Sharing Online: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This week we focused on sharing online and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Just like almost everything else in life there is a good side a bad side and even an ugly side. When we talk about sharing online we have to consider so many different ways that we share. We can share personal information, work related information, information about out kids and information about our students. Just like Roxanne mentions, no matter what we are sharing, we always need to think about who is seeing the information and what will the effects of that share be? I will attempt to look at all sides and share my thoughts on all of this.

The Good

Screen Shot of my Facebook Account

Screen Shot of my Facebook Account

There are many ways that sharing online can be positive. I’ll start with sharing our personal lives online. For me personally I have decided to share most of my personal information on Facebook because I have my privacy set highest on that account. I also have a limited number of friends and family on the account having only 204 people on my friends list (many of which are family). Although I have always been cautious of who I add online this number used to be closer to 500. I would say that at least once a year I go back over my friends list and delete people I don’t feel as connected to anymore. I don’t want to share information about my life or my kids life with people who I consider to only be acquaintances. In order to decide who I keep online I ask myself if I saw that person in the mall from a distance would I make the effort to go and talk to them. If the answer is no I delete them, if it’s yes I keep them. This is my way of keeping myself comfortable with the information I am sharing with my Facebook community.

Amy discusses sharing information about her kids and mentions that she is mindful of what she is posting and I am the same way. Even though I feel like it’s my close family and friends on my friend list I am always wondering if my kids will want to see this in the future. I also ask myself is this something my family and friends would appreciate or find nice to see? If it’s a rant, or me complaining about something I refrain from posting because I’m sure people don’t want to see that. I like the ability to share milestones, celebrations and pictures with family and friends who aren’t able to see my kids on a regular basis as well. In my life this is a big positive for social media. While I like to share, I tried to avoid being a “sharent“.

In our classrooms sharing can be an awesome way to keep parents in the know, communicate with students and share our classroom activities and student progress. Kathy Cassidy from Moose Jaw, Sk shares how student blogging has helped her students in the classroom. When students share online it can make them more accountable and they may produce better work. Teachers are able to share resources with other teachers and collaborate to make better resources. We talked a lot about not reinventing the wheel and this is a great way for teachers to work together. There are a lot of different benefits of sharing student work online. I think it’s a great way for students to share work beyond the four walls of their classroom. I also like that when students share with a larger audience they feel their work has a bigger impact. When they receive valuable comment from others it gives even more meaning to their work.

The Bad

While there are definite positives to sharing online, there are also negatives. As parents we can choose what we want to share about our kids, but we need to think about the long term digital footprints we are creating for our children. Sharenting can be a bad thing when we are sharing information that our children may be embarrassed by when they see it later. By sharing information about our kids we are creating their digital footprint. Do we have the right to create their online identity for them before they have any control over it? It is easy for us to post about our frustrations as parents thinking that we are only exposing information about our own lives when in fact we are exposing our children as well. We need to remember that digital footprints are like tattoos.  When posting online about your students keep this video in mind.

The Peel School District provides some social media guidelines that I think are important in preventing the bad from taking over. One guideline that stood out for me was the professional boundaries. I know teachers who are friends with students on Facebook and I have never been too sure about that. I think that it could be very easy for conversations or posts to become unprofessional or though of as so. Social media does allow us to connect with one another but we need to make sure that our connections with students are professional. In these guidelines it also suggests when to share student work. The bad side of sharing student work could be that students aren’t happy with the product once it is shared and that will be on the internet forever.

The Ugly

Sometimes information we share can go from bad to ugly. This was the case with Amanda Todd, a young girl who took her own life after a shared photo of her lead to extreme bullying. There are many similar cases in which information shared on social media results in such negative things. Sharing publicly could also leave you more susceptible to identity fraud as is the case with Alec who has been dealing with the issue for a few years now.

What Do We Do?

So, what do we do? How do we ensure that our sharing online is a positive thing? We all need to be aware of our digital footprint and the digital footprint we are creating for others when we share. We need to teach students that anytime something is shared online it’s there forever. We need to take care of our digital footprint and be proactive about it because if we aren’t, then someone else will.  We need to be mindful of what we are sharing and consider the lasting effects it will have. We also need to encourage people to share and have an online presence that is positive. I think a lot of people are afraid to share because we are worried about putting ourselves out there and worried about who will see it. The more we put ourselves out there and establish an online identity, the easier it will be to control it and prevent bad things from happening. The most important thing is to start teaching this from a very young age. Our students and children are growing up in a world where devices are used daily. They need to know what is appropriate and what is not and how to create a positive online identity.

Employability Goes Online

Just as other classmates have done this week, I too Googled myself. Logan discussed a key point that I have always thought about when thinking about doing a Google self search or Egosurfing. When he searched for himself he was able to find some information relevant to him, but when he searched other classmates he was unable to find a lot of information directly related to them. Why is this? I think that it depends on the uniqueness of the name being searched. For example, if I search myself under my maiden name Ashley Dejaegher, I find a lot of information about my hockey life. There is some information from my undergrad work but most is related to hockey (a small portion of my life). If I search myself using my current name, Ashley Murray, I have a hard time finding a lot about myself. There are some links to work I had completed last semester in EC&I 832, but not a whole lot more. There is a however lot of information about other Ashley Murrays.

It’s pretty obvious that Ashley is a very common name but I wasn’t sure just how popular it was so I decided to see if I could find out. I found a site based on the population of the United States and there are 510,770 people in the US alone with the name Ashley and it’s the 114th most popular name. I also search the last name Murray and there are 213,130 people with that last name so chances are there are quite a few people who share my name. In the United States there are fewer than 120 people with the last name Dejaegher so it is quite uncommon. Chances are if you have a more common name you may not find as much information about yourself.

Luke brings up a good point about how we can make ourselves more visible online. If we have a common name, how can we make sure that people can find our twitter pages or our blogs? I found myself wondering the same thing and basically found that it all boils down to the popularity of your blog for example. The more people you have visiting your site or twitter page, the more popular it will come which will bounce it up in Google searches. I also came across how to use a search engine optimization (SEO) to increase the visibility of your blog on search engines by using different techniques while blogging.

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc

I am among the percent of social media users who changes their privacy settings on my accounts. My Facebook and Instagram pages have high privacy settings. The reason I have my settings this way is because I use Facebook and Instagram to connect and share with people who I have personal relationships with. My friends list on both platforms is quite small in comparison to others. On Facebook I have 201 friends of which probably 50 are family. On Instagram I have 133 followers. This is because I have chosen to keep my friends lists limited. Every so often I go back and delete people who I no longer feel a close connection to. I don’t add people easily either. I have decided to keep it limited because I don’t want everyone and anyone knowing about my personal life. I think that teachers are held to a higher standard so I tried to keep things private just in case anything that might be thought of as inappropriate pops up. But sometimes it would be nice to just be an average person too. 

Just like Vanessa I believe that online identity is only a small portion of our actual identity. Our identities are made up of so many different things and each part is as important as any other part depending on what you are doing. That being said, I don’t believe our online identity should make or break us as a person. Something we need to realize is that what happens online stays online…literally. Luke argues that it should be considered a digital tattoo as opposed to a digital footprint and I would have to agree. In order to prevent our students from an array of negative/inappropriate digital tattoos we need to work with them to create positive online images. We need students to showcase their work and demonstrate their learning so that they can create a reputation for themselves that is positive.  It should come as no surprise that employers use social media to hire people but keeping that in mind I do think that resumes should reflect your online image and vice versa. We have seen instances in the last few days where candidates running for the Saskatchewan NDP have lost their jobs because of posts. I think that in order for the NDP to maintain a positive reputation they had no choice but to eliminate those candidates, but in the case of a person going to a job interview I do think that their online identity can be brought up and questioned before making a final decision. Perhaps it was something that happened years ago when the candidate was young and immature.

I think it’s important to keep an eye out on Google and search yourself every now and then to see what comes up. Maybe you’ll notice more posts showing up in Google as your blog becomes more popular. If you’re worried about how your online reputation can hurt your job hunt check out these tips.

Who are you? But more importantly, who am I?

There were are a lot of great articles assigned to read this week and they discuss topics that are very relevant my life right now.The theme of this week is mediated identities. How do we perceive ourselves and others online? Who controls what we see on our timeline? Who are we beyond the selfies and status updates? Some articles this week discussed heavy topics like break-ups, suicide, grief and depression. I didn’t realize that in a picture perfect social media world that such things existed (insert heavy sarcasm here). The sad reality is that beyond these “picture perfect” posts many people are struggling internally.

Photo Credit: Inspiyr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Inspiyr via Compfight cc

The first article I read that really hit me hard was Split Image. The reason it hit me so hard is because I can guarantee that there are so many others out there right now that are just like Maddison Holleran. So many others that are struggling on the inside but seem perfectly happy on the outside through a social media lens. Why is there so much pressure to portray ourselves as perfect, flawless, exceptionally happy? Why do we need to pretend that we are all of those things when in reality we are not? I believe it is because there is too much pressure from the media as well as our friends and family members who are only sharing the best of the best in their life. Too many people are busy comparing their lives to others. This is nothing new. People have always compared their lives to others.  The difference in society today is that we are bombarded on a daily basis with everyone’s picture perfect posts. Even the posts that are not picture perfect have an affect on us.

The Psychology of Healthy Facebook Use provides a simple solution to avoid negative health affects such as depression when using Facebook. The solution: stop comparing yourself to others.

“Because Facebook tends to serve as an onslaught of idealized existences—babies, engagement rings, graduations, new jobs—it invites upward social comparison at a rate that can make “real life” feel like a modesty festival.”

Comparing ourselves to others leads to feel insecure and insignificant. I know that I struggle with comparing myself to others on social media. I often see other post updates about their children who are they same as mine meeting milestones that my children have yet to accomplish. Sometimes I feel as though I may be doing something wrong or failing my children. I am quick to remind myself that everyone develops at different rates. Others are not the only ones who post updates about accomplishments. I also post accomplishments, celebrations, graduations and other “picture perfect” updates. When I post things I often ask myself why am I posting this? Is is to brag? Or am I simply sharing something I am proud of with family and friends? I in no way intend to brag or make others feel bad, but how can I be sure that what I am posting won’t make someone on my news feed feel that way?

I might not have to worry about the way I make others feel when I post something because thanks to the Facebook algorithm, my friend may not even be seeing things I am posting. What I think my friends and family are seeing can be quite different than what they are actually seeing. Some of my friends may be seeing different newsfeeds from me than others. In a lot of ways I am not in full control of what my friends and family are seeing on my behalf. The algorithms created by Facebook are based on our interactions with others, our interests and likes. It is interesting to think that my Facebook experience (as well as my google/internet experience) are controlled to a certain extent by these algorithms.

I also have no control over what friends post about me. I have asked friends and friend have asked me to take down a picture on Facebook or Instagram before. The picture may or may not contain something embarrassing but it may go against the online image that we are trying to portray. Maybe it had too much “arm fat” or too many “double chins”. Maybe the lighting wasn’t right or your outfit made you look fat. Whatever the reason, if it has been posted without my permission, I might have to ask my friends to take it down. But why should I have to take it down for those reasons?

The digital footprint that is created for a baby when their parents post on their behalf was also discussed in articles this week. I found Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World to be very interesting. It was interesting to see where Canada sat in the rankings. I fell into three of the five categories having uploaded all the pictures described. I do not have a profile for either of my children or an email address. I do like to share pictures and updates about both of my kids so that family and friends can see them grow up. However, I try to avoid excessive updates and try to avoid updating hundreds of pictures because I don’t feel like people need to know every single thing my children are doing. I also understand that not everyone cares what my kids are doing on a daily basis. If I want to update grandparents with what my children are doing on a daily basis I can make a simple phone call or text them as opposed to putting it all over Facebook for everyone else to see. This is just my opinion and other classmates such as Branelle and Krystle have given theirs as well. I agree with Krsytle that sometimes making announcements on Facebook is so much easier than having to make a bunch of phone calls.

The last article that I thought was really interesting was in regards to break-ups in our digital world. So many of us post updates and share pictures of our relationships. Most people use the relationship status as an official indicator of our status. You may have heard the expression that it isn’t official until its Facebook official. But what happens when our relationship ends and we have a profile full of pictures and memories with our significant other? I have had to experience a break up in the digital world and I did exactly what Nick Bilton did (minus the hangover and bottle of whiskey). I deleted all my pictures, posts and even my Facebook account for a while. I ‘disappeared’ feeling that all eyes were on me until I felt that I could brave the world of Facebook again.

It is interesting to read about all the different ways social media affects our lives and in ways that are somewhat out of our control. How much of our life is really authentic? Both Jillian and Carolyn offer great commentary on this topic. Why can’t we post more about our struggles and issues? I think it’s because we don’t want people to feel like we are always complaining so we focus on the times that we look our best.

How does technology define you?

Before this past week, I had never heard the terms digital native or digital immigrant. Digital natives are described as those who were born after 1980 and have grown up with technology. Those who were born before 1980 are considered to be digital immigrants. I don’t know how much I agree with these terms and here’s why. Although those of us born after 1980 have grown up with technology it doesn’t mean we automatically know how to do everything involving technology. The technology has always been available for us to use, but it is not something that we use automatically without any qualms. It may be easier for us to figure out how to use an app or navigate the internet but it certainly isn’t innate. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone and we must still learn how to use the tools and devices that we have access too. The people who are labelled as digital immigrants are no different in this respect. Although they have had to adapt a little bit more than the “digital natives” both parties still require training in order to make use of technology. The learning curve for a digital native will almost always be quicker, but there is still a curve. My 80 year old grandma would be considered a digital immigrant and she navigates her way through Facebook, online banking, email and the internet just fine. Yes she had to be taught how to do all of those things and maybe doesn’t know as much as a so called digital native, but she doesn’t mind. She knows enough to be able to connect with her family that is provinces away and it makes her feel closer to them. Maybe she is a digital immigrant and has a digital accent as described in the PBS video. I don’t know how I feel about the terms digital native and digital immigrant. I can see it from both perspectives but can’t seem to decide which I agree with more.

I really enjoyed the IRL Fetish article by Nathan Jorgenson. It really made me think and I have to agree with a lot of points made. The bold font was taken directly from the article and I have given my thoughts after each statement.

Without a device, we are heads up, eyes to the sky, left to ponder and appreciate. This summer we took a road trip to Edmonton. We decided to give our two year old son the iPad so he could entertain himself and hopefully make the drive a little more manageable for us all. He watched one movie and then played some apps. Knowing he is big into trains and trucks we would tell him to look out the window at the trains or trucks that we passed on the highway. After a while we ended up taking the iPad away and he was the one pointing out the window at the trains and trucks. My husband and I said to each other that it was interesting to think about all he would have missed if he continued to be on the iPad the whole time. I guess if you’ve seen one train or truck you’ve seen them all, but the point is that it was nice to have him enjoy some of the ride rather than have his face down looking at the iPad the whole time.

Forgetting one’s phone causes a sort of existential crisis. I am guilty of this and can admit that when I forget my phone, my heart skips a beat and I have a brief panic attack. Last summer I was going out to Craven to watch a concert and left my phone at home. I immediately told my friend I needed to text my husband from her phone to let him know I left mine behind so that if he tried to text and I didn’t respond he wouldn’t worry. We also made sure that we didn’t leave each others side that night for fear of losing each other in the crowd. I had a great time that night but I had no pictures to capture Luke Bryan or any other acts that night. I felt lost without my phone and was wondering how I would survive. Of course I survived and I was actually surprised when I got home that I didn’t miss any phone calls and only had a few missed emails and texts. It made me realize that I didn’t miss much without my phone and probably enjoyed my night a little more in it’s absence.

Disconnection from the smartphone and social media isn’t really disconnection at all: The logic of social media follows us long after we log out. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. When Turkle was walking Cape Cod, she breathed in the air, felt the breeze, and watched the waves with Facebook in mind. These were taken from different paragraphs throughout but they all relate to the same idea. Although we are offline, social media continues to be updated and we continue to think about social media. When we are offline it seems we are constantly thinking about what is happening online or what we will update when we get back online. So much of what we do offline is still heavily influenced by our online presence. We can’t wait to tell people what we did and who we were with.

We aren’t friends until we are Facebook friends. This also relates to Danah Boyd’s article Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications. If there were a Facebook spectrum, I think there are two different types of people on opposite ends of the spectrum. Those people who want to keep their friends list smaller including only “real friends” and family; and those who want to include anyone and everyone who they have ever crossed paths with. People can fall anywhere in between those two extremes. It is important to understand why people accept friends or request friendships. I know I have had experiences where I have only accepted someones friendship for fear of what might happen if I don’t. I have also deleted friends and wondered how that would impact other social relationships. I do believe that there is a big difference between the term friends and Facebook friends. I think your friends can also be Facebook friends, but I think a lot of people have Facebook friends that they wouldn’t consider true friends. This concept of friends vs Facebook friends is something I think is important to teach our students. Facebook shouldn’t be about having the most Facebook friends and biggest friends list just for the sake of having it. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest.

I do think that our digital self can be very different than our real life self. I think we base our self worth on how many likes we get and who comments on our pictures. We compare our life to our friends life through these digital platforms. Something we need to be careful of is the fact that the digital lives we see of our friends and family are not always the realistic life they live. How many selfies or pictures did they take before they got the one good enough to be uploaded onto Facebook? What filter are we seeing their life through on Facebook. We don’t always post the smiles and laughter. We sometimes complain or post negative things. Regardless of what we are posting we always think about who will see it and the reaction it will get. Will people like this picture? Will they judge me for posting this meme or political statement? It is easy to hide behind our digital self and pretend that life is perfect when in reality it can be far from it. This is something that is important to teach our children and even our students. Maybe I’m being to hard on us all…what do you think?