As I grow older, I find that social media is taking ever increasing larger portions of my time. I’m not proud of this reality and must make a conscious effort to limit and control its usage as to minimize the potential negative impacts it may have on my duties and responsibilities as a father, a husband and a teacher. I recognize social media can have potential positive impacts in many aspects of life, but the older I get, my views on the matter are becoming more pessimistic. As we observed during our assignment on the history of social media, there isn’t much optimism in the current state of social media.
I started my social media consumption as a kid in rural Saskatchewan when we finally had our first internet connection via a 28Kbps modem. The software of choice at that point was MSN messenger. All of my friends were on this same network and I remember many late nights of instant messaging with my friends from all across the province and even across the country. As a very shy and awkward adolescent that didn’t have the gift of the gab, internet messaging allowed me to share and communicate with friends with the benefit of using the written word. The ability to pause and reflect before committing an idea to a conversation was very powerful for me. Some very good friendships evolved within this world and it, without a doubt, helped me develop into a more confident person.
As I entered my university career in 2003, web forums took a larger place in my life as I had finally discovered a place on the internet where my interests in motorsports and technology could be quenched. MSN messenger was still the method of communication of choice as I didn’t have a cellular telephone and text messaging was much too expensive and restrictive to be practical. It’s at the end of my university experience around 2007, that me and all of my university friends joined the now infamous Facebook. It was the perfect tool that arose at the perfect time in our lives. As everyone was going their separate ways, Facebook allowed me and my cohort of friends to stay in touch. Twelve years later, many of those friendships continue to develop and evolve. The recent developments with regards to influence Facebook had in the results of the 2016 American general election has me questioning how I might be influenced by social media in my everyday decision making.
Today, MSN messenger is no longer in existence and the ubiquity of smart phones and internet access has pushed me to more recent social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. Although Facebook still has an important place in my social media usage, I’ve found it as the tool of choice to know what is going on with family and friends. Over the past years, I have found Facebook to be a terrible platform for news and current events as it is only curated with my own friends and family. A much better platform for me to get the pulse of the Internet and the world is Twitter. Its micro-blogging structure lends itself to be an effective tool for the broadcasting and consumption of real-time information. In addition, the use of hashtags like #eci831 and curated list allows you to filter content in useful and effective ways.
Personally, I tend towards being a consumer of social media as opposed to actively posting information. My worries related to online privacy and the fear of posting something I would someday regret comes to odds with being a very active social media user. As a result, I’m very hesitant to use social media in my professional life. Although I have learned about many of the wonderful things that can be accomplished with its use in the context of my career as a teacher, I’m still hesitant to take the full plunge. Other than the privacy implications associated with social media, the ever-present technological divide between many of the families in my school remains a serious challenge. In addition, it is rather difficult to provide computer access to all the students to our school for budgetary reasons. I can’t fathom using a technological tool where all students can’t have equal access thus equal opportunity from which to benefit.
The only social media tool I use in my professional life is YouTube. As I’m at times absent from the classroom and it’s very difficult to find specialized French speaking science teachers, I often record lessons and post them to allow students the opportunity to learn when I’m away from the classroom. This has proven to be a very effective tool and has become a valuable tool in my pedagogy. In fact, some of my classes have accumulated over 1700 views! Perhaps I should take this success as a glimpse into the possibility of further technological use related to social media in my classroom. Perhaps my experience in EC&I 831 will push me further and diminish my reticence if using new social media platforms.
Another challenge I’ve struggled with is the separation of my personal and professional life related to the use of social media. At the moment, I don’t think the mixing of my personal and professional lives on social media is a good idea. I’m aware of many teachers who manage multiple social media accounts to overcome this problem, I’m however still concerned with the blending of both situations. Perhaps this view will change in the future, but at the moment, I cannot justify the stress and the energy involved in managing different personas.
Over the past few years, I must say my use of social media has brought me much joy and happiness. It has, however consumed much of my life and I’m not sure if the time invested in using social media has been worth the return. Exhibit A, my screen time statistics for the last week. Good or bad? At this point, I’m not too sure.