Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebookless

IMG_6448I spent the last week without logging into Facebook. To be fair, I kept the Facebook Messenger app on my phone, and messaged with a few people that way. But I removed the Facebook app from my phone, and didn’t log on via computer. Why did I do this, you might wonder? #becausetime

I will always remember the 2015-2016 academic school year as a time when I started missing emails consistently. It’s not for any lack of caring: anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve always been a fast responder. I care very deeply that people know that I’ve heard what they have to say! There are two differences that have created this problem for me this year: 1) I get more emails now than I ever did before, and 2) I have less time than I ever have before.

Thanks to some brilliant friends (who, in truth, I rely on for staying up to date with the latest gadgets and apps), I discovered unroll.me for automating and managing my gmail inbox. But I don’t feel that I can do the same for my work email. Perhaps I should look into it. Because I can’t keep up. It’s just too much!

So what did I discover during this week sans Facebook?

  1. It is possible to avoid thinking in Facebook updates. Earlier this semester, I revealed to a class of graduate students that I sometimes type out Facebook status updates in my head as I travel throughout the day. Sure that this (somewhat embarrassing) revelation would garner some laughs, I was surprised when the room remained quiet. Did I sound whacky for saying I typed things out in my head? Did I sound lame for admitting that I think about my Facebook updates as items worthy of composition? Did I just take a step backward on the respect spectrum for revealing something personal and unsolicited? Either way, I noticed the other day that I had long periods of silence in my head for the first time in a long time. In fact, I can’t remember the last time.
  2. I create false narratives about my friends. I admit that normally, I walk around thinking that everyone’s life is a billion times better than mine, based on Facebook feeds. I know this is slightly ridiculous. I also know I’m not the only one who does it. But in the absence of the constant barrage of information that is my Facebook feed, I felt a sense of calm.
  3. I still had contact with friendsIn the last week, I’ve touched base and/or seen a few of my favorite people, and we’ve shared information via text, phone, or email. Without relying on Facebook for information about my friends, I was forced to be in touch with them — actually be in touch with them. I missed out on a bunch of news without my feed, I’m sure, and I didn’t speak to everyone I wanted to, but I also had some long phone and in-person conversations.
  4. I was focused. Usually when I’m at work, I keep a tab open for Facebook on my computer. I don’t look at it constantly, but when I take breaks, I look at my feed. This week when I took breaks from writing or grading, I did some of the back-logged office stuff I’ve been putting off: I filed a bunch of things, organized my documents, and labeled the book bins on my book shelves. I also read a book and wrote a book review. All in between the normal stuff I have to do.
  5. I started missing a stream in my life. Over the weekend, I attended a two-day conference hosted by SUNY New Paltz and Bard College, the Digital Spaces Unconference. We live-tweeted throughout, which got me looking at Twitter a bunch. A week since I started my Facebook diet, and I’m looking at my Twitter feed several times a day. It doesn’t feel the same, though. There’s something less personal about it. Maybe because I don’t know about half of the people I follow — they’re just people I’ve heard about or I met once and are doing cool #edtech stuff. I’ve been looking at Instagram more, too. But neither Twitter nor Instagram hold my interest like Facebook does. What is it about Facebook??

So the verdict is in: I can get a lot more done when I don’t look at Facebook. But is it worth missing what happens in people’s lives? I hope I can find a better balance, because I don’t want to be a total Facebook hermit — not to mention the academic things that I learn from my brilliant friends when plugged into my feed! But I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed having a few extra minutes in my days lately. What’s your secret? How do you strike a healthy balance between the stream and real life?

Twitter, et. al.

I had lunch with a friend today who was is one of those people whose brain you want to pick: she’s brilliant, especially about the internet. She’s been on Twitter for almost as long as it’s been around, and our conversation at lunch got me thinking about my own history with the medium.

When it was initiated, I remember thinking Twitter was just another Facebook update, and that I certainly didn’t need another place to say more (I say plenty already). I remember wondering if there would ever be an end to updating. Clearly, no! Some networks will endure and others won’t, but for now, ‘updating’ those around you with your most recent thoughts, discoveries, questions, requests, etc., seems here to stay.

My relationship to Twitter today is not a consistent one. I tend to use it for knitting more than anything else, and I have two separate accounts to help me keep track of who I’m saying what to. My personal account is mostly used for questions and statements about education, and I used it a lot at demonstrations earlier this school year; I often look at it for updates and information, but tweet sporadically. I have a hard enough time keeping up with just email that there’s no chance of me becoming a regular on Twitter in the near future, but I’m fascinated by how it’s shifted the way we communicate and seek new knowledge.

I remember doing a mental list of all the social networking sites I was a part of a few years ago, and it wasn’t many: Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and I think that might have been it. Then, before too long, sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Google became networked for ‘updating’ via ratings, messages, likes, and comments, and I was suddenly a part of far more virtual networks than I ever thought possible. And then there’s Academia.edu, Reddit, Instagram, the CUNY Academic Commons, and so on. News is all interactive now — you can comment endlessly on just about any post or article. Even if we don’t participate in conversations online, people around us do, and we are a part of that dialogue whether we participate actively or not. It’s so different from how it used to be(!). I remember my mom would come home every day after school and read the newspaper. That’s never been part of my daily ritual (or at least not for a really long time). Is it awful that I get most of my news from links on Facebook and Twitter?

I think about the impact this has on education, considering that the internet promotes (both in concept and reality) collectivity, democracy, and symbiosis. Doesn’t that seem to go against the grain of the practice of striving to ‘be the best’ that so many of our classrooms foster? Hasn’t the internet taught us that we rely on each other, and therefore have to work together? There’s something about the idea of networking and how it’s transformed our society that’s got me thinking today, and wondering about what comes next.

Timeline / Handmade Books

Facebook continues to fascinate me as a researcher. I know I need to stay the course, and I will (in other words, I won’t be adding another arm to my dissertation project that involves researching Facebook in addition to blogs — I love grad school, but I do want to finish), but I can’t stop thinking about what it’ll be like to look back on our timelines twenty years from now. Of course that depends on whether or not Facebook endures, but everyone who participates on the site is currently building some version of a digital scrapbook of their life.

Speaking of books, I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember — scrapbooks, photo books, address books, journals — you name it, I’ve made it. I’ve even got an awl, boning tool, and screw posts, and cut my own binder’s board for hardcover albums. But as digital communication has accelerated, I’ve found myself sending iPhoto books off to be printed by Apple instead. I still occasionally make little notebooks like this one, out of old academic journal covers and the remains of old articles I’ve read or manuscripts I’ve written and discarded. I like carrying them around with me to jot my thoughts when something with a screen isn’t available. I recently ran out of paper to use though — all the printing at the Graduate Center is double-sided now (which is a good thing), but! A few weekends ago, I acquired a huge stack of beautiful waste paper from the Bushwick Print Lab (thanks Ray!). I’ll be making small books again soon.

But I digress. I wonder how our digital memories will make our interactions as we grow older different than generations that have come before us. We’ll have the ability to remember things in far more detail than ever before. Even if people documented their lives extremely well with photographs before the internet existed, the captions and comments and interactive content on Facebook creates a living, breathing narrative in a way that pictures alone cannot.

So what does/could this mean for research? How does the capacity to know and understand each other grow as our digital footprints expand, and how does that capacity impact the process of collecting data?

Inboxes and Hashtags

Up early(ish) on the first day since August that I’ve had to really breathe for a minute, and I can’t stop thinking about finding a better way to categorize my email. Gmail makes it relatively easy to organize messages like you might papers in a file cabinet, but I’m suddenly 200 unread messages in, and find myself unable to keep up. I realize everyone will meet (or already has met) their email saturation point differently, but I will always remember the Fall 2011 semester as the time when two things happened when it comes to digital communication: 1) I couldn’t keep up with my email for the first time, and 2) hashtags became commonspeak.

INBOXES: When it comes to email, I’ve always been an immediate responder. This habit has its plusses and minuses, but it’s just the way I operate: someone asks something of me, and I respond. In contrast, I never could understand, until very recently, how people could leave correspondences unanswered. I finally get it, and find myself missing emails from friends and colleagues. I fear the problem is only going to get worse if I don’t find a better way of getting to every correspondence that needs getting to.

I don’t think I’m an expert organizer in any way shape or form, but I am pretty anal retentive and love organizing and reorganizing things — if I’m at a loss for what to do to combat this problem, what are other people doing? Is it one of those things that’s happening to everyone but no one really talks about? Am I just relegated to a future of not being able to fully read every email that comes through my inbox? I don’t like that.

I’ll report back if I figure something out, but for now I want to talk about hashtags for a second.

HASHTAGS: There was a point roughly a year ago when the word hashtag wasn’t yet part of my vocabulary. I haven’t done any extensive reading or empirical data gathering about how my experience measures up to that of the general population, but until I joined Twitter (a little less than a year ago), the # symbol was something I used when proofreading to note that a space needed to be inserted, or while navigating an automated phone messaging system. It was not on my radar as a categorizer, and I hadn’t yet seen it used in titles, subject lines, or emails. In an attempt to further understand what was then an elusive phenomenon, I asked the Twitter community for help in my third-ever tweet on February 20, 2011:

Needless to say, I got no response about my confusion, and quickly realized that the hashtag is one of those neat reference tools that has a limited shelf life. It’s not something that you send out to the universe and get an answer from immediately; rather, it can be used in a fleeting moment to connect people around a specific subject/idea/question/concept, but it might not always work as you intend it.

As I see it, the # sign has become something that’s going to continue to evolve as more people become fluent in how to use it. We’re getting closer to that tipping point, but it seems that many individuals still see Twitter as a revolving door of narcissistic Facebook updates, and thus the new(ish) usage of the # as an extension of that. I couldn’t disagree more. While I don’t tweet on a daily basis, Twitter has been a useful tool for me when trying to stay up-to-date on events, protests, gatherings, teaching techniques, etc., in real time. And speaking of protests, the Occupy movement is part of what normalized hashtags for me.

While I was pulling my hair out over my overflowing inbox this semester, my colleagues and I started using #OWS and other hashtags as normally as we might other words in emails. Slowly but surely, the # symbol is making its way into our daily language.

So while I’m considering how to categorize and code my growing pile of data for my dissertation, and simultaneously trying to get a handle on my inbox, I can’t help but wonder about where digital communication will take us. What symbol will enter our language next? Will we eventually have an alphabet comprised of letters, numbers, and symbols? I’m curious….

Pednology, or Maybe Techagogy

Yesterday’s post marked the start of me trying to work out, in writing, some of the questions I have about pedagogy and technology.  I’ve been spending more time with my computer than any other object in my life for at least the last ten years, and there are (many) things that have developed or changed over time that I’ve often discovered by mistake, and I wonder how other teachers have handled it.  Educators aren’t generally trained in new technologies unless we seek out the training on our own or it’s for some profit-driven company that will benefit when the school buys 500 of whatever’s being offered (at least that’s been my experience).  And yet we are required to stay up-to-date in the name of pedagogy, a requirement that is understandable and at times, impossible.  For example, how are teachers expected to use SmartBoards if they are taught a crash course in an afternoon PD session when they’re already exhausted, have about 8 million other things to do to prepare for tomorrow, there will likely be no follow up, and they don’t have regular access to the SmartBoard itself?

This is one of the things I’m talking about when I mention “the gap between policy and practice” in my work.

But I’m talking about less-technologically-advanced things than SmartBoards, too.  If you haven’t ever had a Facebook account as a teacher, you’re missing a huge understanding of how young people communicate; if you do have an account, you have to be careful about what you post (and gets posted) on your wall.  And what about learning less big-concept things like the fact that you don’t have to type “www” anymore when you enter a URL?  Or what about fair-use and copyright laws?  I admit that the first time I taught an online course (back in 2004!?), I simply scanned in and uploaded portions of texts that I wanted to use.  I had a hunch that that wasn’t exactly what I was supposed to do, but as a part-time instructor at a university that had little means to train a rookie teacher who’d been hired as a teacher educator (a problem in its own right, but one that initiated my career as a teacher educator), I did what I could with the technology available to me at the time.

So what of these changes — both subtle and far-reaching — that are happening at mach speed on a daily basis now? When and how are teachers trained, if they don’t take the initiative on their own?  Some people might argue that everyone, no matter the industry, has to figure out how to use new technologies, but my counterargument to that is that education is different.

On the day I received my acceptance letter to the New York City Teaching Fellows — a little more than ten years ago — one of my best friends said, “teaching is the most important job.”  Granted, he’s a professor now so might be biased, but that statement really impacted me — education is a requirement in this country, and thus something we all universally experience in some form; it is also something our society values a great deal, despite the fact that a degree does not guarantee being able to find a job.  Teachers need to be taught, too, and we’re starting to figure out ways to do that at the post-secondary level, but what about K-12?  Where are the in-depth, across-the-board trainings for teachers that don’t 1) take time away from everything else they have to do, 2) are free of charge, and 3) address, in a zone-of-proximal-development type of way, the pednology, or maybe techagogy, needs of teachers?  Pedagogy and technology are no longer disparate concepts, and K-12 educators who don’t feel completely comfortable with what’s happening need the supports to catch up, too.

Facebook

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I woke up wanting to change my Facebook profile picture (which is a little ridiculous to admit, but we all do it from time to time, right?), which led me to think about how we manipulate our digital footprints as we make actual footprints.  I’m a little tired of my photos on Facebook (and honestly, am waiting for the next social network to take over — I have a feeling Google+ might be it, but we’ll see) so chose something innocuous: a photo of me at the beach in the late fall, looking off to the ocean during sunset.  I’ll never forget the trip.  We laughed for forty-eight straight hours.  It was a very happy time, and I like being reminded of that laughter and the openness of the beach, a place I lived, breathed, and ate in my childhood.

So I’m fascinated by what we’re doing as we walk around making dual footprints: actual ones as we literally make our way around in the world, and digital ones as we virtually make our way around the internet.

As much as I loved computers as a kid, I was a late joiner in the social networking world.  By the time I got around to joining Friendster, everyone had moved onto MySpace; by the time I joined MySpace, Facebook had taken over.  It took a year or two, but I eventually grew an affinity for posting photos and keeping people up-to-date on my whereabouts as I attempted to balance my existence in both worlds.  I jotted Facebook updates on napkins and bits of paper while doing anything that seemed update-worthy, and waited till I was in front of a computer to announce to my networks what I was doing.

I spent hours (as did many of my teaching colleagues) trying to figure out the security/privacy settings so that I could let all my “friends” see content, but my students wouldn’t be privy to the intimate details of my everyday life.  It dawned on me this morning as I was thinking about my profile photo that I’m not that concerned about filtering anymore. Besides, I have a dissertation to write, and an actual life to live — my virtual one is only a reflection of my reality.

It’s funny being an educator at a time when the growth of digital communication is so fast-paced.  I had dinner with an old friend the other day who works in technology in the corporate sector, and she was telling me some numbers about user growth that boggled my mind.  Currently, one blogging platform she mentioned has something like 45,000 new bloggers each day.  Seriously?  That’s huge.  And yet not surprising.  It’s becoming quite odd to lack a digital footprint (with few exceptions), and I’m curious about the ways in which manipulation of said footprint is going to further affect the way we communicate as a society.