Who is the keyboard warrior

Is it true that when we get behind a keyboard we change? Do we come better or worse than our every day selves?

It seems that we change when we get online.  Whether we post in Twitter or on a blog or a forum we change.  And you could argue that we change across each medium.  Afterall if you have 140 characters to get your point across on Twitter compared to the 370ish words I can use in this post, the tone, the message, the personality of the post will change.

Even a post on this Posterous page compared to a post on www.racerviews.com or a guest post on another site  – each are going to change.  They have to.

It has nothing to do with being an evil person who will change his spots as soon as someone turns their back.  The audience demands it.  The audience that I imagine read this compared to the audience that I know reads RacerViews are different.

The audience that reads a 100 page report is going to be different to the audience that reads 50 Shades of whatever.

That is not new.  What is new is that everyone does it, everyone does it everyday.  Everyone does it on tools that didn’t exist five years ago.

It is also not new though for everyone to do it in the analogue existence either.  If I was in a job interview or work function, I’m pretty sure that the behavioural expectations are different to if I am at the pub with my mates.

What is now different is the huge reach of our individual communications and the damage that can be done.  We are seeing ever increasing instances of people behaving differently online to what they would in real life.  The vile Twitter trolls or those who taunt football refs are two such examples.

We don’t necessarily know who we are online or who we talk to.  In one sense we are all the same faceless person but not always.  Our messages though always have a purpose and an intended reader.

Elements of authenticity and genuine-ness are there.  Portrayed, imagined – hoped for.   That exists and it is ok. You just have to hope the person on the other screen agrees with you…

Why aren’t we teaching kids how to use social media?

Much of the time, educational institutions miss the point of educating their students on social media.

I write this on the back of this article that appears in The Age newspaper. http://www.theage.com.au/technology/quit-facebook-or-be-expelled-school-says-20120516-1yqp0.html

This is happening in the town where I live, and we know that the State Education body is sorely lacking in foresight in social media, what it is, the impact that it has on people’s lives and the education that is needed to make people responsible online citizens.

Undoubtedly we want to avoid any kind of negative consequences that comes from social media – and in particular, we want to avoid bullying and harassment.

In Queensland, the education board has essentially banned any access to social media, with teachers pulling their hair out as they can’t provide access to learning materials or even educate the students on how to use social media.  Banning social media access, even for primary school kids, only sends the problem underground.  People will try to hide it, hide their access, hide the fact that they may be getting bullied.

You make it a taboo.  You make being bad on it akin to smoking.  Banning it makes it cool.

What you need to do is open up access, bring it out from the dark underbelly of schools and organisations.  You need to educate people on what is acceptable.  You need to empower people – particualrly primary school students on how to use social media.  You need to empower them to speak up if they find bullying behaviour or are being bullied themselves.

We are hearing more and more of teens committing suicide due to bullying.  We know that to talk about the problem – bring the problems out in the open is a great way of helping these kids.  So why are school principals, government workers and organisations forcing this underground.

You may not want to admit that is, or could be happening in your area.  But it is.

Lets tackle this like adults – and give the kids the knowledge to handle this too.

It ain’t going away.

*** I work in social media, I don’t have counselling or psychology training.

*** Wrote this on the fly, so please forgive any grammar or syntax errors.