I am a Twitter fanatic, if you ask anyone, in particular my husband, they will tell you how often I quote something that I learned abut from this social media or how this or that idea came from there. Twitter has enriched my life in ways that I would never imagined when I first signed on a few years ago. In fact, Twitter has radically changed the way I teach and the way I think. Not bad for 140 characters.
As I get more involved with Twitter and the people that I connect with though, I am starting to wonder whether Twitter to me has become the ultimate cop out? By reaching out through the internet, limiting myself mostly to blog posts (which are pretty one-sided) and 140 character tweets, am I shutting off real face-to-face collaboration? You see Twitter doesn’t talk back all that much or go to the teacher’s lounge and roll its eyes. Twitter doesn’t go to your principal laughing at the new hare-brained idea that was just presented. In short, Twitter doesn’t make me take a risk. If I offer up an idea I seldom get negative feedback, instead some people take the time to praise it and often comment. I do the same for others, in fact, I hardly ever discuss something in negative terms unless everyone else is. So Twitter becomes the ultimate safety net where we are not forced out of our comfort zones but instead selectively choose who we care to share with and listen to. But I wonder whether that is “real life?” Or does it even need to be?
It struck me today as I read one of my student’s blog posts about what was missing in 4th grade. Her comment was that she wished we did more with the other 4th grade classes. And she is so right; that is missing from this year. And not because we don’t want to, the initiative just never gets taken. Instead we create global connections which have been incredible parts of our school year, yet perhaps we forgot about our local connection in the bigger picture. bAnd yet it is those local connections that radically determine our day, it is those local connections that see all our flaws and strengths, that see us grow without a lens. Those people that can have the most profound effect on us.
At school when I have an idea I have to find people willing to participate in it, someone whom I trust enough to listen to me and who will then weigh their options. I have to make my case and put myself out there for possible rejection, and it hurts when something gets shot down. Yet it is through these awkward moments of self-selling that we become bigger people and a tighter knit school community. Let’s face it, it takes real courage to speak up at a staff meeting surrounded by your everyday peers. Does it take courage to speak up on Twitter?
So I guess I leave you with this question; has Twitter strengthened your local relationships as well or has it made it easier for you to forget about them? Are we all, in fact, just hiding behind our computers waiting for someone like-minded to come and find us? I am not sure anymore.