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Entry 3 Hope Went Viral: Students Made of Steel

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Day 13

It's Monday. I woke up before the sun came up to get my kids up and ready for school. The bus never came. Oh, it’s President’s Day - no school. Time and schedule seem to be more abstract than usual. I make fun of myself and wonder how I’m going to complete my work and take care of the kids too. I guess they will just watch their iPads all day. Again. As a parent, I am pro-technology, without specific time limitations but instead work on teaching the boys self-regulation and self-curation. It requires a lot of conversations and hovering but I believe it will become beneficial to them long-term. It takes more effort than time limits or full access and I knew they would notice my lack of involvement today. I’m behind on my class prep. I pull up my curriculum plan I made during Christmas break. We are entering a new Module in Interactive Media 2. Feb 20-Mar 10 students are learning about “Social Media Campaigns” Today’s lesson is “Define Your Social Media Campaign”. Wow, with all of the chaos happening online about the outpouring along with my efforts, if that isn’t divine timing, I don’t know what is.

I hope many of the students went away for the weekend and are refreshed. Some were Ambassadors giving more tours than usual. Some are introverted and needed a break from the crowds. Some had games playing for the Asbury Eagles. Many were eager to get experience with the video production with the livestream. I plan to have another invitation to talk about this weekend if they’d like. There are many comments online and in-person expressing compassion for the students. Some are even shaming others for coming and taking over their space. But what I see are young adults made of steel. In my 9 years of teaching, I’ve never seen more strong and dedicated students. Some days, I feel like I’m training soldiers instead of young adults. So yea, it isn’t easy on them, but I think they can take it and are happy to be apart of this weird, real event. Many online have said we canceled classes, but that isn’t the case. Of course, many of them are behind with their assignments (as we all are) but no one is using the event as an excuse for mediocrity or laziness. Instead they all seem relieved to be in class and desire normalcy to return.

I last minute decided to ditch my previous plan and instead incorporate what was happening on social media in regards to the outpouring with my curriculum. I read what I wrote above to them and warned them I may not be able to read it without getting emotional. “I only cry like once a month but these last few days, I’ve cried every day with joy” I said. I read for 15 minutes and got to the part where they were “made of steel” and "training soldiers instead of kids”. I couldn’t help but weep while I read. I gained my composure quickly and carried on with questions about campaign goal scenarios using the instance of the in-real-time event happening just a few feet away. You could see through our window the swarms of people gathering just outside our quiet classroom. I explained my choice to not use hashtags in some posts with the intention of not making it appear Asbury was attempting to capitalize on what was happening. Most nodded with agreement. I reminded them that the uniqueness of our social media goals were much like Howard Dayton’s approach in business. Our business school is named after him. Most program objectives involve the effort to improve profits but Howard Dayton and Asbury believe there is something deeper and more complex to offer the marketplace in addition.

Included in the lesson was a mention about identifying patterns in social media posts and comments. The biggest consistencies were those talking about Asbury “ending the revival”, people name dropping like Asbury students, staff, faculty and alumni were celebrities, compassion for the student’s space, and showing off evidence of their actual attendance and entrance into Hughes Auditorium. It became clear to me today as I watched many get out their phones in line why Hughes had become such a physical idol. Onlookers had seen photos of it a million times on social media and it was surreal to see it in real life. They couldn’t believe they were standing at the 20 foot stairway about to enter the space that had become an overnight sensation.

I ended the noon class with a media story less than 24 hours old. The night before, the first livestream was cast and I showed some connections between social media efforts and results using Google Analytics. The night before, there was a spike in page views around 10pm. It was over 100% increase in views for about 10 minutes. If you watch the first livestream, it ends abruptly. The spike was due to audiences reloading their browser, thinking their connection was interrupted. This manipulated the data as there were more page views, but by the same people. It indicated a true engagement for a lengthy three hours. The ones watching hung on to every minute.

Students worship on Day 1 of the outpouring at Asbury University, Feb 8, 2023. Photo by Lisa Weaver Swartz.

Staff reserve the front rows for Asbury students so there are always seats immediately available for them in Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University. Photo by Lisa Weaver Swartz.

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