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?!
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) February 28, 2020
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?