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Senior Column: The Man Behind the Twitter

Before I visited Penn State, I had never heard of the Nittany Lions, Joe Paterno, Happy Valley, or State College. I was the quintessential out-of-stater. One tour around campus, and I realized that this was the place that I wanted to be. The campus was beautiful, the town was small but varied, the people were nice. The Film program, while small, formed a close-knit community, and though the University was big, nothing was more than a Blue Loop or Red Link away.

I found that, like State College’s highly unpredictable climate, Penn State, even with all its traditions, is a place of constant change. One of the things I struggled to deal with, and this probably applies to most college students, is accepting this change.

My first two years here, I hung out almost exclusively with friends on my floor in Simmons Hall, rarely going out to parties (it helped to have a dining hall in the basement) or meeting people outside of my classes. It was great, but people get torn apart in different directions or fight for various reasons. When my roommate decided to move to a single on a different floor, I was distraught at having to get a new, random roommate. After a few very dark times in my life, I realized I needed to break free and do something new.

If there’s one thing that I have learned about life through college, it’s, and this is going to sound really corny: try new things.

As I got more involved with my major, I found people creating amazing things. I met people who, like me, dreamed of going to Hollywood someday and watched too many movies to count.

I never intended to get involved with blogging or new media. After all, I’d only had one high school journalism class and a couple of months experience with Twitter. I had a class with Davis Shaver, one of the founders of Onward State, and I asked if I could get involved somehow.

At the time, the site had just debuted the “Community” section, and I was offered the position of “Community Manager,” which meant writing “Question of the Day” posts (that no one really replied to) to try and create some interaction with readers. I used to joke about how it wasn’t really a good idea to put an anti-social person in charge of talking to thousands of people on social media. But I think it really did help me open up as a person.

Honestly, a social media presence is nothing without good content, and the writers and photographers here have done an amazing job finding out news, investigating crazy sides of student life, and reporting from student perspectives. There’s been a couple bumps here and there, but we’ve learned from every mistake and grown stronger.

So, eventually, I became the Social Media Manager, splitting duties at times with David Morar, an eternal grad student, and then returning to the position. Managing Onward State’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, I’ve seen Penn State news rise and spread from the inside, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have an experience like this again.

Compare the world when I started– only three years ago– to today’s world, where so many people turn to Twitter for breaking coverage before switching on the news or getting the paper the next morning. Now I can say I live almost a third of my life online. Incidentally, you can follow my post-college ventures at @alxf9 — I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my tweets, Facebook updates, and occasional arts reviews. What would social media be without #shamelesselfpromotion?

Since I first came here four years ago, Penn State itself has changed. The community was shaken up by tragic revelations, and people were forced to reevaluate what the school meant for them. Onward State has changed, growing from a small, dedicated staff to a 50+ person social media powerhouse full of awesome people.

I’ve changed, too. Without this place, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had, I don’t know if I’d be ready to take on the world after graduation. Always try something new, because you never know where it might bring you.

There are no endings, because each end is just the start of something new.

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About the Author

Alex Federman

Alex is a Senior at Penn State who enjoys watching movies and television shows (probably a bit too much). He's a Film/Video major, with a Spanish minor.

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