Social Media Sharing: A Double-Edged Sword
As a middle child, my life has been defined by sharing. Most of my clothes and toys were shared to me by my older brother. I shared many of my things with my younger sister. To this day, whenever something wonderful happens to me, the first thing I want to do is share it with someone. As a teacher, whenever I learn something, I want to share it with my students. When my students do something great, I want to share it with their parents and other teachers. I believe most teachers want to share with other teachers so we can all be better at what we do: educate our students. But sharing among teachers has traditionally been difficult. Teaching can be a very isolating profession. Most of us spend the entire day in one location and only see other teachers infrequently. Faculty meetings are usually dominated by the need to unwind and relax rather than really sharing knowledge.
We need to do better. But how?
One good way is through social media. Unfortunately, social media has a bad reputation and many teachers shun it. Many of us think social media is just rambling about what we had for breakfast and posting stupid pictures of our pets. Or we think we have nothing interesting to say or we want to remain private. The great thing about social media is that you can tailor it any way you want to. For instance, I use Facebook to post personal things to people who I know. I use Twitter to network and share with other teaching and technology professionals. While these are the two most popular social media platforms, there are many more that can focus just on the areas we want. Nings are flexible social networks that are specific to a subject. Tools like Diigo let you share interesting bookmarks with people in your profession. There are also thousands of blogs that focus on any topic you want. So how do you find these resources, connect with others, and share information? Personally, I use Twitter as the hub of my professional network. I carefully select the people I follow, categorize them in lists, and interact with them periodically. I read their blogs, retweet their postings, reply to their questions, and post my own messages. When I find an interesting link but don’t have time to read it, I use Instapaper to save it and categorize it so I can read it later.
So what does all this have to do with sharing as a double-edged sword? Well I’ve found (the hard way) that there is a fine line between being “active” on social media and being obnoxious. Some people go completely overboard and feel like they should post anything and everything: how they feel, what they ate, where they are, what they hate, etc. The key is how to convey what’s on your mind without spamming people. Personally, I’m still working on that myself. I’m making a concerted effort to think about what I am posting and what value it might have to the people who follow or friend me. Do my friends really want to know when I get a hamburger from McDonalds? On the other hand, when something tragic happens in my life, do I really want to share that with everyone?
Some have stated that social media has not really made us anymore social because everyone is shouting what’s on their minds but they aren’t listening to what other people are saying. That’s an interesting point. Here’s an experiment: for every social media update you make about yourself, respond to three updates from other people. It’s easy to only talk about ourselves. It’s much harder to listen and ask about other people.
I just went to a workshop where I asked how can we share without oversharing or seeming like we are bragging. The speaker suggested you share other people’s work as often as your own. Also, when you share, ask for help from others and include them in the process. I plan to do more of both of those in my future postings.
So let’s get out there and share!