When I first joined Facebook, I was at a loss how to operate on it. Two great drivers towards complete openness on there were:
- The philosophy behind Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg designed the platform to connect people up who might not normally meet, by getting them to share all their information so algorithms could hook them up to similar people.
- The period of time I spent living in London in lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer (lgbtq) communities. We spent hours debating 'coming out' - the political need to do so in order to show we even existed, the risks of doing so - particularly for those of us in the black and minority ethnic communities.
By the time Facebook came along I was the mother of a young child. I was wary of sharing pictures of my young daughter with the whole world - including potential paedophiles . I wasn't surely I wanted the entire world to know about the whole of my life.
Facebook was not a flat playground on which we could connect without consideration for normal social issues.
- I have relatives who have not spoken with each other for some years; I had to think about the consequences if I was a 'friend' of both when my posts about the other one might pop up on their timelines.
- Sometimes students would ask to be 'friends' on Facebook, but I felt this could be an inappropriate blurring of boundaries. I like to let myself go on FB and chat freely in a way I would not do in a tutorial
- I was doing some (fiction) writing, which I wanted to publicise widely. Doing this on my personal Facebook account felt like I was pushing it at people, using my friendships.
- We live in a neo-liberal capitalist economy, and the States - where Facebook is based, is even more neo-liberal than the UK. I found adverts popping up in my sidebar which had clearly been designed for me based on my postings. On one occasion I posted a picture of two old ladies on a demonstration holding a sign saying 'F*ck the police' and within minutes an ad had popped up saying 'single police officers in your area, click now'
My daughter grew up during the era we were grappling with internet safety for children. I was very lucky as I was doing research on bullying at this time, so had access to a mass of expert opinion (some of which I was writing). I had friends who were social workers, barristers and IT experts, who told me that Instagram was marginally safer than Snapchat because on Snapchat photos disappear in seconds, so people think they are safe to bully on there. I think schools and the police responded incredibly quickly, getting together to circulate robust advice to children and parents. (The best advice I had was someone who wrote on a blog that making an iPad child-friendly is impossible - it is a device designed for adults, it's like giving your kid the keys to the car and hoping they will be OK out there. You can only keep them safe online by constant vigilance.)
Now in her young teens, my daughter is more internet-savvy than I am so I learn a lot by observing her online habits.
She splits up her social media accounts. She has Snapchat and Instagram to connect with schoolmates and her cousins. (She is not friends with me on those but she is friends with adult women friends of mine she admires, who will tell me quicker than she can delete the posts if anything is going on.) Recently she opened a Facebook account for the purpose of connecting up with older relatives and friends; she is friends with me on Facebook. (Very annoying, as I have had to moderate my Facebook posting in consequence Although it does mean I can post cute pictures of the cats for her to check out while she is at school 😻😻)
As part of starting my MAODE studies, I have had a think about my own social media networks.
We have a lot of Associate Lecturer specific forums. These can get crowded with threads, and some of the bigger ones have a poor reputation for negative posting. I do find the module Tutor Forums useful, as a means to chat about what is happening on the module and raise issues with the Module Teams. One module Tutor Forum is less useful, maybe because it is for a much smaller teaching team.
I go on the university Yammer site and I find this a more enjoyable and versatile means to share my thinking about teaching and work issues than going on large generic tutor forums. Not many people go on Yammer and this has made it a more positive space to post in. (Plus, I know senior managers read the posts, even if they don't post much.)
I have sometimes spent long periods 'off my facebook', but recently I have got a clearer idea about how I want to use it and have gone back to it. I found a lot of political material circulates. If I were meeting friends in the pub, we would often avoid these topics - since some of my friends and I have very different ideas about Brexit, immigration and other topics of the day. However on Facebook, I can see their posts and they can see mine - so we are able to engage in dialogue and gain better insights from each other. I post political material publicly, and I post personal and family issues with my 'friends'. (Have to be a bit careful to always remember to use the right privacy button.)
I have started a Twitter account, and I mean to keep that for posting about digital technologies and e-learning. Although I couldn't resist recently posting the picture of two cakes I took to a face-to-face tutorial I guess that is about 'distance learning' in a way since we have the face-to-face tutorials quite rarely, being a Distance Education institution.
Finally I am going to have to figure out WhatsApp, as my fellow MAODE students are starting a WhatsApp support group. This will mean learning how to operate my phone as a Smartphone, whereas up til now I have got away with saying 'hahaha, my phone is smarter than I am' and being able to peacefully knit on the bus instead of having to engage in my teaching/studies while travelling