Social Media Policy

Social Media Policy for School Districts

Though it’s become obvious that more students are spending time online, shockingly few school districts have anything even closely resembling a social media policy.  Even fewer schools take into consideration the behavior of the adult members of their learning communities.  This was emphasized in the recent case involving a teacher who had been posting inappropriate and rancorous comments about her students and their parents on her personal website.  It bears repeating that nothing online is private, regardless of whatever privacy settings may have been selected.

Often, the administration’s reactions to anything inappropriate online is to ban it.  Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian, found this out only recently.  Not only is this reactive, but it’s pretty useless.  The prevalence of smartphones means that students will find a way to get online, with or without school approval.  Besides, the way students interact and communicate with the world is not the way we interacted and communicated.  Plus, our world was much smaller back then.  So rather than take punitive measures, it makes more sense to teach students to become more responsible users of the internet.

However, the issues of open access in schools is tricky because a large part of it is trusting students (and staff) to use technology responsibly without exploring the murkier depths of the online world.  Furthermore, comments left by student/staff users can be inappropriate or cast a negative light on the school.  Obviously, they can’t be left on the site for the whole world to see, but isn’t removing them the same as censorship?

Though librarians are famous supporters of the First Amendment, the truth is that some compromises need to be met.  Yes, students and staff have the right to say whatever they want online, but they also have the responsibility to maintain a respectful tone and professionalism.

A good social media policy finds a middle ground between being too restrictive, which will force students and staff to rebel, and being too lax, which allows users to not take any responsibility for their online actions.  Furthermore, a social media policy should try to encompass all aspects of online participation, from using the school’s equipment and/or participating on any school-run websites/social media networks to the use of personal equipment and/or websites/networks.

The Bishop Lynch High School’s Social Media Policy hits on all of the aforementioned points and more.  It includes expectations for all the members of the learning community–students, faculty, alumni, etc.–and sets clear boundaries on what can and will not be tolerated online.  It encourages the right to express  oneself without reneging on the responsibility.  This is one of the few high school social media policies that I was even able to find online, let alone like, that I borrowed heavily from it in order to create my own policy.  The passages that are in italics are lifted directly from the school’s policy since I did not feel I could improve upon it.

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Brand monitoring: Save Libraries

Rather than monitor a brick and mortar organization, I decided to track Save Libraries, which is, according to its website, a “grassroots effort to compile information and advocacy resources for libraries that are facing devastating budget cuts.”

The save libraries movement first came to my notice when I began seeing tweets with the hashtag, #savelibraries, appearing in my Twitter feed in the wake of the library closures in England.

The tone and mood of the tweets using #savelibraries is often very positive and upbeat.  I have not seen any trolls using the hash tag to be critical or demeaning.  Most of the tweets, though, seem to be retweets of news articles or videos that voice support for the libraries.  Though Twitter obviously helps facilitate this conversation, it is not used as a means of organizing any planned protests or actions.  Though #savelibraries is still a popular conversation, I was surprised to learn that Save Libraries is actually not officially connected to the hash tag, though the end goal is still the same.

Save Libraries is also traditional website with a collection of various resources that can help struggling libraries.  The tabs make the navigation relatively easy, though all of the columns, especially due to their narrow widths and amount of information, can make the home page a bit overwhelming.  Having an index really helps organize the information more neatly since all of the information is categorized under broad topics and then alphabetized.  A really neat aspect of the site is that it has a separate “Twitter Archives” where tweets using the various hashtags followed by the Archives are stored.  Surprisingly, Save Libraries follow hashtags of local, imperiled libraries, as well as the general #savelibraries tag.

Like any good 21st century grassroots movement, Save Libraries also has a Facebook page.  This screenshot is from March 15, 2010.  The immediate thought that comes to mind is that this is not updated every day.  Even though March 11, the date of the most recent post, was only a four days ago, that is an eternity (almost) in internet time.

UPDATE: a new video has been posted to the site.

Scrolling down the page also reveals some other problems.  There are a couple of posts, like Lisa Cohn and Nancy Denofio’s (the latter is cut off), that are not directly related to the Save Libraries movement and are mostly personal.  Even though Cohn is trying to help her library win books,  her post does not provide any useful resource or information that can be used to help other libraries.

One other issue is the spam.  It is unclear who is responsible for updating and maintaining the Facebook page and though there aren’t many spam posts, the problem is that the nobody has taken the step of deleting the ones that are there.

This was originally posted last December and, as of March 15, is still on the Wall.  Though most readers seem to have ignored the post, as you can see from the comment, at least one person has noticed and reacted negatively (obviously, considering the content of the spam) to it.  As far as spam posts go, this one looks as if it was sent by an actual Facebook user and any visitor curious about the organization could have seen that post and possibly even formed some erroneous conclusions about the group.

One of the challenges of monitoring this “brand” is that it is not really regulated by any one individual or group.  Though there is a Facebook page and website that somebody is clearly maintaining, Save Libraries, the rallying cry, is open to anyone.  For example, typing “Save Libraries” into You Tube will find a long list of videos relating to, well, saving libraries. Some of these videos have been posted by the institutions themselves while others are newsclips or even home videos of rallies.

There is a savelibraries channel, too, but there’s no indication that the ones behind the website are also those who are maintaining the YouTube channel.  As of March 15, there are only four videos found on the channel with no subscriptions or subscribers.

Libraries need all the help they can get and the effort is really appreciated.  But only by those who are aware of it.  As a resource, the website does a great job collecting information, though the same cannot be said for its information dissemination skills.  The Facebook page has only 3,934 “likes”, while “Freaks and Geeks”, a television series canceled after only one season has 160, 378 “likes”.  In addition to some of the maintenance and issues that are simple to repair, Save Libraries-the resource, the conversation, the YouTube channel-needs to somehow do a better job of marketing itself.  Just by having a webpage or a hash tag isn’t enough.  Ideally, all of these various social media tools can come under the leadership of one unified group or individual so that they can be coordinated.  As it stands now, with all these independents all trying to “save libraries”, nothing is really organized, which is a shame, considering that all of these tools used together can really make a palpable impact.

Just for fun, here’s Alan Moore on libraries:


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Speaking of communities

I am particularly fascinated by the communities of blogging parents that seem to have sprung up almost overnight.  Though I’m not a parent, I sometimes end up reading the different “mommy” and “daddy” blogs and even subscribing to some.  Eventually, I’ll realize that I’m being kind of crazy and becoming totally invested in a family that is not mine and then I’ll unsubscribe, only to find other blogs and starting the whole cycle again.

The New York Times Magazine has a profile about Heather Armstrong, who almost single-handedly started the mommy blogging craze.  This profile also mentions several other famous names, one of whom may see her life story turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.  Armstrong’s blog has become so successful that she and her husband quit their jobs and basically live on the revenue produced by their blogs.  ReadWriteWeb also interviewed Armstrong about her 10 years of blogging and they discussed just how much the web has changed in those 10 years.  One comment that I found interesting is when Armstrong says that if Facebook or Twitter had been around when she had started blogging, she would not be where she is now.  I was also interested to learn that she has expanded  her blogging empire by introducing forums, which allows greater interaction among her readers, thus cementing their connections and creating even more of a community among her loyal readers, and when I say loyal, I mean loyal.  (Just try and write something remotely negative about her in her comments section.  I dare you.)

Sometimes, being a part of an online community isn’t just about joining a chat room or a discussion board or a forum.  It can be as simple as following the same blogs and participating in the comments section.  Though I jokingly mentioned just how involved I would become in the lives of these strangers, the truth is that there are some readers and commentors who truly and really feel as if they are part of the family.

We have a tendency to oversimplify our interactions online, but the truth is that relationships formed on the web are just as complex as relationships in the real world.  Most of the parent bloggers started out in order to connect with other parents and form a network of support.  The better writers with greater staying power managed to find some followers and they become a different subset of community.  There are daddy bloggers and mommy bloggers.  There are minority bloggers (who, for some reason, tend to be mostly dads, not moms) and there are bloggers from the dominant culture.  While the original reason for blogging may have been to find resources for their upcoming adventures in parenting, many have found these communities surprisingly lucrative.

I don’t think we can, or should, underestimate just how much power these communities have in shaping our ideas and forming our identities.


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Born Digital pt. 2

ALA Tech Source tweeted my video today!  Thanks, Ariel, for bringing it to my attention.

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Born Digital

Stephen Abram posted my book report on his site!

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One month, in 2007, the New York Times ran two stories about going online. The first article attempts to placate parent fears about the dangers of going online, but just a few weeks later, the same paper reports that more teens are actually experiencing more cyberbullying. With conflicting messages like this, it’s no surprise that people are often confused by what it means to go online and participate in online communities.
When I was younger, I didn’t really join any chat rooms or belong to any groups online. However, in college, in what can be called a rite of passage for any minority, I became interested in exploring my cultural identity and joined some groups online. Some were pretty innocuous, such as a group of Asian bloggers who had formed a community and interacted via our blogs and the site’s discussion boards, while others were a bit more vocal about activism. It was during this time that I had my first real experience with cyberbullying and I was the victim. As a response to a member’s post about how he believed his teacher was racist because the teacher constantly picked on the member, I asked if there were any other extenuating factors, such as the member’s classroom behavior, which could explain the teacher’s actions. I explained that I thought assuming racism is a dangerous step and being labeled as a racist is incredibly damaging, especially without proof. Almost immediately, the backlash started, not just from the original poster but from the other members of that particular group.
Fortunately, with the exception of 1 or 2 nasty emails from a particularly persistent member, the harassment ended when I left that group and I was left with a few lesson from this experience:

  1. You can’t always expect people to be reasonable and logical. This is especially true when you’re online. The members of that group claimed to be activists, but I learned that for most of them, activism wasn’t that different from racism. As far as I can recall, that site was a platform used by most of the members to rant and gripe about real and/or perceived instances of racism without much effort at education or real action.
  2. Every cloud has a silver lining.  While I had a negative experience with that (and one other) group, the online community of bloggers ended up being so much more rewarding in terms of enrichment and personal connections.  Though the actual site is no longer available (lack of time and funds to run it), most of us have found each other again on Facebook, Twitter, and even Foursquare and we continue to interact with each other through these platforms.
  3. Online communities aren’t that different from offline communities.  Aside from the lack of inhibition, I think most people stay true to their characters online.  The people that I clashed with in that one group are most likely people with whom I would not get along in real life, whereas I would probably continue to get along well with the members of the online blogging community.  Actually, I do know that I will get along with them since I’ve met a few of them in real life.

So are online communities safe?  Yes.  Is there cyberbullying?  Yes.  This doesn’t mean that we should let young children navigate the internet without supervision, but this also doesn’t mean that we should forbid any young user from going online.  Just like we use common sense and caution in navigating our offline lives, we should do the same for our online ones.


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The rebel leader

In light of the recent political upheavals, I think it’s interesting to take a look at Harvard Business Review’s article about leadership vs. rebellion. It’s pretty easy for us to automatically assume that the person who is rebelling against the establishment, or conventional wisdom, is one who is capable of leading.  Sometimes, this can be true.  At other times, this can be disastrous.  For Robespierre, the Reign of Terror, of which he was the main instigator, did not end well.

I think the American mindset is one that embraces the idea of the rebel because of our history.  After all, America would not be what it is today if it had not rebelled against England.  We admire James Dean and Jack Kerouac.  We secretly (or not-so-secretly) wish we could be like them.  However, in practice, we are often critical of the lone dissenter and dismiss his/her observations.  After all, the rebel criticizes and destroys.  The rebel creates conflict.  So why on earth would we want a rebel as a leader?

In truth, there may not be much of a difference between the rebel and the leader. According to the aforementioned article,

  • To rebel is to push against something. To lead is to advocate for an idea.
  • To rebel is to say “heck no.” To lead is to say “we will.”
  • To rebel is to deny the authority of others. To lead is to invoke your own authority.

The line between a rebel and a leader is razor thin.  Often the difference lies solely on the mindset and attitude of the individual who is attempting to lead.  Sometimes, an individual can start out as a rebel and will only be vindicated as a leader by history.  Sometimes, perceptions may be biased depending on where the individual stands on certain issues.

While the author of the article goes on to suggest using a less polarizing term to describe these individuals, she does conclude by saying, “You can be a rebel without being a leader, but you can rarely be an effective leader without having a little bit of rebel in you”.

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