President Ryken was given full control of Wheaton College’s Facebook and Instagram profiles from Monday, Sept. 8 to Friday, Sept. 12.
Rebecca Larson, director of web communications in the marketing communications department, normally runs the college’s Facebook page and Kevin Schmalandt, the videographer for marketing communications, normally runs the Instagram page. However, they both handed over their responsibilities to the president for five days during what was dubbed Rykenweek.
“My goals for this week are to highlight what I see as spiritually significant or beneficial to the college and to the goals of the college,” Ryken said during an interview on Tuesday. “Overall I have been enjoying it and being in control of the social media has given me the chance to share what I think is interesting without feeling the need to respond to every question and comment.”
President Ryken’s takeover was an attempt to make the college’s social media pages into more effective tools by removing the anonymity of online activity and naming a respected leader as the author of the posts during the week. However, with Ryken’s already packed email inbox and personal schedule, he has wavering thoughts on the idea of social media as a whole.
“Tech mediated connections tend to distract from embodied connections,” Ryken said concerning his feelings on social media. “However, they can also be a wonderful resource when complementing a corporeal relationship.”
Talks will commence after Rykenweek to decide whether giving control of the social media pages to President Ryken was successful enough to warrant turning Rykenweek into #Rykenyears according to Larson. She also said that there is a possibility for other respected college staff to post content for a week in the future.
President Ryken does not have any personal social media channels of his own; however, members of his family do, and he relies on their profiles to stay up to date with online happenings of friends and family. He also admitted to taking some tips from his children so that the week may be more of a success. His Wednesday morning Instagram photos of pumpkin bread are probable evidence of outside consulting.
Facebook and Instagram user response was positive over the first few days as the posts were liked and shared hundreds of times hours after they posting. Ryken conveyed hesitant happiness at the activity surrounding his posts; however, he also expressed the possibility that once the novelty of the president posting online wears off, activity on the social media pages might return to normal.