Pressing send: Sometimes we can say something out aloud which we soon regret. People around us will know our true intent and possibly laugh at any malicious interpretations. Those close to us will understand our meaning, and add our comments to a wider context of why they were said.
Human communication can be such a simple beast, but the interpretations and paranoia of others can quickly help relationships deteriorate allowing conflict to arise. This has been concentrated during the last few years through the proliferation of online social media, which has suddenly given multiple and very quiet voices a considerable amplification of messages, feelings and conversations which were once the target of only a few people close by.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine.
It is so easy – perhaps too easy – to open up Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WeChat, Instagram…(we could go on here with an ever-evolving, and complex list of broadcast messaging apps, but suffice to say – there is a profusion of messaging services out there!!!) which are easily accessible to anyone with a computer, tablet, or mobile device. This article is not about them – this article wants to focus on challenging ourselves to really think about hitting the ‘send’ button, as the dangers of surveillance and exposure are now inherent in our society, of which no-one could have reasonably predicted.
Some sectors of society are particularly sensitive to the perceived dangers of posting online. For example, you will not (should not) see a police officer tweeting about their day at work – sharing how they arrested 4 people this week, or how they are planning a sting operation against drug dealers tomorrow morning. Doctors or nurses will not pop onto Facebook and ‘friend’ their patients, or comment about the health behaviours of those they are looking after.
These two examples are good illustrations of where professionals keep what goes on in the workplace within the workplace. There is no place for these conversations to go beyond the realm of their workplaces. Teachers, I believe, are a different breed. Teachers are always wanting to improve their practice, and most visible conversations are about improving professionally or scolding the latest policy vagary advocated by politicians.
But who is watching, and who is ready to pounce on you should you say something off the cuff, which can be taken completely out of context? This is the danger, and there are examples of the extremities taken by ‘leaders’ to silence those who they think have crossed a line or spoken out of place. This often says more about the ‘leader’ than the person who made the comment in the first place, but it is easier for leaders to manipulate the power they have.
But these decisions and choices are being made by professionals – adults – what about comments already made on social media by our pupils? What impact could this have on them?
Worryingly, recent research – reported on the ukedchat.com website https://ukedchat.com/2015/03/18/teens-approach-to-social-media-risk-is-different-from-adults/ – suggested that the way teenagers manage their online privacy and risk is completely different from how adults manage theirs. Who is to say that privacy settings of today will be different from the settings of the future, and once hidden comments are suddenly out in the public domain. The research reported that ‘teenagers are often more exposed to online risks because they are using social media as a platform for self – expression and as a way to gain acceptance from their peers.’ Platforms, such as Facebook, are commercial entities, and their whole business model works when everyone is open and sharing, so perhaps adjusting privacy settings occasionally could work to their advantage.
The surveillance aspect of social networking is one of the biggest concerns, especially when you consider the future in which youngsters are going to have to work. This YouTube video [https://youtu.be/JJfw3xt4emY] illustrates a nightmare scenario, which is unequivocally plausible and should be shared with pupils to exhibit the potential dangers beyond what they are currently warned about.
People will always misinterpret and use any excuse to protect their brand, with comments on social media being used as evidence to attack a person. This may be warranted, but in many cases the responsibility falls on the individual to ensure no excuse is justifiably used against them in terms of what has been said online. Today we have the ability to press ‘send’ on so many different networks, but if this is not a considered process, then this simple action can really transform the product of our lives.