While reading Rainie and Wellman’s Chapter on digital relationships in the book, Networked in which they discuss the complexities of networked relationships. “Facebook and Twitter users control what information they disclose online. For example, neither Rainie nor Wellman discuss much of their personal lives on twitter” (Networked, 125). Further the discussion continues that there is a much richer and substantive relationship or networks being built in real life. I would disagree with these notions, first that educators or anyone for the matter need to be closed off to discussing their lives on the internet, while understanding what content is and isn’t appropriate, and second, online relationships and networking has profound impacts in real life.
Lets tackle one thing at a time. I always love it when a professor or one of my high school teachers would talk about their weekend, or what their kids are up to. I feel as if I am part of their life and important to them by getting to share in their experiences. There is some understanding that in a classroom setting making these connections for students is important and necessary for students to engage and learn. Now the fine line comes in on social and digital avenues. I have seen many teachers, engage with students on a secondary Facebook or twitter account. They balance between sharing their personal lives (something fun they did over the weekend, photos of their kids) with class content. I felt that it was a very well executed tool to engage students in a realm that they were interested in.
On to the second question, about authenticity of relationships in digital spaces. I feel that there is this dichotomy between the creepy weird stuff that is happening online, and people that are truly online to build relationships, networks, friendships and the like. This has quickly progressed I would say in the last 10 years, where the internet was not a safe space to converse, but now is an acceptable tool for meeting and dialoging with people. It also seems that people are more real online then they used to be. Sharing information isn’t feared as much and the online avenue of networking is used as a helpful and necessary tool in which people can engage. I also believe that these online interactions can help strengthen in person relationships, by connecting people based on interests online first and then the in person relationship can go much deeper as there is less need for the small talk to get to know people’s interests or dislikes.
Overall, I think that the online social networking tools are underused and understated in the educational system in which students and teachers can engage in a much more deeper and substantive level.