Friday June 07, 2013 | 09:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

Sarah Schindler teaches and conducts research in the areas of property, land use, and municipal law, with a focus on sustainable development and urban agriculture. Prior to joining the Maine law faculty in 2009, Professor Schindler clerked for Judge Will Garwood of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas and practiced in the area of land use and environmental law at Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco.

Being real, legal access, and the little man in the computer

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

What was your first experience with social media?

"My very first thought isn't really social media but this game that we had where there was a little man in the computer and you could talk to him and play games with him AND you could tell him to do things and he would do them. That was on the Apple 2E. But, after that, definitely when I was in high school we would do AOL chat rooms. I was really into Phish and there were tape trees through the Internet, like bulletin boards and that was how I met the first person I met on the Internet."

"I used Friendster a lot when I first moved to Austin. I didn't know anyone when I moved there and I met pretty much my whole social group that way. It was different then because I think everything was public then. It was a more open access way to meet people. I felt very integrated into the Austin community because of Friendster. Whereas today, if I got a random message on Facebook from some guy who just moved to town I'd be like, 'who is this creeper?'"

"I did MySpace and then Facebook. So, I made the transition three times. I've always shared photos and it's useful in that way because I don't have to think about who to send them to. If someone is interested they can look. I definitely use it the same way too. Some people's stuff I hide so I don't have to look through it, while some people's stuff I look at all of the time. In that way Facebook is definitely useful."

What do you like about social media?

"There is a benefit to people being connected to other people and knowing what's going on with other people. It makes you more aware and compassionate. I don't know, less solipsistic?" 

"I've always been really good at keeping in touch with people even before social media, and Facebook just makes that even easier. I also feel like I have a lot of smart friends who post really interesting stuff that I wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. I really like that." 

"I don't like when people are super-negative but I do appreciate when people are real. We have a tendency to just post positive things so it's nice to hear people to be real sometimes."

What do you dislike about social media?

"I hate when people use the term "stalking" in association with looking at stuff on Facebook. I mean, people put stuff there intentionally, so you're not stalking them by looking at it. It's a bad use of the word. I don't ever see it as creepy or something. But, I limit my Facebook friends to actual friends because I'm a fairly private person. So, I guess if someone I didn't know were looking at my stuff, that would be creepy."

"There can be a sense of what am I missing out on. Seeing that a bunch of people I know doing something and thinking, 'what am I missing out on.'"

"Because people tend to only post positive things I worry about the long-term mental health implications, especially for kids, of people not thinking it's normal to feel sad or depressed sometimes. Because of course it is and I think people need to see that it's normal."

"You would never have to see vacation pics of your ex with their new parter if it wasn't for social media, and I know you can control that, but it's still something that exists now. I'm fairly open with my good friends but I don't necessarily want to broadcast or see things like that."

On Privacy and the Law and social media

"For me, it feels invasive when people who don't know me, know about me. I know I'm a fairly public persona but it still feels strange when people who don't know me know things about me."

"I like to have a separation between my personal life and my professional life so I'm not connected on Facebook with any of my students. Theres nothing on my page that they couldn't see but I still like to have that separation."

"Social media has really enabled peoples' ability to access and engage with things like the SCOTUS blog and congressional hearings. Law Review articles are also much more accessible due to social media which is great. I always post my Law Review articles to my Facebook page."

"From a professional perspective social media has really expanded my ability to reach not just legal academics but also laypeople who are interested in the stuff I'm researching and writing about. And I try to write about stuff that is applicable to people who care about their communities so social media is a great way to give those people access to this information."

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

"I feel like I'd be missing out on stuff. I'd miss seeing what my friends are doing. I'd miss out on things going on in their lives. I'd also miss out on what was going on in town. I am a social person so that would be hard for me."

If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?

"Reading someone's diary"

Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?

Yellow Owl Workshop in San Francisco Facebook  Blog

Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, ME Facebook Tumblr

I want to thank Professor Schindler for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.

Social Science Research Network Author Page for Schindler, Sarah

University of Maine School of Law


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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