I admit that I’m not the biggest user of social media aside from sporadically updating my Facebook page. I have never participated on Twitter until this class, I’ve never used Instagram, my LinkedIn profile has been dormant for several years until recently, and I never really understood the use of wikis, blogs, and social bookmaking until now. Yea, I know, I’m so out of it, right. I mainly use social media to check on the news and connect/communicate with friends and family, as I like to keep certain things private. After the class discussions on participating in social media networks, and reading about Rheingold’s listing of benefits and reasons for liking tools like Twitter, I can really see the value of being more connected and having an active role with social media both in a personal and professional setting.
Rheingold brings up a few reasons for liking Twitter: immediacy, openness, and reciprocity. From a professional standpoint, these are aspects that would highly benefit my work as well as that of my peers in communicating with college students, who are very in tune and regular users of social media. We could use Twitter to post immediate information for students to see, which has a higher potential to actually reach more of them as opposed to an email that we know many students don’t read or end up ignoring. It also opens up another communication line for us to reach students as well as for students to gain access to us. Even utilizing a tool like Google+ Hangouts seems to be a lot more effective than using the phone or Skype when conducting distance advising with students, as it has the capability of sharing/viewing files at the same time through Google docs. There are many possibilities to help make our services be more effective and open through the use of social media, we just need to take that step outside our comfort zone to become active participants and expand our knowledge in this area as the potential rewards are high.
So that’s the good or beneficial part of participating in social media, the ugly side to it refers to those who abuse that power. After reading Kuuipo’s week 3 blog, she mentions that social media also opens up the opportunity for people to bully others. This struck a chord with me, even though I thankfully never had to deal with this type of situation, and it reminded me about an article I read a few years back about cyber bullying in Japan. During my time in Japan, I was surprised to see how prevalent bullying was in both the physical and digital world there. Granted this was about 7 years ago, and social media had not yet taken off, but in Japan text messaging and emailing via cell phones were already a communicating norm. Kids as young as 10 years old could text freely with no real supervision and as a result led many to become victims of cyber bullying. The sad part is this also led to a large amount of suicides by kids not even in their teens! I would remember watching the news and see a report of a young boy or girl, who committed suicide as a result of being bullied too much, at least every other week (there were probably others not even reported on the news too). It was really disheartening, and was an issue I would talk about with my students at the high school and college level when I had the chance. As educators, parents, and adults, we all need to be aware of the threat of cyber bullying and make sure that our students and children are responsible with their power of participation in social media. The scale on how social media is used can easily tip either way, good or bad.