The opening section caught my eye, "At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., admissions officers are still talking about the high school senior who attended a campus information session last year for prospective students. Throughout the presentation, she apparently posted disparaging comments on Twitter about her fellow attendees, repeatedly using a common expletive." I cannot imagine what this student was thinking, but it made me stop and consider how my own seniors are using social media. I have made it a policy not to connect through social media with current students but I bent that rule late last year.
Have you ever driven a car full of teenagers for any length of time? If you are quiet they forget about you, or at least they ignore you. You learn a lot, and with a helpful cough or grunt, you can remind them of your presence to prevent yourself from learning too much. I was invited by a then junior now senior to join Instagram. I'd avoided it until then but I considered it on her behalf. Then I weighed the implications and consulted with a workmate. My colleague helped me see that if I allow a student just that little bit of a window, and I carefully curate what I Instagram it would have the same effect as when quietly driving a car full of kids. My student would know I was there and perhaps her online social life would in some way be shaped by my presence.
Mostly I post pictures of my cat and dog, or even a particularly lovely scenic view. I don't "follow back" but there are a couple of other advisees that follow me. I'm still wary but I try to model the "if I can't say/post it in a school hallway I won't post it here" mentality. I was able to stay connected to advisees as I traveled this summer and when I posted a picture of an ancient Greek carving of Odysseus, from The Metropolitan Museum in New York, I was pleased to see that a kid to whom I'd taught The Odyssey expressed comic aversion to my taste in art. I got a chuckle and she got to rib me, it seemed like a fair exchange.
A minor connection, perhaps too small to note if Instagram didn’t permanently log it, but the long-term effects are deeper. I hope that none of my advisees is ever so alone online that they feel like no one who matters to them is listening.