August 2, 2011

Life Online (A Hypothetical)

How much of your life is online? I'm not talking about your electronic banking habits or the number of recipes you get from the internet. How much about yourself do you share?

The reason I ask is because I thought of an interesting conundrum.

Scenario*: A college student working towards her education degree works part time in a local elementary school earning credits and assisting a second grade teacher. During the course of the year, you discover that the student has Twitter and Facebook accounts which are open to the public. While most of the posts and status updates are tame, the student occasionally posts about her students. While not specifically mentioning kids' names, some posts are sometimes unflattering, insensitive or insulting. What, if anything, do you do?

This got me thinking about what I put out there. I mean, I've been writing here for eight years. Surely I've let something slip that would make me cringe but I've tried to remain keenly aware that once something is out in the wild, it's gone and control is lost. Some don't have that perspective. Or just don't think.

So, how much of your life is out there? And what do you do in the scenario above?

* It should be noted here and now that this is purely hypothetical. No one who knows me in real life should start trying to guess who I'm talking about. Or even those who don't know me IRL.

Posted by Chris at August 2, 2011 8:08 AM
Comments

I'd say the facts of my life are out there, but not the substance. For example, it would be pretty easy to find out that I have 2 kids, I'm married, my husband and I work at the same place doing biology/chemistry research, I live near Buffalo, NY, I'm into soccer, etc.. So most people could find out the facts about me, but not really get to know me from what's online.

The scenario similar to what you posted played out in the news recently. The teacher got in trouble for what she posted about her students. The only thing I have to say about that is that when it comes to other people talking about their kids in a bad way, nearly every parent is a raging lunatic in an I'll-chew-off-your-ass-and-feed-it-to-you kind of way.

Posted by: Elizabeth at August 2, 2011 8:41 AM

Given that I get the brunt of my wife's venting about the 3 year olds she teaches, I can understand somebody that spends all day in a room full of young kids needing to vent. As long as it wasn't excessive or personally identifiable, I don't think the occasional, "A kid just took a dump in the sandbox" tweet is going to bother me much.

My wife would probably also tell us that the parents that are the most over sensitive about criticism of their kid are the ones with the worst behaving kids. Probably not a coincidence...

Posted by: COD at August 2, 2011 9:10 AM

I wrote a post about this last week.
15%, I'd guess.

In terms of the scenario you asked about...it's REALLY important for people, especially people who will be looking for jobs etc. to make sure they are aware of what they are putting online...because if it's public...you sure as heck know that people, especially people who might potentially hire you, are watching.

For me personally, it was my involvement in social media that actually GOT me my job...since I work in online media publishing...so it depends on the situation obviously.

But a teacher writing negatively about students? NOT REALLY OKAY EVER.

Posted by: alimartell at August 2, 2011 10:09 AM

I think it's astounding what people will put out there. We hear so much about what not to do, yet people do it. I work in the airline industry and one of my colleagues posted on Facebook that such and such airline has the dumbest flight attendants and not to fly them. I could not believe the stupidity of that post. People need to think before hitting post. Good thing I don't post often, otherwise I don't trust my big mouth.

Posted by: Meemo at August 2, 2011 10:38 AM

I'm very guarded these days. I think I was less-so when I thought a pseudonym was an adequate way to conceal identity, and I found out it was not. When I signed up for Facebook with my real name I decided I would only post three pictures, a very limited bit of info in my profile (just enough to identify you have the right person) and I'd use FB as a communication device. That has worked really well and Google Plus feels the same way. I'll tell you about my weekend, or link to something interesting but that's as much as you'll get out of me.

With twitter, where a real name is not needed, I still won't say anything that would lead to hurt feelings or even a strong debate. I just don't want to play that game anymore. However, I still feel they are good ways to share with friends and family.

In short: I'm out there but it's the PG version of me.

As for the teacher's assistant, I would totally call her on that. Reply to her and say that your kids go there and she is walking on shaky ground morally and legally with her posts. You're doing her a favor by stopping it before it goes too far.

Posted by: Brad at August 2, 2011 11:08 AM

I recently thought about this because I found out a family member is reading my blog. Which is fine but for the most part, I have all anonymous readers. On the other side of this, I would not want a possible employer knowing where I go on the net, like FB and twitter. I try very hard to separate some of these things. No emails I use for work attached to blogs, etc. It's hard to keep track of it all though, in this day and age when we're all so connected.

Posted by: Claire at August 2, 2011 11:13 AM

I worked in that situation. I had children, patients in my care, who at times could get the best of me. I think we can all agree writing to be cathartic but even so, there are HIPPA privacy laws, and of course I would not want details of my life on display, if someone thought less than stellar thoughts about me.

That being said, I used to give every kid or co worker, etc., a nickname. Nothing mean just a mental reminder of who I was talking about. Things like, "Crunchy, Bullwinkle, Jon Lovitz..." you get the idea.

That way Im able to give myself some sort of release, not put my, then job, in jeopardy, nor hurt any of the parties who may or may not be involved.

Cheers,
JJ

Posted by: JJ at August 2, 2011 11:26 AM

A lot of my life is online. It's how I keep up with my long-distance friends and family. My Facebook and Twitter (I don't twit much) are friends-only, and I friend/allow to follow only people I actually know. My main webpage is public, but I keep that informational because I know that my boss reads it. My kids' webpages are locked with a password. I am aware that I could get hacked, and in terms of what's out there, I'm comfortable with the risk. I don't name my children in any public posts or tag them in photos. I do what I can, but I like the online life.

Posted by: Brooke at August 2, 2011 12:13 PM

I think I've become fairly moderate with what I will and won't share online. And I would talk to the TA, especially if I were a parent at the school.

Posted by: Heather at August 2, 2011 1:55 PM

There's a LOT of my life out there, but I've definitely gotten pickier about what I post. I shy away from posting opinions on politics, religion or other hot-button items, largely because I'm not an expert in any of those fields. I'm also selective about what personal information I post publicly. If I don't want my parents to see it? It doesn't go out there. (Because my parents WILL see it if it's out there, actually.)

In the hypothetical you mention, I'd advise the student to either protect her accounts or not post about work. Those are the kinds of things that would cost her a job at some point, for sure.

Posted by: Dawn at August 2, 2011 2:30 PM

y life... nothing. I do have a facebook account, but it's just to keep track of family and friends who don't have a clue on how open they are to the world. My account has no pictures, info, or posts that give away anything which drives my family crazy. They say I'm unsociable, but I haven't forgotten about an invention called the phone. Last time anyone called me from my family was 3 years ago! They expect me to call them, which I use to do until 6 months ago.

Yes it's easier to get the word out to everyone using facebook, just too bad they don't see the value of another person's voice. If they want to know about my life they know what to do.

About the situation above, I'm not sure on what should be done. The student sounds like my family, not thinking about what they write or who it would be shared. Best to stay on his good side!

Posted by: PrivateRyan at August 2, 2011 5:00 PM

My life... nothing. I do have a facebook account, but it's just to keep track of family and friends who don't have a clue on how open they are to the world. My account has no pictures, info, or posts that give away anything which drives my family crazy. They say I'm unsociable, but I haven't forgotten about an invention called the phone. Last time anyone called me from my family was 3 years ago! They expect me to call them, which I use to do until 6 months ago.

Yes it's easier to get the word out to everyone using facebook, just too bad they don't see the value of another person's voice. If they want to know about my life they know what to do.

About the situation above, I'm not sure on what should be done. The student sounds like my family, not thinking about what they write or who it would be shared. Best to stay on his good side!

Posted by: PrivateRyan at August 2, 2011 5:02 PM

Well, while I suppose she is within her rights to tweet or post what she does I would consider it highly unprofessional. I'm a teacher and while I make no secret about that I don't share information about students however disguised or anonymous they may be. I think students have a right to privacy and should feel confident that interactions, comments, statements, etc that go in the classroom will remain relatively private and not be subject to the internet.

As a parent also, if I came across my child's teacher doing this I would approach the teacher first and if necessary the principal.

Posted by: Sarah at August 2, 2011 5:35 PM

I teach, and I write about teaching on a blog but mostly about teaching in general or about my experience as the teacher (prep, grading, reflecting), or about our collective class experience ("we had so much fun in class today!"). I rarely write anything negative and would not put any information that would make me or a student identifiable, or would cause embarrassment.

I do think that people who post more personal or highly negative information about their students are crossing a line. There was a situation like this recently with a young adult male whose family I know, and his Dad ended up talking to him about whether his actions (spewing negativity online) were demonstrating the leadership qualities that he's been aiming for. The young man agreed that his actions were not in line with who he wants to be, and hopefully he'll think twice before doing something like that again.

Posted by: Sandy at August 4, 2011 11:47 PM


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