Ramapo staff and students participate in social media and well-being panel

Dr. Michael Middleton, provost and vice president for teaching, learning and growth, mediated a discussion on social media management and well-being on Nov. 16 that focused particularly on the avenues in which young people consume world news. 

The conversation mainly involved Middleton and the panelists — associate professor of journalism Regina Clark, interlibrary loan, reference & instruction librarian Katie Cohen and Health Educator at the Center of Health and Counseling Services Megan Johnston — but attendees were also invited to contribute.

All were left with a deeper understanding of how social media affects the psyche, guided by the speakers’ commentary shaped by their field of study, which included journalism, mental health and media literacy.  

“We are a campus that supports free speech. We support our students in the respectful exercise of their freedom of speech,” Middleton said. “Today’s event is not a political event, but I would encourage folks that represent student groups to think about how they are engaging on that political front.”

When the conversation turned to the changing landscape of online news and the associated risks, Clark, who teaches a class called Writing for Social Media, chimed in. 

“Especially in the communication major, we discuss this idea of gatekeepers. The people who traditionally decided who got to see what news and when,” she said. “The idea of gatekeepers has changed. Once news bureaus, editors and trained professionals guided conversations to the public. With social media, anyone can post anything at any time.”

The panelists discussed misinformation at length. Cohen is an expert in determining quality sources, and a question was directed to her about how one should decide on source credibility.

“I will be honest, recently I do not know what to trust,” she said. “I struggle with that myself, so if you struggle with it, that is completely normal.” 

Cohen discussed LibGuide, a resource available to students on the George T. Potter Library’s website. “There are different tabs of information. It has factual information, and there is a tab for news resources and databases. When investigating, you want to take a look at who is writing the sources. Is it a specific organization with a bias or agenda? Is the author an expert, are they a government official?”

Johnston later delved into how Ramapo defines well-being. “Representatives from the various offices came together in spring 2022 and used sources like the Okanagan Charter and the Geneva Charter by the World Health Organization to evaluate how we as a structure can support student’s well-being,” she said. “Well-being cultivates feelings of acceptance, community, curiosity, resilience, belonging, and accountability, and it is a fluid experience that can be accepted, challenged, or changed based on individual circumstances.” 

Johnston discussed Uwill, which is complimentary instant access to teletherapy programs provided by Ramapo and is available to all students. 

Throughout the discussion, there was a consensus among the educators and attendees that it’s time for institutions to normalize the nuances of media consumption. “College is the place to have these types of discussions,” Middleton said.

Clark agreed with this sentiment. “We should be asking questions, but also listening. When we are heard, it is empowering,” she said.




Featured photo by Keely Lombardi