The relationship status image feels like it really sums up my relationship with social media. There are endless complexities that come with social media’s presence in our lives. For me, I constantly grapple with my conflicting thoughts/actions/beliefs with social media. The battle to balance the relationship with social media directly and constantly impacts three of my major roles in life: a mom, a teacher, and as an individual. I want my kids to have skills they’ll need to be successful in a tech-centered society, yet I don’t want to shelter or overexpose them too much. I want to provide opportunities for and to allow my students to use the skills they have grown up with, tech-wise, as a means to express understanding and analysis in my classroom as well as gain the perspective that social media is the perfect place to thoughtfully practice critical thinking, self-expression, and learning. I, on a personal level, love the connection of social media (updates on old friends, not waiting for the 5 o’clock news for worldly updates, etc.), but I also want to live in a way that does not rely on checking social media out of boredom or awkwardness – I want to sit in those boring or awkward moments because that is a lost art. I have lived most of my life without social media (until I got Facebook in 2007 and Instagram in 2012), and now I am teaching students and raising children who will never have known a world without it. My biggest struggle for all three of these roles is between how educational and helpful social media can be versus not giving it power to control my thoughts/feelings/actions, or those of my children or students. I truly think there is so much good that social media has to offer, BUT that is dependent on our choices in the worlds we create for ourselves on each social media platform. I’ll explain with an experience that changed my perspective on social media…
I was once part of a weight-loss challenge, but it was much more than that. The trainer who was running it had three components to the challenge: mind, body, and spirit. We had “homework” for each of those components that followed a little mini lesson she’d send us to kick-start our thinking each week. One of the lessons that has stuck with me ever since was about my mental diet (in the sense of what I intake and, in turn, digest). Our “homework” was to go through any one of our social media platforms (or all if we so chose) and unfollow any account that negatively impacted our self-image or simply wasn’t serving us anymore. Her lesson was that we control what goes in our body and in our mind; the world we create for ourselves as I mentioned above. I’m not one to follow a bunch of photo-shopped celebrities or other social media “junk-food”, but I cannot articulate how much unfollowing needless accounts turned down the negative social media noise in my head. I still follow this practice and do a clean-up of accounts every so often. It is a simple and beneficial practice for maintaining balance and mental health in an area that can so easily diminish those things.
Since this experience, I have chosen to make social media a productive part of my life. Do I mindlessly scroll every now and then? Yes, I do. However, it is my personal rule that I have to gain personal learning with accounts I choose to follow, which has completely changed my relationship with social media for the better. When I focus my social media diet on learning for my children, my students, and myself, I add to each of my toolboxes and grow in each of those areas/roles.
Professionally speaking, I think social media has changed the teaching game both positively and negatively. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with repercussions of misused social media in the classroom (not my classroom) which dictated how the entire division had to manage their classrooms – phones were thereafter “parked” during class. I’d rather teach my students to be personally accountable for not being distracted by their phones or using them in harmful ways rather than having to “park them”, but I understand the circumstances as to why such rules have to be in place sometimes and that is the price we all have to pay when social media is used in naïve, negative ways. On the plus side, our classrooms provide great opportunity to teach the balance of social media for personal and educational use. I will continue to use social media in my classroom in a variety of ways, for a variety of purposes, and for a variety of reasons.
In the end, I’m not sure the complexities of my relationship with social media will ever disappear due to how ingrained it has become in our society as well as where I’m at in life in terms of constantly trying to make the “right choice” for my children and by leading by example. I actually think it isn’t such a bad thing that I wrestle with these paradoxical thoughts because that means I haven’t become mindless about my relationship with social media, one way or the other. So, for now, my relationship status with social media as complicated will remain.