Here’s a quick timeline: I joined Facebook in 2005. 2005! What does that mean? I think it means there’s a lot of 20-year-old me posts out there somewhere in Internet Land. The good news is that a few years after joining, I came to the realization that future me may not be as excited about those Halloween ’06 photos I posted and I did some weeding. I should say there was some outside pressure to start deleting content as well.
In 2008, I enrolled at Queen’s to begin my Bachelor of Education. While learning about lesson planning, classroom management and assessment strategies, my peers and I were also being warned. “You should probably delete your Facebook account” is a phrase I didn’t hear just once. That’s when the real purge began. Even though I had a “private” profile (I had locked it down to the point that all information was hidden unless we were “friends”), I still deleted anything I feared might be considered inappropriate.
I joined the world of Twitter in 2011 with a “protected” account – meaning my tweets were private unless I approved of followers who added me. I even created a different account to use with my students, because, why would I want them following the “real” me on Twitter?
For a while, I thought I was really doing this Social Media thing well. I shared what I wanted, with whoever I wanted. I felt like I had control over my content and that I was being safe. But then I started to do some reading, and some thinking, and some more reading. I realized that maybe I was going about this all wrong. Rather than trying to keep everything hidden and private (which is getting harder and harder), why wouldn’t I just put my best foot forward from now on? Why not be mindful of what I post and tweet?
In Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private, George Couros states, “It is not that we can’t be ourselves online, but we should just be more cognizant of what we do there.” That statement really resonated with me. I felt that I was trying on a new identity with my teacher account while keeping the real me locked behind my protected account. So, I made the decision, “unlocked” my Twitter account and began to truly think about everything I wanted to share.
This shift in my Social Media presence has been a positive one so far. I feel like I’m able to use Twitter to it’s full potential through sharing, retweeting content and chatting with people who don’t follow me. And even though I still keep my Facebook account private, I feel that by carefully considering everything I post and share, I am putting out the image of myself that I feel most comfortable with, and therefore am projecting a positive persona to my ever-expanding audience.
Finally, I feel like I’m really able to stress the importance of Digital Citizenship and the power of putting out positive content to my students. In the past, I’ve warned them about the dangers of posting without thinking on Social Media, but now, I’m having a different conversation with them. Rather than scare them into protecting their accounts, I want them to start being more Social Media saavy – I’m now stressing the importance of creating a positive profile, thinking before posting and attaching something good to their name. I’m sure some young people are going to find the need to purge their profiles in a few years, but my hope is that they don’t have to weed through too much questionable content along the way.