Commencement Speakers: Nine Tweets and a Selfie

rosenplotz“The New Media,” digital technology that has altered the way we perceive our world, was spotlighted at the 148th Ripon College Commencement, held Sunday on the Ripon College campus.

David Plotz and Hanna Rosin of the online magazine Slate were Commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients. They offered an address in nine tweets and one selfie.

“It is somewhat hilarious we have been invited to tell you about new media,” Plotz said, referring to the crowd of 20-something, tech-savvy graduates. He said it was roughly equivalent to playing football in front of an audience of Green Bay Packers.

However good their tech skills, habits and knowledge might be however, Plotz said they could offer lessons learned by two decades of making their own “dreadful mistakes” and how to they had to clean them up.

No. 1: Instagram is evil, #The grass is always greener. Seeing the wonderful places and events other people are experiencing can lead to “Instagram envy,” Rosin says. “They are happier and having better lives than I am.” This can lead to loneliness and even depression. So, spend one night a week with your phone off and read an actual book.

No. 2: Once a day read something you disagree with, #group think. “The new media are very good at giving you only what you want,” Plotz said. “The new media constantly affirms our beliefs; the result, you become even more sheltered. You come to believe that everyone believes as we do because you’re cut off from people who are different. …

“It’s very comforting to read only what you want to hear, but it’s also boring and narrow.”

No. 3: Everything you write is public. #You didn’t get the job. Rosin said many people have lost a job or a position because of comments made on social media. It’s important to always watch what you say on social media, she said.

“Twitter is public,” she said. “Facebook is public. It’s called ‘social media’ because people can see it. Resist the urge to brag.

No. 4: When in doubt, trust the numbers. #Numbers don’t lie – much. Huge volumes of data are available and use that data to test hypotheses and previously could only be guessed at.

No. 5. Wait five minutes. It might be over. #Bieber is dead. The couple related some outlandish-sounding headlines that, nonetheless, could spread like wildfire.

“A well-timed prank or a misunderstanding can gallop across the world on Twitter and Facebook in minutes,” Plotz said. “Before you retweet, take a breath and ask yourself, ‘Do I know this is true?’ ”

No. 6: You’re already obsolete. #Older or wiser. Even people in the 20s today can have a “midlife crisis” as they observe great achievements of ever-younger children, for example an 11-year-old giving TED talks or a 12-year-old who develop world-changing apps, the couple said.

“There were child prodigies in the 1800s, there are child prodigies today,” Rosin said. “The only difference is that the ones today have one million Twitter followers. … They’ve landed on the world stage long before they were ready.”

No. 7: Just because you can work in pajamas doesn’t mean you should. #Meet me at the water cooler. Plotz said the perception is that new media allows everyday Joes in out-of-the way places to make names for themselves. “But people can generate more ideas together than when they’re alone,” he said. “Don’t just be social on Facebook. Be social in the real world.”

No. 8: There isn’t always someone better out there. #Picky, picky. Finding a soul mate isn’t about finding someone who is perfect, Rosin said. “Everyone out there is flawed in their own special way. Falling in love is not about finding a person who’s perfect It’s about finding someone whose flaws you find as magnetic as their charms.”

No. 9: You really only have one big decision to make. #In sickness and in health. The couple are digital journalists and writers, but most of all spouses.How you decide who you spend your life with or if you will spend it with anyone at all will be the biggest decision you will make.

They ended their talk with their own “double selfie” on stage with the audience of graduates and attendees in the background.

Ripon College’s Medal of Merit honoree, Doreen Conforti Chemerow ’73 said, “It is difficult to express all of the emotions of this moment.” She said she received a very generous scholarship that allowed her to attend Ripon College, her first choice. As a first-generation college student, she found the campus “welcoming, supporting and intellectually challenging.”

She encouraged the new graduates to give back to Ripon College as she has and found fulfillment in doing so.

Sophia Kaounas of Brookings, S.D., was the senior class speaker. She encouraged her fellow graduates to “reflect on the hard work and dedication in each and every one of us.”

She said their Ripon College education has taught them how to be good people inside and outside the classroom, and to be compassionate and hard-working members of society.

Nancy Samplawski, a science teacher with the Juda (Wisconsin) School District, was honored with the Distinguished Educator Award.

To view pictures and video from the day that was, click here.

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