I’m enjoying a great family trip to Ireland and Norway as I type this post, and am sharing photos with friends and family through my Instagram account. This is my 4th trip to Ireland, and I greatly enjoy the people, the scenery, the vacation mindset while I’m here, and the beer. As you browse through my photos you’ll see Irish scenery, photos of my wife and kids, and then the different beers I’m sampling on our trip.
Just like I’m picky about the beer I drink (you won’t see me drinking fizzy yellow beer), I’m also careful about how I represent myself on my social media accounts. I know that I have several current students who follow me on Instagram, have a few school parents as friends on Facebook, and my Twitter account is open for anyone to see. While I am entitled to a life as private individual when I’m not at work, I recognize that I don’t have a dual digital existence that excuses me from poor or questionable behavior in the digital world. Who I am in person is who I am online. There is no digital dualism for me.
You won’t see photos of me making a fool of myself at a tavern (thankful for the lack of digital photography and social media when I was an undergrad). You won’t see obscene language used by me in my social accounts. While I occasionally pay attention to the #beerporn Instagram tag, I don’t use that term myself. The worst you might see from me in my digital activity is a #twss tag. You won’t see me whining about or being unfairly critical of others. If I have a concern, need to vent, or share sensitive information, there are plenty of digital tools that allow that to be handled in a private manner.
One change that I’ve made in the past couple years with how I use my Instagram account occurred as the result of a good conversation with friend and doctoral cohort mate, Todd Norton. He noticed that I had photos of students from my school mixed in with some of my beer photos and asked if that ever caused concern for myself or others. There weren’t any concerns that I was aware of, but he made a good point. How might someone feel if they saw a picture of their child among my beer photos? If they know me well enough, there probably wouldn’t be any concern. However, I don’t know all of my school parents and I’d rather err on the side of caution for this issue. As we learned on Ghostbusters, don’t cross the streams. I deleted all my school photos from my IG feed and now use a Facebook pages account to share my school photos with my school community.
I know that this type of careful online behavior is common for educators, and this is done for a variety of reasons. Some people don’t want to share their private life online, some want to avoid situations that might jeopardize their employment, but most of us want to be good role models for our students and children.
How I behave online (in person too) models how I would like to see my own two kids represent themselves and use digital technology. Learn a lot. Have fun. Be helpful. Be respectful.
For other Principals are People Too posts, see these from…
For some additional reading about digital dualism and life in this very connected world, do check out the work of Nathan Jurgensen at Cyborgology.