This week I spent a lot of time researching and reading my classmate’s posts on digital citizenship. (Yes, I cheated and commented before posting, but hey, sometimes you great people inspire me to think thoughts I hadn’t had before!) What surprised me is how every article that I read and video I viewed was about the same thing, yet each was unique and different. What I’m trying to say here is that digital citizenship has as many layers as onions and ogres.
I read about they type of image teachers should be creating online. I read about how important it is that we teach our students to be good digital citizens. I also got sucked down a YouTube click hole and watched a bunch of videos on the Steubenville Rape Case where social media documented a sexual abuse crime. The role that social media plays in our world is growing exponentially, and we don’t know where it will go next. Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s best that we teach and learn how to manage and navigate it.
The piece of digital citizenship research that caught my eye wasn’t about how we should behave online, but how we react IRL to what we see. In less words, I’m talking about the edit button. Unlike real life, when we post something online, we are all given a pause. Not everyone takes that pause (cue every embarrassing photo or post that leads to poor online reputations). When you do take that pause, you have the chance to manipulate your life exactly how you want it to be seen by others. You can filter and crop your photos. You can rewrite that caption until it’s perfect. You can choose exactly what moments you want the world to see.
While this may sound like a good thing, I’m here to argue that too much of a pause can be just as harmful. It harms the self-esteem of the poster that try to tie their self worth to a number of likes. It harms the self-esteem of the viewer, who thinks that their life is not as good as that of their friend on Facebook. Perhaps in the course of a few months you watch someone get engaged, go on a luxury vacation, and show off their new designer shoes. You may think this person has a perfect life, but in reality, they are only showing you their highlights. You see when they are at their best, not when they are at their worse.
So today, I ask yet another thing to be put on the never ending to do list of a teacher. When you talk about digital citizenship, have this conversation. Remind students that what they see online is rarely ever the full truth. We need to remind the youth of today (and myself for that matter) that our self worth comes from within, not what we see on a computer screen.
We cannon let the edit button over-power our self-esteem.