Please Do Not Silence Me on Twitter

The grandest lecture hall on campus.This post was triggered after reading a few blog posts lately about how “twitter is not the same as it was a few years ago” for educators. There’s no need to mention any names, partly because it’s unnecessary and because there are actually a few blogs out there with a similar narrative.

These blogs tell educators that Twitter is not as small as it was a few years ago when they joined . That twitter is not about learning and connecting, but rather it’s about self-promotion and self-brags. That people retweet compliments of themselves from others, or retweet their own work that people share etc etc.

This type of narrative does not take into consideration many different aspects of twitter’s use by educators. This type of narrative also works to make educators feel ashamed and unwilling to share and use twitter in the same way out of fear of scrutiny and judgement from these writers.

This to consider when judging educators’ use of twitter:

  • Hierarchies:
      It’s so important to talk about power structures and hierarchies on twitter. I will save the details for another post, because it’s a complex issue. However, the educators that are writing these posts fail to see their own positions in these hierarchies.

Are you an educator that has thousands and thousands of followers?

    Yes? then you do not need to Self-brag or share much compliments about yourself simply because you have these followers to reaffirm your self-worth (I will go into the concept of self-worth based on number of followers in my detailed post). Are you a white male educator whom also happens to have thousands and thousands of followers? (keep in mind those who are critics of Educators’ twitter use are mostly white male educators) Then you’re in a position of power thereby telling what might be a minority group in education to not self promote? to not self-brag? Why not? We should be proud of our accomplishments. Because believe it or not, it takes 4x the same effort that you spend to get to same position as you, if that even happens (typing this truth is so difficult because it reaffirms their own self-worth right back, but needed to be stated).
  • Time: Some educators who are excited about twitter’s use as professional development are still genuinely excited and inspired by their PLN. To them, twitter is not too big and does not contain too many people, to them it’s about the relationships they’re building, and the connections they’re making and the learning they’re acquiring. I ask about people’s kids on twitter, about someone’s bad day, about a pregnant teacher’s day. It’s all very much real and authentic. And even if a lot of time has been lapsed since joining twitter, time is essential here because to these educators, it’s still like they just joined twitter, and here is why authenticity is important. The interactions and connections are real, they’re not for points.
  • Intentions: There are many reasons for educators to retweet and share on twitter. Yes of course there are the self-promoters and self-brag moments, but there are moments where you want to thank people for sharing, and a simple thank you does not do their kind words justice, sharing it will show them how much you appreciate it. It’s thoughtful, and it’s kind. I see it this way because those are my intentions why I share and retweet compliments. If others see it any other way, perhaps they should evaluate their own actions and beliefs. Could it be that you are actually intend to self-promote when you retweet?
  • Voice: When educators see that other educators are judging their use of professional development on twitter, especially marginalized educators (Re: race, gender, class etc) they will rethink their use, and might even stop using twitter because the space is no longer safe. You are in turn silencing educators by not only judging their use of twitter, but telling them how to use it.

Solution? Live and let live!

Get the most out of Twitter according to your own needs. Do not judge your own use by others’. Even better, do not judge others for their use, especially when most educators out there are just trying to connect and be better teachers for their students.

At the heart of most educators on twitter is their teaching, and when I don’t feel authenticity in the connection anymore, I disconnect and so should you. My solution? Keep your connections real and you won’t be seeing the “problems” of which you speak.

14 thoughts on “Please Do Not Silence Me on Twitter

  1. I am so proud to know you. I could never have said what you just said in the beautiful way you said it. I honestly applauded your blog post while sitting alone in my living room. There is so much truth in your words and I know it can be so scary to say them. When attempting to point out white, straight, male privilige it is always scary to think that people might not hear your message but instead only become defensive. I agree with what you’ve said here one hundred percent and I believe it needs saying by people who are as smart and articulate as you. You are so inspiring and I hope people take what you’ve said here to heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jessica and Rusul, when I complain about the very things you mention above it is because there is a real lack of community feeling that I remember. Of course we know how reliable memories are… We absolutely must create pockets of community through sharing our personal stories as you mention, rarely is the value in the thousands that follow or who we follow but instead in the one or two we can count on consistently.

      The truth is, if more of us were writing these kinds of posts there would be less complaining by me about how shallow Twitter sometimes feels. We need to promote the new voices who are thinking more deeply than a jingoist tweet.

      I am sorry you feel that Twitter isn’t a safe place to share these thoughts. I believe that the community I keep on Twitter would not attack (although I know it happens and have had it happen to myself a time or two.) Ultimately though, I wish you had had the opportunity to share in that early community so you could judge for yourself if Twitter is not as great of a place as it once was (and also so you would have the number of followers the early adopters are blessed with 🙂

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      1. It’s not that I do not feel it’s safe now, it’s the conversations that judge the use of twitter that make it for a not positive space to share. To be honest, I haven’t seen you in a conversation like that, probably missed it? I see the echo chambers and they need to be challenged. I’m specifically talking about the idea that twitter is used to self promote and self brag because of retweets and sharing our own posts. That’s not a fair judgement to many new educators who are genuinely still excited about the space to connect and learn. If they want to retweet a compliment they should be able to without feeling of guilt. I am hesitant to voice many of my point of views on twitter, but slowly learning to. It is a safe space but still not as open minded as I would’ve hoped it would be. Though yes through blogs like this and conversations I’m hoping it will be. I do also see many “brag” and self-promo tweets but to be honest, people see right through it, and if there’s any room for it, it’s social media.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree. I never feel attacked, but I do often feel ignored. Not in the sense that people don’t like what I say, because sometimes I say something about a QR code and people get all excited and share like crazy. But then, I say something about dealing with issues of gender and sexuality and there is not that same kind of sharing. BUT, you know what? I have found these incredible, amazing people on Twitter (Like Rusul and like you, Will) who want to engage in these discussion and push my thinking and challenge my thinking and teach me to be better as a teacher and a human. And those are the people that I choose to focus on because they are incredible and they are the kind of people that I just cannot find in my own community, so Twitter gives me access to the people that I am thriving off of knowing.

        Twitter has the potential to be such a powerful place for change and I worry that if some of the early adopters of Twitter just start to give up, then we won’t be able to make the kind of change that I really believe is possible. We all need to keep pushing and allowing ourselves to be pushed and I just hope that people will stick around to allow that to happen.

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  2. The conversations I have had (and often started) don’t revolve around promoting posts as much as promoting inanities like the picture quotes that seem to be all the rage these days. Really the self brag thing has never been something I liked too much, it can reek of attention seeking not unlike those who do it in real life. I honestly feel a bit weird when I get compliments through sm and I do try to respond with a thank you or a smile, I think that is a more appropriate way for me to handle it.

    I agree that not having many followers makes push back seem both less effective and more polarizing for the one who does it, it still needs to be done though. I realize that my position on Twitter gives me the unique ability to say things there that might get others a lot more negative feedback. I also realize that when I do get push back from others they feel they need to be much more respectful of me than someone with fewer followers, or of a different color or gender. That means that I need to be mindful and push back often, and include/share other’s push back too.

    Trust me, I get a lot wrong on sm and I have been humbled many a time but I know that without people challenging the group think Twitter will become a less desirable place to be. That means you need to keep it up too!

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  3. Thanks for this post. I have been thinking the very same things since reading probably the same posts that you did. My real concern is not for the perspective of the blogger, but rather the praise many others offered for the post. Maybe I have the skewed perspective, but I saw the blogger as responsible for many of those same things that the blogger was condemning. Frankly, I don’t see those things as bad, but rather the very things we see in any society within the relationships people have with others. The difference is that it is in a social media environment and not a face to face relationship. People will be people and we can strive for better, but we must be willing to accept short of that until we get there. I was involved in social media before many of today’s social media luminaries and I am heartened by the increase in participation. It is the very thing that I have been pushing for all these years. Along with that however comes a change in culture. People need time to adjust and move along. We must keep in mind that it is SOCIAL MEDIA. That means all of the good and bad of social interaction will be brought along. The key to all of this is that we are personally responsible for whomever the hell it is that we choose to follow. Thanks!

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    1. Agree that part of being an educator in social media is that we have to deal with the “media” aspect of it. I also recognize that sometimes others like to call out things that they are guilty of doing themselves as you mentioned. I see educators (thought leaders) all the time self-promoting with no engagement. That is detrimental to the entire concept of a connected educator because people will usually follow in the footsteps of those “thought leaders”. Also “self-promoting” can mean different things for many people. To me it’s anything that attempts to put you in the spotlight while you’re disconnected from real educators. A tweet that attempts to trigger people’s thoughts and no engagement after with people who are replying, is the type of shameless self-promotion that needs to stop. “Are we really connected? Does tech lead to innovation etc etc etc” — then nothing, is not being a connected educator.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have actually complained about people RT compliments. It was directed at white males who already have thousands of followers. At the same time I feel like those compliments are for me and I might choose to favorite or save them. There’s a fine line between a calculated effort to self-promote and simply having people acknowledge your work. I don’t have the answer to it but self promotion can very quickly remove the “social” aspect of the media and make it a marketing space. The challenge is that no matter how many followers you have, most times you’re not always taking in that context since you are often following thousands. I believe it’s the reader’s job to understand that context but the reality is it doesn’t happen and it some respects it makes us more equal in that space.

    That said, I’ve been a huge proponent of letting people use twitter however they want. Many people don’t like the fact that I use it as much as a social, silly space since educators generally praise twitter as a place for PD. Use it however you wish. Use it to promote yourself if you like but at least be honest about that. In this case, that statement is mostly directed at white males. 😉

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  5. Great post. It stinks to hear that people see Twitter as a place to be censored. At the same time, I can be a little judge mental of people who are actively trying to rack up numbers and self-promote. I don’t want my Twitter experience to be filled with ads – but if others want to do that then I guess that’s their free speech. The best part of Twitter is real interaction with other professionals – like you!

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    1. Agree and I am with you on this. My point is that we need to be able to distinguish between who really is self-promoting and who’s just being a connected, inspired educator. To me, it’s all about the engagement. Context also plays a key role in identifying these problems.

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  6. Thank you, Rusul, for your candor and courage. Your post puts into words much of what I was feeling in reading if not THE post, then one of a similar description. Part of me wanted to respond, to join the numerous commentators and yet I chose not to. I wanted to think about it all a bit longer. And then I arrived here and how grateful I am.
    Something I fear that we forget or fail to acknowledge is that we are whole people when we engage here through social media as much as when we do so face to face – whole people. I am never exclusively an educator. Or parent, coach, blogger, whatever. What is this penchant we harbor for creating categories under which people can or must operate? “Connected educator” can and should be allowed to have many meanings and even change for individuals over time. Social media channels provide opportunities for us as individuals to seek our tribes. Who belongs to but a single tribe, I wonder?
    And when you point out the power dynamics at work in various calls to rethink our twitter use, it all makes sense. If I am on top (through follower count, for example), then I want to be able to make the rules and insure that the onslaught of newcomers understand what those (new?) rules are. One of the things that I immediately noticed in THE post that I initially read was that all members of that conversation were white. And a lot of Edutwitter shows up that way. Adding my voice to the mix would certainly have been welcome, however, I did not feel brave enough to share the above observation which was indeed one of the most striking features of my experience reading.
    I have written favorably and critically of Twitter on my blog. The key to both my continued engagement and hopefully worthwhile contribution is focusing on the very real and whole people who exist behind every tweet: educators, parents, athletes, business folk, artists, journalists, kids…
    We all come to this for various reasons and enjoy various gains. Let us continue to welcome the vast diversity and set positive examples for each other in doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts Sherri, I agree it’s so hard to voice opinions that might not seem like they’re of majority. It was very hard to write this post, but if there’s anything I am learning in education is that we should speak up. I love your thoughts about focusing on the people who exist behind the tweet, beautifully said.

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