I was a little slow to jump onto the social media bandwagon. I participated in the early days of AOL and AIM, back when I was in high school and my first years of college in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but I took a break from social media for a while after that. I was a late-comer to Facebook and still don’t have Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. More recently, I’ve been finding myself using social media more and more, and the main reason behind that is parenthood.
Having a baby is an amazing event, but it can also be very isolating, especially in the early days and when your nearby friends don’t yet have children. During pregnancy, I commiserated with other women due in the same month as me on a BabyCenter birth month forum as we experienced the ups and downs and hormones together. Various Facebook groups have helped me connect to other moms and parents and helped me find information on things like the best way to wash our cloth diapers and babywearing while also helping me feel less alone in the struggle to keep up with my baby, house, husband, work, and school. On days when everything is crazy and none of my real-life friends are available, I always have a supportive online community to fall back on.
I don’t think social media is always so constructive. There are certainly plenty of parts of social media that are negative. Finding the pieces that enrich rather than detract is the key, not only in personal life but also in education.
Social media is beginning to have a greater impact on education. Other than the obvious “kids are spending too much time on Facebook and twitter and it’s taking away from study time and making them illiterate” effect that we so commonly hear about, sites like http://openstudy.com/ are popping up, with forums for homework help in all different subjects. On OpenStudy, you can ask and answer homework questions about any subject. It’s like a giant study hall. Students get medals and trophies for answering questions, and can follow other students by becoming fans. I think this can be a great resource if truly used to help learn, and not just to have someone else do your homework for you. I also think that the act of explaining how to do problems or questions is a great way to gain a better understanding of a subject. I know that for myself, tutoring math has really helped me gain a better understanding of many concepts.
I think the bottom line is that social media is not going away, and therefore we need to embrace it and use it for beneficial purposes. This article by Todd Finley examines not only the futility of resisting social media, but also how to avoid some pitfalls that teachers are prone to.
I think social media has simultaneously made our culture more and less connected. We can easily connect to people all over the world, but often ignore the person sitting on the other side of the couch in favor of our phone. I think as an individual, one has to decide where their personal line is drawn – when is it time to put down the device and connect to the present place and moment?
For me, it’s when I hear, “Mama, mama” being called out and make the decision that my daughter is more worthy of my attention than any amount of chat groups and internet acquaintances.