Click. Snap. Now What? Is Privacy A Reality These Days?

A lot of my professional life is online. You just have to look to my Twitter and Instagram accounts to see my daily sharing of reflections, classroom learning, professional blog posts, and a few conversations thrown in between. With 187, 100 tweets and 15, 564 Instagram posts, it would appear that I chat just as much in the social media realm as I do in person … maybe more. 🙂 But recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about our sharing limits.

For the past few summers, I’ve been the Camp Power Summer Curriculum and Site Support Teacher for one of two Camp Power locations. Just as parents do during the school year, they sign one of our Media Consent Agreements, which allows us to share student work, images, and conversations through social media. Both the other Site Lead and myself do a lot of sharing through the Camp Power Twitter account, and just as I do during the school year, when characters are restricted, I post to Instagram and cross-post to Twitter. Perfect! I know who has given permission and who hasn’t, and my lack of great photography skills combined with my interest in some degree of anonymity, means that I try to focus more on hands and voices and less on faces. Some facial shots do make it into these tweets though, and I’m fine with that, as parents have given permission.

I thought that I was doing due diligence until a couple of years ago, when a staff member made me pause and re-think my approach. We had some special visitors to camp one day, and media was certainly going to be a part of this visit. Everyone knew. Special signatures were required. One staff member came up quietly to me on the morning of the event, and asked if she could be in a different space away from the cameras. “I’ve had an experience with domestic violence, and I don’t want to be caught on camera,” she said. What?! In all of my attention to student permission, I never even thought about asking staff if they were okay with my many photographs and videos. Was this staff member a part of some of my Twitter posts so far? I quickly went back to double check, and thankfully found out that she wasn’t captured. A close call. A lucky break. All I know is that from that moment on, I tried to be better at asking for permission before sharing photographs and videos. This included adult permission as well as student permission.

As many people that follow me know, our day is regularly all over social media. My teaching partner, Paula, commented to me the other day how she used to be worried about what she looked like in a photograph and video, and now she’s just accustomed to it being her new normal. Strangely enough, this comment was made just after I took a selfie (not my best one) of the two of us for my ETFO online picket contribution. Wouldn’t you know that this tweet was featured in the ETFO Newsletter?! 

As the Kindergarten teacher next door came to tell me the news, I was reminded of the fact that you just never know. With the ease of capturing images and videos on a hand-held device and sharing it widely, I think we’re almost in a world where avoiding social media is hard to do.

I think of when I go to a new restaurant. What do I do first? I often check out the Instagram and Facebook posts on this restaurant. What are these posts filled with? Images of both food and people: not just the people taking the pictures, but those in the background. Did everyone grant permission to be included in these photographs? I’m guessing that they didn’t, and yet, here they are.

I realize that it’s hard to hide from public sharing, and yet, I come back to this staff member’s comment from a few year’s ago. We don’t know everyone’s story. Pause for a moment and even think about me. I might be incredibly public when it comes to my professional life, but beyond book recommendations and a few dog photographs, I don’t share a lot online about my personal life. In fact, as surprising as it is for some people, I don’t have a Facebook account … and I don’t want one. I thought about this recently when reading Diana Maliszewski‘s recent blog post. We all have our limits. Just because we share part of ourselves online, doesn’t mean we’re comfortable with sharing all of ourselves. How might we respect each other’s limits? Is it always possible to ask for permission before sharing? I’m coming to reflect a lot on privacy limitations in our current societal reality. Maybe we can’t stop all sharing, but in the meantime, I’m going to try to remember to always ask first before posting. A simple solution, but maybe in and of itself, it is enough. What about you?


2 thoughts on “Click. Snap. Now What? Is Privacy A Reality These Days?

  1. You are amazing, Aviva! I’ve been taking lots of pics on the picket line, and I’m trying to remember to ask if people are okay with their photo being shared, and with being tagged. It’s so important. When I first started to talk to students about this issue (seems like eons ago!), I was at a school where we had students who could not be in photos, for security reasons. I had to let students know that they couldn’t assume that everyone they were catching in their fun photos of friends was allowed to have pictures taken.

    We do forget this as adults. We forget that we’re supposed to be models of all the things we ask our students to do. My Instagram account is public, and many of my students follow me, so I have to be constantly aware of what I’m posting, and the Social media habits I’m following! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I love how you mentioned your discussion with students years ago. As more students are sharing online — be it Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. — it’s good for them to realize the importance of asking for permission first and not assuming that everyone is okay with this sharing. Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget how public these spaces can be, and that we do need to be cognizant of this. I also don’t think that private accounts are the answer. I have public Twitter and Instagram accounts, and I choose public because of something that Jared Bennett (@mrjarbenne) spoke to me about when I first started tweeting. He mentioned that an account is only as private as the first person who screenshots a post and shares it on Facebook. It happens. Taking a screenshot is easy to do. I totally respect when parents, students, and/or other educators ask me not to share something, but I also want this decision to be made regardless of if it’s public or private.

      It’s interesting how you also mentioned your public Instagram account. I think about similar things: not only in terms of what I post, but also in terms of what I like. If people see my name associated with a post, am I okay with that? It’s interesting how much time I sometimes spend on this decision. I wonder if others find the same. Thanks for extending this very important discussion!


      P.S. I should also mention that I make mistakes ALL of the time, and post things sometimes without asking (or assuming that everyone is good with the decision). We’re human. But Diana’s post from last week along with my experience from a few years ago, were good reminders for me to slow down and ask more often.

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