But Will He Text and Tweet?

To those of us who don’t text or tweet, and secretly regard it as badge of honor, the St. Thomas Communication and Journalism Department (COJO) is offering a provocative new course next spring, showing just how out of touch we are.

Social Media in Communications promises to examine “the ways social media are affecting human interaction and communication practices . . . and whether social media help create communities or isolate audiences into niches."

Surprisingly, for someone without a Facebook account, I’m thinking the course has potential to be interesting, insightful . . . and important.

Course designer and professor Dr. Betsy Anderson will ask her students, among other assignments, to choose a social media tool (such as Facebook or Twitter) and report in-depth on the technology, how businesses are using it and what ethical issues arise as a result.

Having just seen the movie “Social Network,” I can imagine plenty of fodder for lively class discussions. What I like about the way Anderson has designed the course is the balance between online activities and in-class discussions. So students will learn how to use the tool and think about its effects on people and institutions.

“It’s still important (for COJO students) to know the basics,” Anderson said, “but students now need to know how to interact directly with the public online, how to reach bloggers and other new influencers, how to write a social media news release and pitch a story idea to a reporter using Twitter, how to measure online efforts, etc.”

Last fall on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, I was sitting on a bench 100 yards away from Old Faithful when she spouted – right on time. Next to me was a young 20-something with a backpack and a cell phone. During the eruption, he was busy texting, his thumb fairly flying from key to key.

He either was describing, with clarity and color, the wonder of what was happening in front of him …

Or, perhaps indifferent to his surroundings, he was planning a party with an old high school friend in his hometown, in which case he might have just as well been sitting in his car in the parking lot.

My aversion to the latest communication technology has been both stubbornly stupid and intriguingly insightful. I really don’t need 208 cable channels on my high-definition, surround-sound television set.

On the other hand, I can’t write a story or column anymore without online search engines like Google, Bing and LexisNexis.

“Specific technologies will keep changing,” Anderson said, “so I’m hoping to inspire students to continue to learn. Hopefully this course will give them a foundation that will fuel their curiosity and interest – and give them a running start.”

Who knows, maybe I’ll join the 500 million on Facebook and find 100 new friends with whom I can make online small talk.