My 13 year old son: Hey, Mom. Whatcha doin’?
Me: Checking out Twitter.
MTYOS: Anything new?
Me: Practically everything. But some of the same. Promise me you will never forget that anything you put on the Internet stays there forever as a reflection of you.
MTYOS: (May have rolled his eyes here a li’l bit.) Moooooooooom. I *knooooow*. (Yes. We have had this conversation before.)
Me: Okay, let me show you something…
I took my son through a couple of exchanges that someone I follow on Twitter had had and we talked about how that person was perceived. I’ve never met the man in person and only started following him around the time of a local election. My son’s reaction was as it should be, based on what I have tried to teach him and what I have tried to model for him. He was absolutely shocked. “Mom! That guy swears a lot and he seems to be picking fights with everyone. He is not being very respectful, at all! What is his problem?”
I think that seeing someone, an adult, making such a poor online identity for himself was shocking to my son, even at his age of Just Barely A Teenager. And this will springboard into more conversations around digital identity and citizenship. I wonder how this man’s spouse feels about his words and choices of interactions? Is she embarrassed? Does she feel the same way? This man is regularly called names and ridiculed and heckled for what he posts on line because he is very inflammatory and often disrespectful. Two wrongs and all that…
How will negative interactions such as these affect the posters of them? I bet it’s easy to put on a brave online face and respond (or not) to the hecklers but does the anonymous trash-talking get to a person?
I’d love to sit him down and have a talk about social media as I see it and how he is perceived by what he posts but I have a feeling it wouldn’t do any good. I will keep talking to my children and my students about it. And hope that it will, in fact, have a positive effect on them.