Talking to the darkness

Researching social networking sites.

Are you a mom: http://www.cafemom.com/, are into fan art: http://www.deviantart.com/ or do you just chat? The world of social networking is many and varied but they all demand participation. To me this is the big thing, and it does not seem to be recognised, that social networking sites need you to participate, chat, post, poke, mail, insert, upload and even play. Whether you facebook or myspace, defined as meeting the needs of different social grouping by Danah Boyd (Danah Boyd, 2009, Living and learning with social media), they only work is you use them.

Most of my friends do not use facebook, they have pages, most of them without even profile pictures but they are mostly unused. They do email and text but it is their children who are on facebook and have me as a friend. This has been a big leaning process for me, do I accept friends children and my students as ‘friends’. Once you understand, or have you son ring you to say T… is very upset that you refused to be his friend on facebook, that this is a relationship of collection rather than social interaction, then you become a friend. I am not supposed to talk to them unless asked. There was the day when a student working in the library found me on facebook when he was desperate for help on his project. To him we are all one step away from facebook, to email me using the college system never crossed his mind.

Many parents worry about social networking sites and the possibility of access to young people by paedophiles. There is much fear and this is reinforced by school talks on e-safety. I am not saying there are no dangers but I find it much overrated. As Danah Boyd says (2009) much of what goes on on social networking sites is a continuation of what went on in classrooms and friends houses less than an hour ago. As I write this my phone beeps as another text comes in for my youngest, who has no credit so my phone is in use, as one friend from last nights sleepover is not yet at a computer. This is a world of chat which seems to apply as much to girls as boys. It has not diminished my phone bill, so they have not lost the ability to communicate verbally, but they need to keep in touch.

How does this influence education? Can we use facebook and myspace in education? In my house I have a theory about movable space. As an adult enters a space all teenagers must immediately depart. If teachers use facebook for education will this just automatically mean all young people will find a new space?

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One response

  1. Shaku

    Your last question is the one that sticks in my mind and I’ll answer it with a similar but slightly different question: in shared age-group virtual spaces if adults didn’t always feel that they had to be in control of a learning agenda, to turn everything into an opportunity for pedagogic point scoring, might the teenagers stick around in the same space for longer? The whole point about social networking is that it’s only fun if it’s between equals… as soon as power-relationships are introduced (me teacher-you student) it might no longer be considered as ‘social’ networking.

    May 24, 2009 at 9:43 am

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