Recently, a friend from a previous school was trying to reconnect with me and, after she found me, she wrote the following comment on my blog, “You’re all over the internet.”
Pause here to have whatever response you’d like to have.
It’s true. I am all over the internet. And the funny thing is that I am quite a private person. I am careful about what I say to whom because I am aware that many people can’t keep a secret to save their lives.
So I don’t write secrets on the internet.
This is my couch.
I took this photograph on my iPhone because I fell in love with the light in our apartment early this morning. Currently, I can share this photograph online in the following ways:
5. Tumblr blog: The Girls’ Guide to Happiness
6. School blog: This is the Counseling Office
7. This blog: MonnaMcDiarmid.com
Some of you are thinking that’s a lot of places to be able to share a photograph. It is. I think this is okay, though, because my couch is not a secret.
When I am unhappy with any of these digital homes, I’ll move out and take my couch with me.
This is my Twitter profile. It reveals what I do for a living and in what city and country I live. I share my passions: helping kids, writing, photography, travel, yummy food and interior design. None of these things are secret; in fact, they are quite the opposite.
I inhabit my online homes in order to do the following:
1. Express myself creatively whenever and however I like.
2. Develop my photography and writing skills. Experiment. Take risks. Fail. (Whatever.) Develope my voice. Figure out what I am good at. Improve!
3. Find and connect with like-minded souls who share my passions.
4. Encourage the creative endeavours of others.
5. Be inspired!
6. Solve problems via Facebook, Twitter and online problem parties.
7. Learn more about how the world is changing now… and now… and now… and get information about the ways in which I can make a difference.
8. Stay in touch with family, friends and former students from the five countries in which we lived before moving to Japan.
And what about the digital footprint of teenagers?
As a high school counselor, I am deeply engaged with the question of how and what kids share online. We know that in the future, more universities and potential employers will do internet searches to learn how people – our students – conduct themselves online.
As educators and parents, it is our responsibility to make students aware of that fact and then teach them how to make good decisions about what to post and what (definitely) not to post including what you really think of the boy who sits beside you in Biology class and the graphic details of your break-up. These, of course, are secrets and should remain private.
Much of what we do in school is help kids learn how to make good decisions so when we talk about their online profile, we are simply saying, “Take all of that good stuff that we have been teaching you for the last 13 years and apply it to the internet. Good. Now repeat.”
At my previous school, I did a talk entitled “It’s All Happening” for Grade 9 students during which I pulled up my own Facebook page and talked about how I make decisions about what is appropriate to be shared in my different online homes. When I saw my status updates projected as big as a house, there was one item on my Wall that made me a bit uncomfortable so I told the kids how I was feeling and why… and then I deleted it. Then the students practiced deleting items that might be construed as hurtful to others. We talked about the questions that we could ask in order to write mindfully. One such model is:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?
I find the questions regarding truth and kindness to be particularly helpful. The issue of necessity, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Is the photograph of my couch necessary? Perhaps not… but it is true, it hurts no one and I wanted to share this bit of black-leather-couch-yumminess that we can finally afford because we are both working full-time.
My observation, over nine years as a high school counselor, is that most students use social networking and blogs responsibly. We’ll keep helping the ones who don’t.
Finally, I want students to have as much fun online as I do. I want them to be in control of their own digital footprint. I want them to learn the difference between what is a secret and what is not.
My couch is not a secret.