My final summary of learning for EC&I 831: Social Media and Open Education:
In my summary of learning, I wanted to capture everything I have learned over the last few months. I thought it would be fun to incorporate the top 5 social media apps that we discussed in the course and challenge myself to use or understand the apps.
YouTube (user for 12 years – my first upload was July 2007!)
VSCO (user for 5 years, but only recently understanding the VSCO Girl concept)
I hope the brief social media interludes in the video highlight some of the obsessions and common uses of the apps. I will say one thing – if you have not downloaded TikTok, be careful. I fell into a deep, dark hole of videos for over 2 hours…you’ve been warned!
Secondly, I originally wanted to include Rick Mercer style rants addressing the main issues and topics in EC&I 831. I quickly realized that it is impossible to film in the “rant” style as a solo videographer with a selfie-stick and an iPhone. In the video, I discuss the topics that resonated with me the most:
Activist by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
Social media activism brings awareness about topics to a huge audience. But the big question is, does it bring about meaningful change or does it just lead to Slacktivism? Slacktivism is “the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.”1
Slacktivism is a problem for social media activism, but if a campaign goes viral on social media it can have a positive effect and make a difference. People that would never have been exposed to a topic are suddenly seeing posts and learning about a movement. Three examples of social media movements that have had a serious impact are the ALS Challenge, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MeToo.
The ALS Challenge involved filming yourself while you pledged to donate money to ALS, nominating other people for the challenge and then pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over your head. This is probably one of the most successful social media campaigns ever! The challenge spread very quickly through social media and it raised $115 million for ALS! It increased awareness about ALS, but it also saw lots of people participating that just wanted to be a part of something that was trending. It is doubtful that everyone who participated donated or cared about the cause.
Flickr – Demilitarize the Police, Black Lives Matter by Johnny Silvercloud
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement that is raising awareness about police brutality and killings of black people in the United States. They want people to recognize the inequalities of how people are treated by police, depending on their race. “BLM regularly holds protests speaking out against police killings of black people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system.“2 The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began to trend in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.
Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement, she is a civil rights activist who created the hashtag in 2006 to address the fact that a large number of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted in their lifetime, but most don’t report the assault or share their stories
But it wasn’t until the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the hashtag, and it began being used in reference to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations, that the movement really took off.3
This movement has started tough conversations around sexual assault and harassment. Even though it has raised awareness around sexual harassment in the workforce it has also led to backlash. According to the article, Me Too Backlash Is Getting Worse, “Some men also like to claim that women are fabricating claims. Those fears are largely unfounded… the same myth surrounds sexual assault. False accusations make up a very low percentage of reported rapes.” This has led to men feeling uncomfortable working one-on-one with women and therefore excluding them from meetings and social interactions.
Another negative aspect of social media activism is the call-out or cancellation culture. The call-out culture is the act of publically calling out or shaming someone on social media for perceived wrongs. This then leads for calls of boycotting either people or companies and that is the cancel culture. One of the worst aspects of call-out/ cancel culture is that it prevents conversations from happening. If someone’s views are considered offensive and boycotts are called for, this prevents further discussions from happening.4 When maybe the solution would be to have a dialogue, to see and learn from each others point of view. This trend began in 2015, but it really started to take off in 2018. Some notable instances of cancellation are when Roseanne Barr was fired from Roseanne after she tweeted racist comments, James Gunn was fired from directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 when inappropriate jokes he tweeted in 2008 and 2012 resurfaced, and Kevin Hart was fired from hosting the Oscars when old homophobic tweets were uncovered.
Even though there are some negative aspects to social media activism, I agree with what Alex Guardado says in Hashtag Activism: The Benefits and Limitations of #Activism. Guardado says that hashtag activism can bring about change, but it is gradual. It is easy for people to share or like a post, and even easier for Slacktivism to occur and for nothing to actually change. The good thing is that people are much more informed and it is easier to organize movements because of the large audience a movement has access too through social media.
People use social media every day and spend a significant amount of time on it. It would be foolish to not try to harness that time spent to bring awareness towards something important. Even if it just starts a conversation, that is better than nothing. Change definitely won’t take place if people aren’t aware there is a problem.
The word “activist” has, in the past, had a negative connotation for me. I pictured protesters and angry people (this is a similar reaction to my classmates Catherine and Melinda). I follow some really amazing people on Twitter and to see how humans treat one another in online spaces or on social media – truly cringe-worthy exchanges at times – makes me feel like not one person has been taught any manners.
All the chirping can be a bit overwhelming and has a tendency to make people feel disappointed with the lack of empathy, lack of respect, and sometimes even the lack of common decency towards other people. Heck, even Thumper told us how to treat other human beings.
But… I’ve recently started to rethink that connotation, mainly thanks to the learning I am involved in through my grad studies and the incredible EC&I 831 classmates that I now consider part of my PLN. We have created such a great group who share and tweet ideas to each other, and work together to support each other’s projects and personal learning goals. It is these interactions which have started my shift in thinking, just as there is positive social activism that is restoring my faith in humanity.
A social activist, according to the Oxford dictionary, is “a person who works to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organization with particular aims.”
Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile?
Absolutely it can! There are even awards for the best social activism campaigns. Check out the Shorty Awards, which honours the best campaigns supporting social activism movements and cultural moments.
Hands down my absolute favourite digital campaign in the past few years has a message that really hits home for me. I lost my mom in 2017. She was only 59 years old. No matter what she was going through – two bouts with cancer, living with COPD, raising five kids, living with an alcoholic spouse – she always looked on the positive side and encouraged everyone around her to “Be Kind Always.” I miss her every minute of every day. When I learned about the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” campaign, I was moved to tears. It is definitely a sentiment that my mom embodied, often volunteering her time and energy to helping others without any thought for herself. She believed that being kind to others was the single most important thing you could be in your lifetime – that sending out kindness meant that the good vibes would just wash right on over you, too. My momma was a smart lady.
“The Won’t You Be My Neighbor? #BeMyNeighbor digital campaign sought out to honor Mister Rogers’ legacy by encouraging everyone to spread kindness to every corner of the world. To offset the negativity on the internet, the campaign leveraged multi-platform and real-world activations. The goal was to bring back the nostalgia of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and inspire the online community to take action and show a little kindness can make a world of difference. This universal message crossed generations, cultures and backgrounds, and became the foundation of the campaign.”
The #BeMyNeighbor campaign took the internet by storm, and the message of kindness resonated with everyone, garnering support from fans, influencers and celebrities alike. The impact of the film extended beyond the digital campaign, and prompted spontaneous acts of kindness across the country. People donated to local charities in Mister Rogers’ name, school groups started clothing and shoe drives, and theater chains provided postcards to moviegoers to write kind letters to their neighbors. source. There was even a contest:
Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?
Yes. Part of having productive conversations is being a digitally responsible citizen. Knowing how to have an appropriate conversation online is a skill that doesn’t just happen – it is a learned behaviour that must be practiced! We would not expect a baby to be born knowing how to communicate – they learn communication skills by observing and practicing. Teaching students how to be digitally responsible citizens and participate in effective and respectful online communication is being embedded into curricula at all levels. Many adults would do well to learn this, as well. Sites such as MediaSmarts and Common Sense Education have wonderful digital citizenship lessons designed for a variety of grade levels which are ready to use for busy teachers.
Change is hard and doesn’t happen overnight. The difficult and important conversations need to happen. I am learning this now with my learning project of Truth and Reconciliation. There is much to learn and do and it is very overwhelming.
In the article “The Internet and the Next Generation of Activism,” Nick Espinosa wrote “So if the future is being shaped by immediate access to all thoughts and niche populations, how do we as a species move our own evolution forward…? The short answer is the next generation of educated students who will soon begin assuming power in society.”
The following clip, from September 2019, discusses recent uses of social media by young people such as Greta Thunberg and surviving Parkland students to mobilize fellow activitists and supporters.
Many young people today are educating themselves on an increasing level. Alexa Chukwumah talks about how she used her education and influence as a call to action to start Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls in her Ted Talk.
With the use of technology can come some dangers, such as invasion of privacy, identity theft, and catfishing (right, Alec?). There are, however, various groups at work who are like crusaders for protecting the technology that is being developed and used for the public interest. During my research for our topic this week, I found a social activism group called #PublicInterestTech. Essentially, this group works to ensure technology is being developed to meet the needs of the public. “Not just what’s latest, and fastest and cool, but what is serving the greater welfare of society. Too many people – particularly those historically excluded or marginalized– aren’t able to access, benefit from or influence the technology that is present in our lives.” source
Public-Interest Technology Resources is a website maintained by Bruce Schneier as a resources page for public-interest technologists with a public policy focus. This is going to become increasingly important as more of what we do in our lives become technologically dependent.
So what are we waiting for? Anyone with an internet connection and a passion to do something great can inspire social activism. What is your passion? How could you use the internet to raise awareness or do something for the greater good?
For the purpose of our class, we discussed activism through social media and were asked to consider the following questions:
Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?
What is social media activism?
“Social media activism is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause. It’s activism behind a screen.” (The Journal – Queen’s University)
“Bringing change or awareness about a cause through the use of social media, by posting or sharing ones thought about a particular event or issue.” (Life of Anna)
These definitions are very basic, but “social media activism” is somewhat self-explanatory – it is activism using social media. It could be liking or sharing a post on Facebook or using a hashtag in online posts to bring awareness to a particular issue. If you use social media, you have probably viewed or participated in hashtag activism:
You may have added a filter to your Facebook profile picture to temporarily support a cause. Or clicked the retweet button to raise awareness while drinking your morning coffee. The question we must ask ourselves is if social media activism is meaningful and worthwhile and looking at the positive and negatives is one way to explore the answer.
Pros of Social Media Activism
“Successful maneuvering of social media platforms creates significant changes in society through the impact of an individual who cultivates awareness and makes knowledge accessible to millions.” Human Rights Education Research Outreach
Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely
Using the power of networks, “online activism allows activists to organize events with high levels of engagement, focus and network strength” (The Conversation). The ability to share, like and retweet instantly allows movements and causes to gain traction very quickly and draw in a large audience. For example, when a tragic events occur, vigils are planned, shared and attended in a short time frame, all thanks to social media. Larger events are organized in locations all over the world through hashtags and social media posts.
Finally, the good, badly and ugly part of the Internet is that you can post and support whatever you want at any time. A positive example is that people all over the world can be part of Pride festivals, even if they are unable to attend in person.
“One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people to organize events and communicate on a medium that is accessible to anybody who has an email address, internet, and some kind of connectable device. This vastly increases potential audience size, and ultimately increases the possible effect that these campaigns can have on policies, politics, and everyday life.” The Power of Social Media in Modern Activism
Cons of Social Media Activism
“The ease with which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority.” Zeynep Tufekci
Unfortunately, social media activism has drawbacks:
A 2014 Maclean’s article explains that a “slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to help than to actually help. He will wear a T-shirt to raise awareness. She will wear a wristband to demonstrate support, sign a petition to add her voice, share a video to spread the message, even pour a bucket of ice over her head.” All of this takes place instead of offering time or money which could truly help a cause.
My classmate Brooke dives into a deep discussion of #slacktivism and a few articles that explain and criticize the movement. She included this image (shared in class by Dr. Couros) that highlights the problem with #slacktivism.
“If our desire for social change extends beyond the resolution of a single issue, we need to close our laptops, turn off our phones, and spend time in the presence of others.” – The Walrus
With the ease of liking and sharing posts or adding a hashtag, it is inevitable that the wrong information will be passed along. #FakeNews is a perfect example of deliberately sharing misinformation, which was particularly problematic during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. #Kony2012 is another example of a movement that exploded on social media without really understanding the true facts. Social media activism has the potential to raise awareness, spread a message quickly and help grow a movement. But it is important to not disregard the power of slow-growing, face-to-face, grassroots organization. Wael Ghonim (an Internet activist that helped organize the social media campaign during the #ArabSpring) discusses challenges facing social media today and how it can be used to promote real change:
Before we can have conversations about social justice online, I think it is important to discuss the concept of a digital citizen and to understand three different ideas of citizenship as discussed by Westheimer and Kahne in the article, “What Kind of Citizen“.
Participatory – actively participates
Personally Responsible – acts responsibly in their community
“digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network.”
With this knowledge, we are able to explore the possibilities of using social media to talk about social justice issues online. Below, I have shared Brooke’s (she made some excellent points in her post this week!) example of how each type of citizen may participate, using the food bank as an example:
The participatory citizen might create an online fundraiser, like a GoFundMe page, where people can donate to the food bank and use their social media page to highlight some of the issues related to perceived injustices regarding food security. They may also decide to volunteer at the food bank.
The justice-oriented citizen might use their social media page to share potentially controversial articles, and viewpoints which spark discussion about the root causes of food security, inviting others to join the discussion and organizing followers to contribute to participating in working towards social change in online and offline spaces.
The conversations about social justice can happen online, but they are more effective when they are rooted in offline organizational efforts. Another point is that online discussions should take place with the intent to promote change or raise awareness, rather than use the post for personal gratification (for example, getting lots of likes or shares). But how do we teach our students to use social media to have meaningful conversations about social justice issues online?
As educators teaching students who only know a world with social media, we should:
Teach students how to use social media for positive change
In Spring 2018, I participated in a joint Regina Public Schools/Regina Catholic Schools project called #YQRActivistArt. The project involved bringing the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra to Regina with an opportunity for our students to see the group perform live. To participate in the project, you had to commit to producing an art project in response to a social issue. Through planning and collaboration with other classes, our students chose social issues they wanted to explore and created an art piece to raise awareness about the issue. Every school did something different, and my students presented their projects in a school wide gallery opening:
The reason I share this story is because of the importance of teaching activism in schools. My students were engaged, motivated and excited to spread awareness and it allowed us to have conversations about meaningful and worthwhile ways to share information about different social issues. The guide, “Facilitating Activist Education” explains by teaching about activism, students may become “engaged citizen-activists – people who see themselves as capable of affecting positive change for social and ecological justice”.
By starting with offline activism experiences for our students, we can then move online with confidence.
Hildebrandt explains that by participating in social media activism, we take a few things for granted, like access to educational tools, computers and the Internet. With this privilege, she adds that “we have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.” Furthermore, as educators we have the responsibility to teach our students about this privilege. Wasting our time with #slacktivism is not an option because we have the power and ability to promote real change with our access to edtech tools and social media to support these efforts.
Finally, Yes Magazine shares four tips for using social media activism:
Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities
Make sure your activism is accessible and inclusive
Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work
Share the work that other activists are doing
To engage our students, we need to provide relevant tools and information to “speak their language” (using social media and edtech). Through conversations of digital citizenship and offline activism, we have the ability (and responsibility) to mold the next generation as informed and compassionate citizens who care about social justice issues. Let’s use social media to make the conversation relevant for our youth.
“Social media activism is great for so many reasons: It is more widely accessible, it gets conversations started, it sustains momentum, and it helps empower people who may have never thought of themselves as activists.” – Yes Magazine
Social Media. Love it or loathe it, there seems to be no escaping its influence. I remember a time before the internet was even a thing… and all the stages in between. Some of my fellow classmates are probably too young to remember the good old days of dial-up! ICQ, MSN Messenger, MySpace, … my goodness how far we have come!
The negatives of social media can seem overwhelming. It’s a bit like a vampire, sucking time and energy from our lives. In the wrong hands, it can be dangerous – cyberbullying, fraudulent interactions such as catfishing or even identity theft. It is scary to think about all of the personal information that we release just by picking up our phones and scrolling through Facebook or by having our locations tracked in Snapchat (which I do not have and will NEVER download) or … is there any danger with Twitter other than I can blink and an hour has gone by while I read people’s rants on politics or get chatting with colleagues in my PLN?
Though I feel social media is a necessity for our cheer gym and for me as a personal networking tool, I worry about the privacy of my own data and that of our students who may not be the most savvy of digital citizens. I feel pressure to answer messages right away or to be checking my social media platforms continually. As a result, I schedule regular “power downs” and completely disconnect from all social media for at least 24-48 hours. In the summer, I’ll often go longer. Does anyone else require frequent breaks from social media in order to protect their own sanity?
But, despite the dangers and all of the not so wonderful things about it, social media can also be a fantastic way to connect with others across great distances. It is a fantastic collaborative space where I can get inspired for my lessons, find new resources, and connect with other classrooms or educators around the globe. My best friend met her husband in a chat room in 2000… so I do know that connections forged online can be lasting and meaningful. The power at our fingertips is absolutely incredible when you think about it.
Professionally, social media is an absolutely critical component of my learning and growth as an educator. As so many of my fellow EC&I classmates have said, the connections we have with one another online help to strengthen our practice. We can be continually learning and growing professionally with access to MOOCs and the interactive nature of social media. But that also can bring a bit of a negative – continually comparing oneself to others online and feeling inferior. As my classmate Amanda said in her blog post, “When I see all of the creative, thought provoking, and engaging things that other teachers are doing in their classroom, it’s hard not to compare myself to them.” I totally agree, Amanda. And a small part of me wonders if somewhere out there, maybe someone feels that way about my posts. I hope not… because I am fully in the “fake it until you make it your reality” school of life.
Though the following infographic is slightly dated (RIP Google+), I found this to be pretty spot on for the pros and cons of some of the most popular social media. Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are the ones I use the most, and Twitter now that I’m getting used to using it (still hate it on a mobile device).
Probably the most incredible thing about the power of social media for me, so far, has been the ability to connect with others and grow in my confidence and abilities as a teacher. An inquiry I jokingly made last semester when I was in EC&I 834 – “How the heck does a person become an online teacher around here?” – has led me to a slight change in my career this year, all thanks to social media and a few awesome people who pushed me in the proper direction.
How has social media affected your personal or professional life in positive and/or negative ways? I’d love to hear your stories!
Have you ever thought back to your very first email address?
Were you one of those people who were all business and just had “firstname.lastname”? Or were you one of those people, like me, who are still embarrassed to bring it up to this day? I still shudder when I think back to how cool I felt when I created the email “mandi_muffin1”.
Since I’d rather not sit in that embarrassment alone, I decided to ask some other people what their first email address was. Here are some good ones:
“regis_philbin”(not to be confused with the real Regis Philbin, just a big fan)
and my personal favourite… “cutiepatootie94”
For me, my first email address was like a key to the digital world. I used it to get my very first social networking platform- MSN Messenger. I remember when MSN first became popular. There was such excitement of meeting your friends in a vastly different way- on the computer instead of face to face. The new platform grew like wild-fire and soon all my friends were a part of this new community. This was often the case with online trends. First a few people would get hooked, and then soon it would be the only thing people talked about or took part in. Some social network trends only lasted for a little while, but some are still thriving to this day.
This got me thinking- what social networks actually impacted me? How was I affected by them? I decided to give a brief timeline called:
“Social Media & Me- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
I was in grade 7 when I first signed up for Facebook. It was a different world than it is now. “Food fights”, writing on “walls”, “Amanda is…” status updates. It was a fun way for me to connect with friends, show pictures, and update the world on what was new with my life. It was also a way for me to gain “friends” online. I felt a strange sense of accomplishment when I had a friend request or if I had another post on my “wall”. With this new territory came this new idea that I needed my life to look a certain way. This is still often the case with social media. A subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) competition on who has the most likes, and in turn, who has the most exciting life. The need for online validation through likes and comments, which started soon after the Facebook world made an appearance, is still something that many people battle with today, including myself.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t sign up for Twitter until I had more mature things to say, but we all have regrets in life. In order to give you context, I searched back to my old tweets from 2013 to show you some of the brilliant things I had to say about life.
For example: “I love fireworks” and “Jake Owen marry me”. Clearly I didn’t have any troubles fitting my riveting content into 140 characters.
After soon realizing there was more of a purpose for Twitter, I started using it for educational reasons and connected with other educators online. I soon grew my PLN (Personal Learning Network) through twitter chats, blogging, and “Tweet Ups”. I felt like I had a teaching community outside of my school, and it helped me feel less alone in my teaching woes and endeavours. However, with every good social networking platform, there comes concerns. With me, I had (and still have) a hard time not comparing myself to other teachers. When I see all of the creative, thought provoking, and engaging things that other teachers are doing in their classroom, it’s hard not to compare myself to them. I’m sure that there are several of you out there who struggle with the same thing. How do we get past comparing and move to confidence? That’s still the journey I find myself on and work towards to this day.
Instagram is still one of my favourite social media platforms to this day. I am a visual learner, so I love seeing quick snap shots of other people’s lives. When I first got Instagram, I would post any picture, write a short caption, and think it was Instagram gold.
There came a point though, when Instagram became about gaining followers and likes, which was difficult to keep up with. I’m embarrassed to say, but there used to be times when I would take down a photo if I didn’t get at least 100 likes. I know. Don’t judge me. It’s a crazy standard to set for oneself. A couple of years ago I had a change of heart. I turned my account to private, stopped following people who were not “giving me joy”, and set a new standard for myself. My continued desire is that it would be less about likes and followers for me, and more about connecting with my community through photos. And not to mention, tagging my friends in endless memes.
4.Vine & Tik Tok:
Oh how I loved Vine. A creative outlet to make people laugh through short 7 second videos. As Rebecca Jennings says in the article “Tiktok, Explained”, Vine was “brutally murdered before its time”. The app truly died too soon. If I ever wanted a “pick-me-up”, I would search through the feed of Vine and find the latest, laughable video by the newest Vine sensation. The app didn’t last nearly long enough, but there is something that is seen as, according to Rebecca Jennings, the “joyful, spiritual successor to Vine”. Tiktok- the latest fad in the online world. An app that, similarly to Vine, allows users to upload short clips of themselves dancing, singing, or following the latest viral trends. Seems like all fun and games, right? Unfortunately, every social media platform has its downfalls. Even though I’m not on Tiktok enough to know every latest trend, I do know that the youth who use this app encounter similar issues as I did as a teen, and still do today.
Comparison. The need for validation. Fear of rejection.
Are there enough benefits to outweigh the negative impacts of social media though? In my opinion, yes.
Social media has brought me a lot of positivity in my years of using it. Laughter, connectivity, knowledge, community, encouragement, and support. The list goes on. Yes, there have been many regrets and disappointments through the years of using these social networking platforms, but the same goes with my life outside of social media. So will I continue to interact with others online through social media? Absolutely.
Besides, everyone is in need of a good laugh every now and then by looking back at posts from the early days, browsing the latest memes, and of course, reminiscing on our first cringe-worthy email addresses.
I would consider myself an ‘early-adopter’ of technology, especially with the Internet and social media. As a millennial (born between 1981 and 1996), I grew up in a time when using the Internet was a new way of life as I learned alongside new developments. E-mailing, peer-to-peer music sharing websites (like Napster and Limewire) and instant messaging (MSN Messenger) were all part of my elementary school years. I remember coming home from school, connecting to the dial-up internet (who can forget that connection sound?) and beginning a series of online chats with my friends over MSN. This was the beginning of my social media ritual that would continue and evolve over the next 20 years.
Since I was figuring out these sites at the same time (or before) my parents, they didn’t have a lot of control or understanding of what I was doing on the Internet. An example: Yahoo Chat Rooms. One of my best friends growing up has a brother (who now makes his living creating video games like this one) who was very computer savvy. He helped us create Yahoo accounts so we could join large Yahoo chat rooms with strangers from all over the world. We even figured out how to participate in audio chat, usually with adults. Keep in mind we were young – in grades 4 and 5. All of this took place with our parents oblivious to what we were doing and before conversations about cyber safety existed. Did we tell them where we lived? Did we give out other identifying info? I don’t remember and I shudder to think of the potential dangers we could have encountered. Long story short, if there was something new on the Internet, we tried it.
Fast forward through high school (Hi5, MySpace and eventually Facebook) and I began to see the negative or bullying effects of social media. Does anyone remember the “Top Friends” feature on MySpace?
Then you add in the “relationship status” feature on Facebook…sigh. It wasn’t all terrible though, as it was a really cool way to connect with people from around the world. In grade 12 I went on a school trip to Europe, and our group joined with another group from a small school in southern California. A decade later, I am still connected with some people from this trip and we keep in touch sharing photos of our growing families and professional endeavours. Heading to university, I was able to join ‘Class of 2011’ groups on Facebook and ‘meet’ other students before starting classes. This was extremely helpful to discuss everything from textbooks to the first social gatherings of the semester.
I have spent the last decade exploring successful and failed social media including Google +, YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine, Weebly/Blogger/Wordpress, Tumblr and Snapchat. Some have held my interest longer than others as I feel they add value to my life. Other apps are cool ideas, and should be really successful, but they don’t seem to have the same staying power as more popular apps (like TikTok or Vine [in it’s prime]). For example, I used the app “Mazu” with my younger nieces, and I thought it was a really positive experience. It was created to help teach digital citizenship and the positive power of social media. But then they just stopped using it one day. (Possibly a reflection on the short attention spans of this new generation?)
I am now at the point with social media that I feel “too old” to learn about some new networks, like TikTok. All I know about TikTok is my nieces and nephews had it for about 5 minutes and became WAY too obsessed that my sister (their mother) made them delete the app. As an arts education teacher, I feel like TikTok could be useful for ‘research’ and to reach my students, because we could learn some of the dance crazes like “The Git Up” or “Hey Julie”, but that’s why I use YouTube.
Even dating apps like Tinder and Bumble came after I met my husband, so although I understand the ‘swipe right/left’, it is something I will never experience in my social media journey.
When I consider how social media has affected my personal and professional life, I have a lot of positives but a growing list of negatives. Here is an example:
Snapchat: The only way that I communicate with my 16-year old niece. We have a great relationship and tell each other everything, but if it’s not face-to-face, it’s through Snapchat. According to my niece, it is the only way she communicates with her friends (not through texting or other messaging). Why? Because the chats are not saved unless you want to save them and also through snapstreaks. The stress of snapstreaks is something I know all too well, as I send and receive a picture of the wall every day to my niece to maintain our streak. We have been doing this for 910 days. NINE-HUNDRED AND TEN DAYS. I even have a reminder in my phone – “Snap!!!!! Streak!!!!”. What is the point of this?! It actually causes stress in my life because I am afraid of losing the streak and how it would affect our relationship. Before I gave birth to my baby, I gave my niece my Snapchat login info so she could maintain the streak when I went into labour (turns out my baby came quick and we didn’t have to worry about losing the streak). Is this the world we live in now? I was about to give birth, but one of my concerns was maintaining the streak as I felt like it is part of my relationship with my niece. That being said, I still do it every single day with no end in sight. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji here).
On a positive note, social media allows me to share milestones, travel and important events with friends and family. I can stay connected with people wherever they are in the world and maintain important relationships. In my professional life, I used Twitter, a personal website and LinkedIn to create a following that led to a full teaching studio of piano students within a few weeks. These positive networking experiences helped me grow and maintain my business. I also enjoy using Twitter to connect with other educators and sharing what we are doing in the classroom. LinkedIn has allowed me to interact with people in other industries that share common activities (like same universities and volunteer commitments).
But with these positives, there are also negatives like #fomo and feeling left out when not included in social activities. I think this is something that is an even bigger issue with our students and something I look forward to exploring further in this course. Also, as a new mom, I have spent A LOT of time on my phone perusing Facebook and Instagram while holding a sleeping baby. It is hard not to compare your baby to other babies and get wrapped up in the “Instagram vs. Reality” world. And then there are sponsored posts/ads (are they listening to our conversations??) that make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, as a teacher, I find that I get a lot of student follow/friend requests that I must decline. This is not necessarily a negative, but it does require having a conversation about privacy with my students.
In a recent conversation with my sister (mother of 4 of my nieces and nephews), I said “I hate the internet! I hate social media!”. I could see how it was affecting my sister and her kids and the daily struggles she is having with them and access to social media. She wondered if she should unplug the wi-fi? Move to a deserted island? How can we turn this around? What has to change to make it a positive part of our daily lives? What can teachers do to help our students navigate the constantly changing world of social media?
On that note, I have to go take a blurry picture of my face or the wall and write the letter ‘S’ to maintain a daily ritual.
“Hello, World!” It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a blog. 7 years, in fact, since I graced the halls of the University of Saskatchewan. It’s neat to be back.
Social media. An increasingly dominant part of our daily lives. For me, social media is, like anything else, to be enjoyed in moderation. I get news faster than ever with Twitter. I connect with friends literally around the world through Facebook. I chuckle at memes on Reddit. But I do find balance is important and something I haven’t always been able to achieve.
Throughout middle and high school, computer games were my addiction. At some point, gaming has taken the back seat to social media as my main technological pursuit. Social media imbues both my personal and professional lives, and I suspect this is true for many others. It’s not something I’ve reflected much upon because the process has been so gradual.
Today, social media is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I see at night. It’s that pervasive, and that alone sometimes seems problematic. Yet the benefits are numerous: near-instant communication, increased efficiency both at work and play, and an ability to find information that once was considered the realm of only experts.
I have read a great deal of discussion about the dangers of social media: psychological harm, online bullying, invasion of privacy. For me, those dangers haven’t been a reality, yet they do linger in my mind, especially as a teacher of teenagers. I don’t think we fully understand the impacts social media is having on us, and might not for a long, long time. It’s a new horizon, and we’re all floating in space together.
Problem: Educators and Social Media. Can an educator maintain a personal digital identity through the use of personal social media accounts or should most/all digital use from an educator be professional? Should students be able to contact teachers through social … Continue reading →