Social Media: The Ideal Scenario
Despite my interest in the networked component of online technologies for teaching and learning, I haven’t quite settled on its place in my life or where it fits well in the learning ecosystem. While I am enamored with Levy’s depiction of collaborative learning through a “collective intelligence” as described below, I am cynical about design decisions for these platforms encouraging a culture steeped more in consumption and less in true collaboration. Before diving into cynicism, however, let’s start with the possibilities:
People add explicit knowledge to the common memory. They express what they have learned in particular contexts (tacit knowledge) into clear and decontextualized propositions, or narratives, or visuals, etc. They translate into common software or other easily accessible resources (explicit) the skills and knowledge that they have internalized in their personal reflexes through their experience (tacit). Symmetrically, people try to apply whatever useful resources they have found in the common memory (explicit) and to acquire or integrate it into their reflexes (tacit). (Levy)
In a nutshell, social media platforms and online communities have the potential to leverage knowledge at global and/or deeply specific levels. That knowledge then becomes a “collective” that benefits everyone.
Quitting Social Media
That being said my historical usage, maybe even most people’s usage, does not reflect this ideal. There have been periods of time where I was more engaged with Facebook as part of my social interaction on an almost daily basis. It was the place to see what was happening with everyone, to reconnect, to keep a digital journal of sorts of my friends, my interactions, my memories…, But that ended when criminals studied my social media presence to impersonate me and con my grandma out of a significant money by claiming that I was “stuck in a prison across the border” and needed money to get out. My information was a very real product, and it took these unfortunate circumstances to fully appreciate that. I subsequently stopped posting personal content and deleted most of my accounts.
As it turned out, leaving social media behind wasn’t so simple. Many of my friends and family held it against me that I had “disappeared”, despite having my phone number and despite my efforts to reach out here and there over the phone myself. I found myself being out-of-the-loop on a consistent basis in both circles. And so I appreciated Rob Horning’s take on the difficulty of leaving social media outright:
It’s hard to escape the idea of a “connected world” all around you, and there is no denying that being online metes out “connectedness” in measured, addictive doses. But those doses contain real sociality, and they are reshaping society collectively. Whether or not you use social media personally, your social being is affected by that reshaping. You don’t get to leave all of society’s preoccupations behind. (Horning)
Where does that leave those of us who want to leverage these platforms, but don’t like the direction that our collective use of social media is taking us? I don’t like the idea of being addicted, I have a hard enough time concentrating, and I crave more meaningful connections with people and ideas than what is typical of social media platforms. And yet, as Horning says, my approach isn’t going to change the collective impact of millions of users across the world who are embracing these platforms.
Recommitting to Social Media
And so inevitably, inexorably, I have started dipping my feet back in to these platforms. My goal however, is to change the nature of my relationship with them. More specifically, I want to employ them within the bounds of Levy’s ideal. How can I purposefully approach these platforms as avenues for collaborative learning? What level of engagement will balance psychological compulsion with productivity, personality with product? Later this year I’ll be writing a follow up to reflect on how it goes.
Are You Using Social Media or Being Used By It? – Study Hacks – Cal Newport. http://calnewport.com/blog/2017/10/02/are-you-using-social-media-or-being-used-by-it/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.
Horning, Rob. “Social Media Is Not Self-Expression.” The New Inquiry, 14 Nov. 2014, https://thenewinquiry.com/blog/social-media-is-not-self-expression/.
Levy, Pierre. “Collective Intelligence for Educators.” Pierre Levy’s Blog, 14 Apr. 2015, https://pierrelevyblog.com/2015/04/14/collective-intelligence-for-educators/.