Admittedly, this is an annoying topic for me. In my work as a technology integrationist, fear of the internet is one of the hardest battles I fight.
That said, I have actually come to understand the fear much more after reading this week’s articles. Infact, I find myself now way over-analyzing my social media posts and how they might be perceived by others, going so far as to give up and not post at all. Just as I thought I was beginning to be more comfortable with my online voice and brand, I’ve been scared into overthinking what other’s might think about me. If I can be scared into not posting, what will these messages do to our youth who are already struggling with the obsession of what other’s think of them.
Like I argued in my last post, First Impressions, this is one more reason the social media rhetoric needs to be mostly positive with firm warnings sprinkled throughout.
The ‘biggies’ that I will be spinning into positive messages and working into the digital citizenship curriculum for our middle school and high school students are:
- Where the World Can Get to Know You (vs. There’s No Such Thing as Private Online):
- Positives: There are many ways to build your personal brand that can help you as a student, and later as an adult, by building, learning from, and contributing to a professional learning network.
- Warnings: Discretion and responsible use is needed to protect your personal information and the personal information of others. When you post possibly damaging photos on social media sites, even when the settings are ‘private,’ there is no guarantee that your parents, teachers, or possible future employers won’t see it – so protect yourself and your friends by showing restraint and always getting permission before posting pictures.
- Promote Your Unique and Creative Thoughts and Achievements (vs. your reputation is at stake)
- Positives: Promoting your causes and passions indirectly promotes you as good person. Ever have a conversation with someone who talked nonstop about themselves? This is no different from the person on social media who posts their every move, meal, haircut, hiccup, etc. To improve your reputation, as Ben Parr explains, try posting about causes and issues that you are passionate about, rather than about yourself.
- Warnings: There are sites like SimpleWash that can help you delete posts, but once things are out online, they are nearly impossible to completely remove. Also, there really is no difference between your online self and your real self – both reputations have the potential to help or harm your real self’s goals.
- The Internet is Getting to Know You (vs. your clicks are being watched, followed, and recorded – Yikes!)
- Positives: HTTP Cookies make it possible for me to go back to my GAP online cart and still have my items; authentication cookies are useful for a website to know that it’s really you logging in; tracking cookies are used to try to make the ads on your browser relevant. Sites like the New York Times and Facebook use the data to personalize your experience and make reading suggestions, explains Ethan Zuckerman in his article The Internet’s Original Sin. Although there are ways to turn off your devices’ GPS tracking, your calls, posts, and electronic money transactions make it possible for others to track your location – which does freak me out a little too – until I think about the usefulness of tracking down kidnappers or other dangerous people.
- Warnings: One of the biggest risks, as Ethan also points out, is that a personalized web experience can make it hard to keep an open mind and learn from other perspectives. Be on the lookout for anyone or anything that tries to pigeonhole you and keeps you from discovering and learning more. For convenience and customization we agree to companies’ conditions and allow them to collect information about us. Check out this infographic to compare who is tracking what. Educate yourself and read the privacy policies before just clicking ‘agree’. Look into alternatives like DuckDuckGo, which as privacy becomes more and more of a hot topic, there are likely to be more of.
- Respectful Agreements (vs. Beware of your “friends”’ phone cameras!)
- Positives: Social media has made it possible to keep in touch with or even meet new friends. It’s also made it possible to learn from other experts around the world.
- Warnings: As a respectful and caring friend and user of social media, agreements need to be understood and followed. Before you photograph, post and tag other people, it is essential that you get their permission. And, just like with other social pressures, it is okay to say no to having your photo taken if you don’t think it will reflect you positively. After all, your future job could be at stake.