Comparisons are crippling and recently I have been in a few situations where either myself or another person was completely ignorant of the truth because the information gained from comparisons wasn’t accurate.
I have several friends who have decided to close their Facebook accounts because the constant stream of highlights from other peoples’ lives makes them feel inadequate. An article featured on Fast Company, “Want to be happier? Stop Comparing Yourself to What You See on Social Media,” makes the point that a different perspective is needed when viewing the success of others compared to your journey. You can set goals by “realize[ing] that the comparison is not about the person, but a tool to tell you what you want in life” and letting it be an inspiration.
For me professionally, I think this is great advice. When reading through other CoETaIL-ers blogs, instead of thinking what their doing that I’m not, I need to look at them as my community of colleagues who are little by little teaching me how to be a 21st century educator. Including myself as one of the ‘nodes’ in this community also means that I too have, and must, make contributions.
These hesitations of mine make me wonder if my students last year felt the same way when blogging and sharing our thoughts with other classrooms. At the time I felt that the pressure to present their best writing to ‘strangers’ created much needed accountability, however maybe I should have taken the time to dig a bit deeper into how they felt about the transparency of their thoughts. As I create and align the digital citizen course work this year, I am going to keep in mind the lessons around community and the reasons for blogging. If we can teach our youngest contributors that being a part of a digital network is about collaborating, learning and sharing with the community – maybe they won’t be as fearful to proudly write about the journey, no matter how far along, because there are lessons others could learn.
A downside noted in the resource Social Networking and Peer Relationships is that the “use of social networking sites has been reported as leading to lower psychological well-being for some girls (Devine, & Lloyd, 2012).” Also noted is that “kids may compare themselves unfavorably to others when reviewing online profiles; (online profilers have been found to overly represent positive and under-represent negative aspects of their lives) (Qiu, Lin, Leung, & Tov, 2012).” These warnings emphasize the need to teach about social media, digital footprints, and network communities in school.
When researching tips to revise my digital citizenship units, in answer to the cautions above, I came across a post on Getting Smart. Amos Goldie listed these among his top 5 tips to Protecting Your Digital Footprint:
- Periodically check whether the ONLINE “you” matches the REAL WORLD “you.” Like checking our real world appearance in the mirror every once in a while, it’s important to know how other people see and judge the online “you.” One of our assignments directs students to post “What three words come to mind when you see my online profile?” and then analyze the responses they collect. Often, students are surprised by the image they are putting out there. Be mindful of how you represent yourself.
- Never compare your REAL life to other peoples so-called “perfect” ONLINE lives. We all put our best foot forward online – it’s human nature, and it’s called “curating” your identity. Unfortunately, when sensitive teenagers find their life doesn’t measure up to their peer’s shiny, happy “curated” lives, they can suffer social media-induced loneliness and depression. Don’t envy others’ seeming happiness – it’s often a mirage.
Most people consider their devices and social media for only social purposes, when surprisingly there is so much more to be gained by using them. Vicki Davis, in her post A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom, gives a tough love message about the necessity of teaching social media best practices to keep your students from damaging their digital footprints and reputations.
Between my own mixed emotions about sharing and learning, as well as the many resources I have read, I have come across an important element that I missed when previously teaching digital citizenship to my students. I focused so much on the positives of being a part of an online learning community, that I overlooked the emotional implications of that membership. It’s an important lesson in community and collaboration where some (myself included!) might have to adjust their ‘perspectacles‘ in order to consider themselves part of the learning community, flaws and all.