I have always been a lurker. I am not sure if this is my nature or my nuture. I know I THINK A LOT about what I read on my facebook newsfeed and people’s reviews on Goodreads (my two favourite social networks), I just don’t necessarily share those thoughts.
I’ve been burned a couple times. Once I despaired when someone (an up and coming YA author actually) did some spoiling for a TV show. He chastised me. I know I have been ‘unfriended’ by a couple of people on Goodreads, and I don’t know why. But I do know it’s not my issue. However, it’s hard not to take things personally.
I see kids spilling their guts online and I want to tell them to be careful and cautious. But on the other hand, I envy their nonchalance, their confidence. I recognise the power of participating, and the feeling that comes with connecting to people who ‘get’ me. I encourage students to use the discussion forums and other web 2.0 tools we set up in school settings and it’s interesting to see the way they use these differently to their own social networks. But there is a paradox in how we want them to behave there. We want them to see our tools the way they see their outside-school networks (i.e useful and a way to connect), but we also don’t want them to necessarily behave on them the same way (i.e write silly things or taunt others). It’s confusing.
Professionally over the years, I have watched seemingly innocent posts on the OzTL Net Listserve start dreadful encounters. Accusations fly around, followed by defensive counter-posts followed up by supportive cries for the initial poster, ending with calls for calm. It’s a big thing to put yourself out there. But it’s also important that we do. Online communities can be a rich experience. Just as we encourage our students to think carefully before posting, we should take our own advice. And the rewards are there if we are willing to take the risks.