Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Twitter is whatever users want it to be...

A lot of the chatter in the Boston-area over the last few days has been about some nasty Twitter comments made about the 17-year old daughter of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. This whole story began over the weekend when Curt tweeted a congratulatory Tweet to his daughter Gabby regarding the fact that she will attend Salve Regina College next year and be a member of the softball team.  Unfortunately, this celebratory tweet from Curt to his daughter brought out some vulgar tweets from people who are not fans of Schilling. If you are out of the loop on this story, which has now gone national, you can read about it here on Schilling's Blog (Warning - Schilling's article shares some of the x-rated tweets that were made).  I have also listed a few links at the bottom of this post from news sources who have covered this story.

Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, my reason for writing this post is not to editorialize on the Schilling situation.  Instead, I would like to defend the use of Twitter which I heard classified by local sports radio host Michael Felger as "a sewer." The interesting thing about Felger's commentary about Twitter is that he does not use it himself.  How can someone who does not understand the scope of Twitter declare that it is something vile? For me this is akin to denigrating a movie that you have not seen, a book that you have not read, or a location that you have not visited.

Is it fair to make final judgements on cities, towns, or countries because of the negative headlines that are coming out of that location. No, I think we need to go a bit deeper and find out both the negative and the positive of places before making a decision. The reality here in regards to Twitter is that it is a microcosm of the world we live in.  If you hang out in a bad area of a town or city known for a certain type of criminal behavior, then you are going to see more criminal behavior.

Twitter is an amplifier

So let's look at this incident in regards to the area that it emanated from, the sporting world. Unfortunately, the trend in our country (and probably beyond) is that people who are fans of a particular team or athlete take their passions about that individual or team to a level that is well beyond the lines of decency that we expect. The same can be said for Twitter-based conversations that are related to athletes or teams. While we see many comments that are inappropriate, it is a lot more common to stumble on some negative and/or offensive comments than you would find regarding some other topic.

My point here is that Twitter amplifies conversations bit it does not change the standard on its own. Pick some of the opposite sides of the spectrum out there (i.e. Red Sox-Yankees, Patriots-Jets, Democrat-Republican) and you are more likely to run into some conversations, both in-person and on Twitter, that cross the lines of decency.  Twitter is not the issue, but I will give in to the point that there are a lot of people who will say things online that they would not say in person. But again, the main thing here is that a discussion that lends itself to venomous comments takes new heights and is amplified on Twitter.

My Six Years on Twitter have been extremely positive

For me, Twitter has been a godsend that has connected me with educators from all over the world. I have seen very isolated instances of nastiness and would call the stream of information of which I partake the furthest thing in the world from the "sewer" that Michael Felger describes Twitter as. The connections with the fine educators I have connected with on Twitter have opened the door for endless learning opportunities for me, for teachers, and for students.

In addition, our use of these tools in our school community has helped us have conversations with our students about navigating this digital world and helping them avoid some of the negative aspects of social media. It has helped us build a sense of community by the use of a school and district hashtag (#bhschat and #bpschat) to share news and successes.

Of course I could ramble on and cite countless examples of the connections that have taken place on Twitter over the past six years for me and others I know, but the important thing is why it is happening. We know where to go and where to look for the constructive conversations that we seek and I find it insulting to be thought of as someone who hangs out in a "sewer." There are a number of amazing hashtag-based chats that allow educators to have constructive and meaningful conversations with others who share our passions about students and learning.

There are some nasty things happening on Twitter for sure, but that is not indicative of the intentions of the majority of Twitter users. Those people who use Twitter for positive ends know this and those who refuse to partake should refrain from jumping to drastic conclusions.  While social media may not be for you, please don't insult my right to use it.

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