Questions surrounding social media or online sharing often boil down to an all-or-nothing philosophy. Extremism of any kind is pathological.
I blog about some topics but discuss others in private collegial groups in the real world. I don’t share every tidbit or facet of my life digitally through social media, but I’d be a fool to ignore the vast wealth of experience and generosity of the educators I’ve met through Twitter and through blog posts.
There are voices I identify with–and there are voices that challenge me and cause me to question. Why else would I be leaving a comment on this blog in order to extend the conversation?
If anything, in the age of Social Media and the open web, what we all need to learn (and help our students understand) is how to balance the public and the private–appreciating the wisdom of the crowd, but trusting our own private voices, knowing when to plug in and when to pull the plug.
In many ways, social media is a more intense version of real world phenomena. Twitter is my Enlightenment Coffeehouse, bustling with arguments, innovation, petty jealousies, humor, irrelevance, generosity, suspicion, creativity, and passion. I can eavesdrop on conversations or join in–stopping by when I have the time. Facebook is my backyard fence where I can keep in touch with friends and relatives more casually. Tumblr and Posterous are digital versions of the cardboard treasure box I kept under my bed as a child. I collect scraps of beautiful things and share them with others who may also appreciate their beauty. I blog the way other writers published pamphlets upon the invention of the printing press and moveable type.
The multiple platforms available for personal expression, communication, and reflection are staggering and I’m sure our cultural relationship with social media will eventually settle somewhere comfortable. Right now every new trend scratches a mental itch of curiosity and exploration–and that’s heady stuff. If we can help students see the relationships between the real-world and virtual methods for communicating and sharing ideas, we’re that much closer to avoiding group think and preserving our own ability to choose how much to share.
I think “firm” is a way veteran teachers try to explain to new teachers that there is a line between being friendly and being a doormat. I know I worried way too much about whether my classes liked me in my first year. Being firm means setting boundaries, but it doesn’t mean being hateful or inflexible. I smile with my students all the time. The four strategies you mention are part of what I see as my obligation to honor the dignity of every human being and to see my students as whole people.