As a millenial, I was growing up at the same time that many social media platforms were rising in popularity. Since my adolescent years, I have used (in as chronological an order as I can remember): MSN Messenger, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Discord, TikTok, and (most recently) BeReal.
My experiences with social media have been overwhelmingly positive. In my adolescent and teenage days, I used social media on a personal level to connect virtually with my friends. Fortunately, I never experienced cyberbullying or any other online issues. I would say the most negative experience I had was feeling pressure to measure up to others during a time in my life when I was still figuring out who I was as a person. No particular negative incidents come to mind, though (for which I am grateful for!).
Once I entered university, I began to delve into using social media professionally. I started this blog in my first semester of university, and it has followed me all the way through my undergrad degree, my beginning years as a teacher, and two graduate degrees to follow. It has truly become an authentic time capsule of my journey of ‘learning to teach.’ In university, I also tried out Twitter and LinkedIn as more professional versions of my online identity. This chapter of my life helped me to expand my previously narrow idea of what social media could be used for.
Since starting my career in education (and beginning my true ‘adult life’), I believe I have come to find a comfortable balance in my relationship with social media. Watching the Netflix film “The Social Dilemma” was a game changer for me – if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it! I now enjoy unplugged time where I leave my phone behind when walking my dogs, have push notifications turned off for my social media accounts, and think more critically about the content I am seeing on social media platforms. Taking EC&I 832 with Alec Couros as a previous course in this degree also helped to open my eyes to the realities of social media, algorithms, digital footprints, and media literacy.
All in all, I feel very fortunate to have had such positive social media experiences, from supportive friends who follow my travels religiously on Facebook, to a helpful and welcoming PLN on #saskedchat. As an adult, I am now more cognizant of how social media can be a time suck or harmful to our self esteem, and I can set personalized boundaries so that I can enjoy the pros of social media while, hopefully, avoiding some of the cons (although, that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself getting caught in a TikTok loop every now and again).
Until next time,
Kara! Great post! I too have been customizing app settings and notifications to fall within specific hours and days to maintain a better work/life/social media balance.
I DO feel that social media has changed quite a bit since I first began using it. As I wrote in my post, Facebook was only just born as I entered university and was utilized for boring, lifeless posts like “I’m bored” or “great time this weekend”. Now people can share locations, tag others, host group events, and live streams. The evolution of connectivism that social media now incorporates is unlike anything anyone has ever seen before its creation.
Having been lucky enough to never experience the extreme toxicity of social media, how do you choose to approach the topic with students who may be going through such a situation?
Great question, Roxy! I teach early years, so haven’t come across a student who has had online issues (so far). But, I think, similar to what I’d do with other situations I haven’t experienced myself, I would be a supportive listener and allow the student to tell me about what was happening. Depending upon the situation, it might warrant a conversation with the child’s family or others who could offer additional support and problem solving.
It’s so nice to read that you have had an awesome experience with social media, Kara. Setting boundaries for ourselves can be tricky, and I like that you’ve got it all figured out. It seems you have a pretty solid experience with technology – outstanding! Thanks for the throwback to MSN Messenger. I completely forgot about it, and, really, I feel like it was the first time I used social media. I feel like MSN Messenger is the OG of all the social platforms. It’s where I learned to type so quickly…hahaha. Also, you made me think about the messenging “system” ICQ. Did you use this as much as I did? I remember sharing my ridiculously long ICQ number with people and hearing the “uh oh” to let me know I had messages. Ahhh….nostalgia.
Thanks for your comment, Laura! I think I am at a pretty good place with my social media use at present. One thing that I believe helps me strike that balance is not feeling the need to be attached to my phone all the time. For several months now, I have been operating with my phone on silent, and it makes a HUGE difference to not have notifications pinging throughout the day and distracting me. That way, I can just check my phone when it works instead of being constantly pulled back to it. MSN was definitely my first foray into social media – I remember changing your status and sending those emoticons that would play as videos on the screen. I am not familiar with ICQ, but I definitely relate to that vivid nostalgia from different platforms in the past.
Kara, I enjoyed reading your post. It reminded me of the importance of having some unplugged time. I know that on holidays I am better at this than during the school year. I am good at telling my teenage son that it is time to put his phone away but not always at being an example. I am working on this and that when we are traveling as a family we use this time to have conversations and not just be on electronics. I have most of my app notifications turned off unless it is one that I am in need of knowing so that I do not miss important information for sports or school for my boys. I am going to make sure to have some unplugged time each day as I know that when I do this I am in a better place and do not feel as stressed.
Thanks for your comment, Andrea! Having notifications turned off is a simple change that makes a big difference! I am looking forward to summer because it is a big increase in unplugged-time for me. There are days when I don’t even look at my phone once and I love feeling the freedom to be away from my device because no one imminently needs me during summer holidays.