I recently applied online for a job that asked how many years experience I had in certain categories. The categories were straightforward (i.e. teaching, Microsoft suite, public speaking) until I ran across one that was simply “social media.” I paused and thought about it. I’ve been using social media personally and in school/professionally since 2001, when I first created a LiveJournal. I used my LiveJournal as an overly dramatic way to whine about my daily life and to take funny quizzes. I was 18, social media was fairly new, and I knew no better. Let us hope that my whiny goth poetry stays buried under LJ’s privacy protection and the difficulty of finding anything on that site.
I’ve seen social media’s baby steps in LiveJournal and message boards, outgrow Friendster and MySpace, and now the awkward teen years of to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and an endless stream of blog sites. My high school students were toddlers when I was cutting my social media teeth on LJ’s cumbersome HTML, trying to get some picture to post properly. They’re digital natives. I wouldn’t be surprised if their baby pictures are up on some social media site. I know there’s an ultrasound of my high school friend’s (now) 10-year old son up in the cloud somewhere.
My students know that to drag and drop an images works just as well as an img src code, sometimes better. WordPress’ visual editing is beautiful, but sometimes, I have to switch over to the Text side, just to make sure my links and my anchors are correct (especially those anchors!).
My students have some things very easy in this way. All social media can come to their smartphones. They can check-in on Foursquare and meet up with friends. They can Tweet to share links, news, or the newest pizza place. They use Instagram to take pictures of their lunch. All from their phones (I’ve done it too. I used to be the mayor on Foursquare of Drexel’s commuter lounge and I fought hard for that title over the course of my final semester). Are we over-sharing? I’m sure some of us are. I try not to. My 800+ Tweets don’t seem excessive, especially when I know many of them were from Tweeting with a professor at Simmons. Meanwhile, people who should have a strong social media presence (like school librarians), often don’t because we have so much other stuff going on that we need to do.
I guess my point is nothing new: social media is here to stay. We love technology and we love to share information. It’s not a bad thing to share, but we need to be careful as to how much personal information we share in the cloud. Once it is out there, it is out there forever.