a guide to friending/tweeting/blogging with non-peers

Ok, so having throughly convinced you in my last post that using social media with non-peers is extremely important...I want to make a list of guiding principles for connecting with non-peers on social media sites. While I have thought carefully about this, I am the first to admit that this is a primary list. As a society, I we are all still learning how to use these tools, so I'd love to hear your feedback, experiences, horror stories, inspirational stories, etc. So, without further ado, a guide to using social media with non-peers in safe and effective ways:

  • DO understand your privacy settings. Yes, they change all the time, and they are a pain, but you must understand how to use them.... and you must review them fairly frequently. Know how to keep your information from being publicly searchable. Know how to use Facebook lists as categories of people for privacy settings. Also, when you connect to someone immediately put them on a list/circle that places them in a certain category of privacy. Then if your relationship to them changes later, you can change their group/circle. Lastly, don't let other people post (tag you in posts or photos) about you without your approval.
  • DO post, tweet, and blog about personal stuff. Demonstrate that you are a whole person, show what you care about, show how you spend your free time, show how your professional life impacts your personal life. Use social media as a way to show your friends what you do professionally and your colleagues what you do in your personal life. In both cases, they will appreciate your openness, and sharing these details will help your friend understand you better and build rapport with your colleagues.
  • DO use Twitter hashtags, retweets, and replies to connect and engage with organizations, celebrities, and politicians. Be respectful (of course!) and assume that everyone in the world can read what you've written, but engage! There is so much collaborative potential there, so we need to take advantage of it.
  • DO live tweet at professional conferences and bonus knowledge events. Those tweets will get your name out there, and it will be super useful to other people either in the room or who couldn't attend. It also shows that you are involved in the field and care about attending events.
  • DON'T post anything that you wouldn't say to the person's face. Although they are important, you cannot be sure that privacy settings will be consistent at all times. You can't be sure that someone won't retweet or share your post with the person that you didn't want to see what you wrote. You must assume that everything you write and post is available to anyone who wants to find it badly enough. Because of that, but more importantly because it is an important part of embodying feminist politics and community, you must learn to voice your critiques in respectful, careful, and productive ways. You must learn to think about the implications of your words before you speak and post. Name calling, hate speech, and being inconsiderate are unacceptable offline and online alike.
  • DON'T use separate profiles for professional and personal communications. You are one person; be one person. Using two profiles undermines that potential of these technologies to encourage transparency, to challenges hierarchies of power, and to make ourselves helpfully vulnerable to others. Now, let me say that I understand that some people must use two profiles because they are engaged in work that causes some threat to their well-being. If that is the case, then by all means, do what you must. However, if you find yourself able, I strongly encourage you to use one profile because I think doing so  models some important feminism commitments (as described above).
  • DON'T use social media to vent. Venting is for best friends, spouses, and therapists, but not for public consumption. You will lose followers if all you do is complain, and you will get in trouble with the people you are complaining about...so just don't do it.
  • DON'T pretend to be or have something that you don't. Don't pretend to be more important than you are, because that will come back to bite you. But also don't pretend to be less than you are because denying the power that you have is an abuse of power.
  • DON'T pursue connections with people over whom you have power. Let them pursue the connection with you. It seems to me that a student might feel compelled to accept my friend request because they believe that their grade depends on it, and that feels like an abuse of power. I wait for my students and athletes to connect to me.
  • DON'T post pictures of yourself doing anything that is irresponsible. This means no pictures of breaking the law, company policy, or ethical standards. If you are breaking rules as a purposeful act of protest, take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe, but that is not what I mean by irresponsibility here. What I mean is that if you are simply being irresponsible (this includes excessive nudity or alcohol consumption) as a way to blow off stem, don't document that irresponsibility. Or better yet, try not to be irresponsible.... try to find other ways to let off steam.
  • DON'T live tweet/post every detail of your whole life. It's annoying, boring, and over share. It means you'll lose followers, and it likely means you aren't posting things that are particularly meaningful which means people will assume that you don't think particularly meaningful thoughts.
  • And finally, DO think carefully about the implications of all of your posts. In fact, I recommend that you compose a post, then think about something entirely different for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, reread your post and see if it still seems helpful and appropriate.


Additionally, as a teacher/mentor:

  • DO require your students to use these technologies. Make assignments that require them to blog or tweet. Students need to learn to use these technologies in safe and effectively ways. They need to learn to speak and write publicly. They need to learn to function in an online world. And we must help them learn those skills while the stakes are low. This also applies to co-workers that are under your mentorship.
  • DO communicate openly (and face to face) with your department chairs/deans/bosses about how and why you are using social media. It seems to me that most of the resistance/difficulties people have with implementing social media practices and assignments is that other people don't understand why and how they are making this change. If communication is established early on, much of that resistance can be avoided.
  • DO have a class session devoted to discussing technological responsibility. This includes consideration of the risks involved with these technologies and some mutually agreed upon practices for minimizing those risks. This may include talking through some of the bullet points listed in this post. In the classroom setting, this should also include very detailed descriptions of what is expected with regard to these assignments (re: summary content, analytical content, frequency of posts, length of posts, grading rubrics, etc.)
  • DO learn from your students. Ask students how to do things! Working together to learn the technologies helps students realize and analyze their own behaviors, and it is mutually beneficial. Again, this also applies to co-workers that are under your mentorship.


Question time:

(Please do take a minute to comment; I really would love to hear from you!)

What have your experiences been using social media with non-peers? Have you found it difficult? Rewarding?

Do you have any other suggestions to add to this list?

Do you disagree with any of these points?