanding. I felt like I was fighting off swamp monsters, abreast and in league with other brilliant people.
Now, I feel ready to graduate. I have written some seven blog posts, posted about a hundred times to social media, conducted a half dozen interviews, learned a little about Photoshop and blogs. I learned about marketing, social media, and analytics. I even got a paying job out of it! I’m now the “Student Media Specialist” for the College of Arts and Sciences—a job with an emerging and evolving definition. Basically, I get to help make the websites of the College a little better.
Social media isn’t all a swamp. Perhaps I’m on the dry land, keeping the swamp monster at bay, buttressing the shoreline. If anyone is reading this, especially freshmen and sophomores, and you are considering majoring in English or any of the humanities, I implore you to do so. With my internship I found a way to connect my academic interests in English and the skills I’ve developed as an English major with possible future jobs. In my case, I see how I can get a good job doing something that improves the intellectual ecology of the planet. This is an exciting time to be alive and literate!