Monday, March 7, 2016

Required Etiquette for Facebook Users: Acknowledge and Respond

Required Etiquette for Facebook Users: Acknowledge and Respond
by Gary Feltman
Acknowledgement: a concept that is well-known and practiced in social and professional settings. Some might argue it's a necessary executive functioning skill. Others might not think twice about acknowledging anybody in any situation simply due to their personality. Whether it's a conversation, party, or other social gathering, if someone makes a comment or engages in conversation, generally when they're finished speaking the audience will acknowledge their communications with some sort of response. In many work settings, especially any work related to customer service, acknowledgement is a requirement.

The concept of acknowledgement is a real-world communication skill that should also be used in social online communication platforms.

The purpose of this blog post is to inform and remind Facebook users that acknowledging and responding in some Facebook situations is necessary if being well-mannered and polite is important. These two concepts, acknowledging and responding, can be optionally used in many ways, but there's specific situations on Facebook where this action should always be applied. Examples of scenarios, along with reasons to acknowledge and respond are provided.

Clicking "Like"
Over time, clicking the "like" button has evolved to more than just meaning and showing that someone actually likes something. Clicking "like" seems to have evolved into representing your acknowledgement of the post. For example, if somebody's loved one passed away, and one clicks "like," that does not mean that they're happy this happened, it simply means they're acknowledging this event took place.

Even lately, the "like" button recently evolved into more emotions than just "like," for example "laughing," "excited/wow," or "anger/disapproval."

To acknowledge someone's post by clicking "like" or participating by commenting is one way of letting the other person know that one is interested in what that person had to share. Obviously there's no need to click every or any post on the Facebook feed, but there are certain times when hitting the "like" button to acknowledge someone's comment, and taking the time to respond is not really optional anymore; it's an expected action that demonstrates the recipient is respectful, has manners, and cares for others' feelings. In most cases of the following scenarios, a "like" is a required action and response; both appropriate and sufficient.

When Someone Posts on the Wall
If someone posts something on your wall, it is polite to acknowledge the post with a "like." Most likely the post is a personalized post directed specifically towards a user. Not only should the user acknowledge the post with a "like" but also eventually comment and respond.

One exception might be if somebody posted inappropriate or undesirable content on the wall. If that's the case, then disapproval should be communicated in private to the person. The post should still be acknowledged somehow, even it's not by clicking "like." Another option is to change account settings so it's not possible for others to post or tag on your wall. Users can also politely "like" the post and hide it, but this may not deter the continued posting of undesirable content.

For someone to not acknowledge content that someone has posted that's directed towards someone else is rude and disrespectful. It is the equivalent of someone either reaching out, giving a gift or expressing appreciation, and the response is to ignore.

The big difference between Facebook and real life, is that in real life people have an opportunity to confront other people as to why they were ignored or didn't receive a response.

For Facebook users, one may never know if the user's feelings were hurt due to being ignored. Users who were ignored have no choice but to wonder if there's a problem. Even as adults, it's easier for people to be rude online or in Facebook by just choosing not to acknowledge content specifically directed towards them. If somebody posts on a Facebook wall, users should follow through on some method of acknowledging the post.

Tagged or Mentioned in a Comment or Post
If a user is tagged or mentioned in a comment, they're obligated to acknowledge the person making the post. If the recipient ignores the person posting and does not acknowledge the person's comment by clicking "like," it's possible they are letting them know one of the following: "I don't care what you have to say," "that's stupid," "I don't like you," or "I don't respect you enough to acknowledge you or the time you took to mention me."

If this is how someone really feels or this is the message a person is subtly attempting to communicate, then maybe that person should be urged to revisit and scrub their friends list.

Again, there are exceptions to the rule for inappropriate or undesirable content. In these cases, clicking "like" might not be appropriate, but ignoring might not suffice in communicating disapproval for the tag or nature of the post. An option to show disapproval might be to remove the tag, or personally contact the person to express disapproval.

When You Make a Post and Others Comment
It's important to be fair. If you're going to make a post, and then "like" (or acknowledge) one comment on a feed from your post, in most cases it's necessary to also acknowledge everybody else's comments with a "like." To only acknowledge only some comments and not others, is to portray that only certain people or their comments are important to you. This behavior of ignoring some people but not all people in the same feed, may also be considered rude.

To better explain this situation of acknowledging some comments and not others on Facebook, here is an example: being in a real-life social situation with a group of people, including you and 6 others. All 6 people congratulate someone about something. Then that person respond by shaking hands and saying thank you to only 4 of the 6 people in the group. By ignoring and not acknowledging the other two people, this might be a parallel concept of acknowledging some but not all of the people commenting on your post. This scenario can make for an all-around awkward conversation for everybody in the group, possibly even for the people who were acknowledged but observing others get ignored, but especially awkward for the people being ignored.

An exception to this rule might be someone you don't know, say a friend of a friend, tagging somebody else with only their name and no relevant comment. In this case, it's probably acceptable to ignore the comment.

Happy Birthday Wishes
If someone takes the time to wish you Happy Birthday, the least you can do is click "like." It seems lately, the trend seems to be that some people the next day just make a post thanking everybody for the birthday wishes while not acknowledging anybody's comments with a "like."

Even worse is if the person goes through and clicks only some the birthday wishes they choose, and then ignores others. People should never ever do this! The proper thing to do is to either acknowledge everybody, or nobody at all. If you don't acknowledge anybody's birthday wish though, maybe it's time to rethink being on Facebook. Like it or not, being on Facebook in today's day and age comes with a sense of responsibility and behaving appropriately.  Many Facebook users are definitely aware of how not to behave and what type of things to avoid saying in most situations, however it's also important and polite to acknowledge people's comments in specific situations.

An obvious exception to these scenarios are accounts containing a plethora of friends or followers, or accounts of users with celebrity status who have thousands of followers. It would be nearly impossible and time-consuming to acknowledge all comments one by one.

In Contrast
Some users or observers might try to argue that all of this is silly. Some will argue that using Facebook is a waste of time, and so is dealing with all the drama that comes with it. Some will argue that time can be better spent doing other things, and one shouldn't pay attention to all the drama. That's their feeling and prerogative.

An opposing view would argue the opposite: participating on Facebook is an intricate way of participating in communication and social interaction. These interactions are entangled in a web of possibilities, each interaction possibly containing multiple meanings and implications that we as human's are still trying to understand and learn from. One might argue that being gracefully social on Facebook takes time to master and requires practice and skill.

A different way to look at this complicated situation, is that human beings have been communicating for years by simply speaking or holding discussions. The difference on Facebook is that there is a possible visual of these conversations, or "digital footprint." Yes of course, comments can be deleted, however once seen by another user can be digitally copied and viewed later. Regardless, the visuals of these interactions, as simple as they may seem, can be used as data to be either misconstrued, understood, or further analyzed.

Concluding Thoughts
My opinions on what I consider to be two "common sense" concepts, acknowledgement and response (whether responding by acknowledging, both acknowledging and responding, or simply acknowledging) comes from years of observing, participating in, and moderating online interactions through my personal Facebook account and Facebook pages for various organizations.

This experience includes observing close people experience similar situations and discussing the possible meanings and implications that go along with them. I have also been on the receiving end of being ignored, and the emotions can be complicated and difficult to understand. Being exposed to multiple observations and experiences over time, allows a user to gain better understanding by being able to put in words the identified emotions leading to psychological effects, and realizing that all this leads back to a behavior that someone chose to act on.

Yes, it's a possibility that some infrequent or inexperienced users might not know or notice if and when they need to respond, or they just post so frequently in a fast-paced manner that they might not notice their actions. Of course there are people like this, and it's very likely you know who they are because they treat everybody the same online. Hopefully this is a beginning of means to inform these users of their innocent yet possibly abrasive ignorant actions, or lack thereof.

People's actions online, as quick as it may take, translate to much meaning in real life. Actions or lack of actions online can translate to hurtful feelings. Most likely, one might never find out about the way people feel. Some people are more sensitive than others. Some react to these situations in certain ways, and others react by not reacting at all. When people are ignored or mistreated online, even with something as simple as not acknowledging a comment while liking everyone else's comments, can lead to hurtful emotions eventually leading to both short term and long term anxiety or depression.

Lately it seems that the concept of not responding is a response itself. In certain situations, for example a text conversation that needs to be ended abruptly, it might be acceptable to not respond. However not responding may not be the best choice in other scenarios. Both ignorance and the act of ignoring, whether intentional or not, can be rude and hurtful.

Accidental oversight or innocent ignorance is no longer an excuse for this type of unintentional behavior on Facebook. Regular Facebook users should immediately be learning these online social norms and manners.

In summary, people's actions on Facebook are powerful. People's actions can be kind or hurtful. Doing nothing (not clicking "like" in certain situations) can be perceived as abrasive. Doing nothing can be misunderstood. Doing nothing can be very hurtful to others. Accidents or oversights are no longer excuses in today's day and age. Be kind. Be considerate. Stay informed. Behave appropriately.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Attending my First ISTE Conference: Thoughts and Plans

My First ISTE Conference Experience: Thoughts and Plans This was my first time going to an ISTE Conference. It was big. It was overwhelming. It was information overload. It was fun. All that said, I feel like I left armed with knowledge and tools to make a huge positive difference in my school district, specifically relating to professional development for teachers and increasing engagement for the students. 

 At times, there were so many people there, I was standing arm to arm and could barely move, mostly at the poster sessions, because others were all trying to get information and resources. Other times, people were lined up to scan the QR codes, get the links and move on. I did the same, simply because I needed to get to other tables/posters because of time limitations. 

 As with any conference, some workshops you go to have excellent information, and you walk away with really good information. Other workshops have a clever title and are just not what you expect. One thing I experienced at ISTE, is that some workshops were so popular that there was no way of getting in. If you had a ticket before hand; you’re safe. But if the workshops were first come, first serve, and didn’t require a ticket, and were popular, it was frustrating because there was no chance of getting in. As I reviewed my schedule of the workshops I signed up for and poster sessions I wanted to visit, I noticed a common theme, which are obviously specific to either what I currently do or endeavors I would like to pursue at my school. The themes specific to my job this year were BYOD, Math resources, digital citizenship, and Ed-Tech Coaching. Our district is moving forward with BYOD and I gained many insights. I teach mathematics and work with social media so I also have many new resources in those areas. It seems that other school district ed-tech integration coaches and specialists are an excellent resource for teachers thus improving student education. I really feel the students and staff in our district could benefit from this having someone serve in this role. 

Before I went to the conference, I read blogs that offered advice to ISTE first timers. The suggestions included to be ready for information overload, stay hydrated, don’t over schedule, and be sure to network. I found the tips very useful. It feels good to walk away knowing that other teachers, administrators, and school districts are going through similar situations regarding educational technology, specifically BYOD and Ed-Tech Coaches. 

There were many workshops and poster sessions where presenters discussed their experiences of successes, challenges, research, resources, and frameworks in regards to new educational trends that increase student learning and engagement and motivate and improve teaching. It’s always great to learn about new technology that can be implemented in the classroom as well. 

One day I was disappointed to miss (the very first day simply due to work/scheduling purposes as I was scheduled to arrive Friday evening and begin the conference on Saturday morning) was the day long #edcamp experience. The #edcamp seems to be a new PD trend amongst teachers and school districts everywhere, but I look forward to learning about this from a more local perspective in the future.

Two trends that I seemed to pick up on, just from being there, listening, and seeing what vendors were pushing are: standards-linked curriculums, and pushing ed-tech startups. I’m guessing these trends may either increase or decrease in popularity in the future. 

 My next step is to sit down, review the information I learned and gathered, create and manage a plan, and put the information and resources to good use.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Geometry Technology Tools and Strategies in a Co-Taught Classroom

Educational Technology
  • to create quizzes
  • allows the students to explore and discover concept through reading and writing interactive "Gizmos" on the computer
  • allows viewing of videos that parallel real life concepts and Geometry concepts (for example surface area of the Egyptian pyramids)
  • MS OneNote allows for organizing, archiving, and modifying guided note-sheets to use every year
  • Geometer's Sketchpad allows students to discover geometry concepts through creating and interacting on a computer program
  • Brainpop contains quick videos and resources about basic math and geometry concepts
  • IXL allows students to practice concepts with walk-throughs and feedback
  • KhanAcademy allows students to research and watch video presentations of similar concepts learned in class
  • Kuta software to create tests, quizzes, and problems on the overhead for dry erase board work
Individual and Class Based Accommodations
  • Read-aloud instructions on homework, labs, quizzes, and tests
  • Allow students to work on quizzes in alternative settings
  • Allow extended time for quizzes, tests, and homework
  • Allow students to use notes on quizzes
  • Be vigilant ensuring students are taking notes, not holding side conversations, and staying on task
Interactive Learning Activities
  • Students work problems on dry erase boards and hold up answers
  • Sage and Scribe (Kagan activity)
  • Small groups (groups of 4), to work on problems together one at a time.
  • Relay Races: Groups work to complete one problem, take it to teacher, and get a new problem
  • Review that requires teacher signature for each correct problem; allowing students to ask questions per problem or when entire review is completed.
Data-Driven Decision Making (DDDM)
  • Homework quizzes, followed up by individualized explanations if necessary.
  • "Exit" Quizzes
  • Daily randomized accuracy check on homework
  • Daily completion grade on homework

  • Candy questions
  • Extra Credit questions
  • Incentives sheet: collecting signatures to trade for option of candy or extra credit
  • Lab for each unit
  • Guided note sheets, including "You Try" problems allowing time for students to ask try problems, collaborate with each other and ask the teachers questions.
  • Weekly meeting with co-teacher discussing plans, positive outcomes, and things to improve

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What is Instagram All About? An Average Joe's Perspective by Gary Feltman

My Personal Social Media Experience 
At first I thought Instagram was primarily for females; another form of Pinterest so to speak..

Then I learned that teens are flocking towards Instagram, for the most part just to socialize and get away from parents and other adults. (They haven't completely disowned or stopped using Facebook, it's just a new and different outlet of expression and communication). I've also learned from experience that adults are using it for another bunch of reasons altogether.

I use Twitter mainly for professional educational research and networking purposes, but I also use it to chat about pop culture, occasionally express my thoughts, opinions, archive resources, and share typical internet trends, or news.

I do have rather strong opinions about reasons I dislike Facebook, but I keep coming back for more. I also feel Twitter can be a powerful tool if used correctly and appropriately, especially for educators.

Partly for professional reasons, and partly for human curiosity, I make a strong effort to keep up with new internet and technology trends. I try to give most popular and trending social media or apps an honest try, for example Snapchat, Whisper, Glide, Secret, Kik…etc. Of course I'm familiar with the more mainstream social media trends or apps like Spotify, Shazam, Starbucks, and Vine. Of course I haven't named them all; there's thousands out there.

So I Gave Instagram a Try
I got to talking one night with a close neighborhood friend who is not very active on Facebook or Twitter. He was one his phone, and I was wondering, "What the heck are you doing on your phone?" So I asked him. He told me Instagram. I thought, "WHAT?!?!"

It just so happens, a few days before that, I opened an Instagram account and posted my first picture…still being clueless of why or how to use Instagram. So when my friend told me he was on Instagram, I got excited. "What's your handle? Can I follow you?" Little did I know, this guy had well over 200 hundred followers on Instagram, and he used it to push his artistic creations and agenda. I thought: "this guy's big time."

This made me realize that there was a whole other world of marketing and expression through Instagram, especially related to the arts (my artistic neighbor pushes her art through Tumblr). Not only that, I guess I didn't realize how popular it was.

So I went to work, and asked one of my co-workers the questions any normal person would ask when trying something new: "What's the purpose of this?" Followed by "Why would I do this?" "Is this supposed to be fun?" "Do I just use a bunch of hashtags?" and "What kind of pictures do I put up?"

So I dived in…as someone once told me…"You don't learn to ski by reading skiing magazines."

So What's the Purpose of Instagram?
So with some new knowledge, and a weekend getaway, I decided to post some of my pictures up to Instagram with hashtags. I gotta say, it's pretty cool! For me, here's a few purposes:

  • For one, it's an outlet for all these seemingly stupid and random pictures taken throughout the day with your phone.
  • It also allows creativity with hashtags. You pretty much make up your own hashtag, and put as many as you want per picture.
  • Compared to Facebook, it's a way to connect without being obligated to respond or get caught up in the drama.
  • Compared to Twitter, it's a lot less reading, and a seemingly more chill virtual environment.
  • In general, Instagram seems to be the perfect outlet for senselessly sharing pictures, including family moments, food, memes, quotes, memories or just silly pictures not relevant to anything; especially the things people are tired of seeing on Facebook and Twitter.
One neat thing: you'd be surprised how many other people have used the same hashtag you thought you just created by just clicking on it, and seeing anywhere between 0 to thousands of pictures with the hashtag. Looking back, I've accumulated a pretty cool collection of pictures which I've shared through Instagram.

How do I use Instagram Now?
Well, it's definitely on my "things I need to do before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up" list. Not that I need any more to do, which is a stressful idea in itself, but it keeps things fun and interesting.

I don't post daily, but I post what sometimes interests me, and sometimes what I think my followers might enjoy seeing.

I've been posting my favorite pictures of my kids and family; it's a little more private than Facebook.

Also one thing I enjoy doing is taking pictures of beautiful scenery or interesting relics. It's kind of exciting to have somewhere to put them, where the occasional Instagram user will appreciate it by liking it. So now I take and share pictures of neighborhood staples or local relics and moments after I go for a neighborhood jog.

In Closing
Several friends, family members, and co-workers already had Instagram accounts and were using them regularly.

Another coincidence, is that as I was creating and learning how to use my Instagram account for the first time, several co-workers were exploring with their new accounts as well. That made it a lot of fun when weeks later we all discovered we were all new to Instagram, each one of us thinking the others had been on for quite some time.

A seemingly obvious thing to note, is that my perspective is solely based on my background and motivations. There are many people in the world with various backgrounds and different motives. I do realize that others might use it for different reasons and motivations based on individual demographics and life purposes. These reasons may include networking, socializing, having fun, professional, marketing, or just plain boredom.

Some things I wonder are:
  • What other purposes do people use this for that I'm unaware of?
  • Is there drama or expression of differing opinions similar to other social networks?
  • How has Instagram evolved over time?
  • How will this evolve over the short term and long term?

Thanks for reading.
I welcome comments and questions.
@garyfeltman on Twitter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Evolution of Tech at Family Gatherings: Decade Observations

Evolution of Tech at Family Gatherings: Decade Observations
by Gary Feltman

As we were participating in the New Year’s countdown, my daughter had her face buried in her iPod, and was not counting down with us. Within this 10-second timeframe, my wife and I together instinctively attempted to rip the iPod out of her hands. The response was a look of aggravation and fear, as she gripped her iPod and would not allow the device to be taken. Through this 2-second interaction, I remembered that she had been looking forward to watching December change to January, and 11:59-12:00, on the iPod.

This year, my daughter stayed  awake for the New Year’s Countdown for the first time in her life. During the hours leading up to this moment, my daughter had been creating on Minecraft, building a 3 floor castle with a garden, pool, chickens, and amongst other novelties. I would consider creating on Minecraft being more productive than watching countdowns and performances on television; so I was okay with that. 

Within that 10 second countdown, I briefly got upset, yet immediately gained quick understanding of her first-time perspective and experience of celebrating New Year’s eve, while using and watching her device. I realized that this device is a part of her life, and she has grown up observing others having their faces buried in their devices. Is this a bad thing? I’m not sure; but it is what it is.

When I recall about 8-10 years ago (about 2004, give or take a couple years) at family events, cell phones were just beginning to become popular. Almost everybody had a cell phone, but they weren’t the fancy smart phones with internet and multiple apps; they were flip phones used mostly for the purpose of calling and texting others. One Thanksgiving conversation I recall was when someone at the table asked what something meant, and I responded “Google it.” The response from the family member was “Google it, that’s the new term for these kids.” Then the conversation continued to how everybody just “Googles” everything, followed by a 10-minute explanation of what happens when you forgett to include an attachment and how Googling directions might not always be accurate.

Then about 5-7 years ago, tech use seemed to be a “free-for-all” at family events, where everybody just did what they wanted and used their devices however and whenever they pleased, no matter what the setting. The informal rules were being created and learned. Taking photos was a new experience. The photos were poor quality, and sharing was neither fun, purposeful, or convenient. The family discussions were about whether or not to purchase a cell phone, iPod, or other tech device. If the children owned one, they would talk about it, and take good care of it. If the children didn’t own one, they may have expressed wanting a device as a gift in the near future.

Going about 3-4 years back there seemed to be a general understanding of cell phone etiquette at the dinner table, where people shouldn’t check their phones, text, or talk at the table. There were no well-known written rules of cell phone or technology etiquette. Nobody announced or proclaimed the rules with the exception of the occasional parent explaining to their kids to put the phone away. Another exception might have been the grandmother who just got her new cell phone, and decides to answer it at the table and speak loudly, because the unwritten rules were not explained, and all the younger family members took time to explain and demonstrate how to answer calls, make calls, or introduce to the concept of texting.

Things have even changed from 1-2 years ago, where people seemed to have a good understanding of the rules and made an honest effort to either leave their cell phones in the cars, or simply put them away, not being visible to others until the family events were over. The exception to this may have been someone pulling out their new iPad that they received as a gift, or to exchange a phone number or refer back to something. Again, the younger generation would demonstrate the various things to do with tablet technologies; the basics, for example, weather, Facetime, Skype, basic games, or other common apps. However during this time, people were not comfortable enough with the technology yet, at least not enough to just pass devices around and let others use them. The device seemed to just be a really neat novelty technology toy that was pulled out briefly for demonstration. During this time frame, most realized that the procedure for proper etiquette when using a cell phone was to excuse themselves from the festivities and briefly exit the room.  When demonstrations or communications were finished, the devices are put away while everybody made an effort to socialize.

So what’s it like today? I observe nearly every family member young and old has one form of device, whether connected to wi-fi or not. Family members do not need to count on a household wi-fi connection, because everybody brings their own. People are not shy to pull out their devices, discuss the latest apps, play similar games on devices at the same time while discussing tech objectives and achievements and still holding relevant conversations. The explanation of the meaning and use of a hashtag seems to be fading as everybody is gaining understanding. The latest experience is family members taking pictures at the events and immediately sharing on social media with hash tags and tagging. Meanwhile everybody involved grabs their device and continues interacting online by liking, sharing, and commenting in the online world.

All this happens while everybody is physically in the same room. It even seems as if the main topic of conversation at these family gatherings are family member’s activity on Facebook throughout the year. It seems everybody has a working memory and understanding of everybody’s Facebook activity for the past year, even though they may not have interacted online, then everybody proceeds to discuss these events. Not only that, but everybody has their devices in hands showing photos of family or vacations.

These are simply my observations over the years. The memories mostly stem from holiday gatherings, but also just other formal or informal family meetings. I wonder if others have observed similar experiences. It almost seems as if devices have worked their way into family gatherings, being conversation starters in one form or another, and in some cases being the central point of interaction or discussion. For example, people attempt to take group pictures and share them with hashtags to participate in commercial competitions online. I’m sure at one point or another, someone has used a device to quietly communicate with someone else in the same room, because communicating said topic might not be appropriate.

I wonder how this will evolve through the next ten years.

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.
Twitter: @garyfeltman

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tips for School District Social Media by Gary Feltman

Tips for School District Social Media by Gary Feltman

Social media for school districts seems to be gaining popularity. The purpose of this is to give suggestions based on my experience in facilitating social media on behalf of a school district. I will discuss my experiences with details, characteristics of Facebook and Twitter, successes, challenges, future outlooks, and a few other things I've learned along the way. Hopefully readers, particularly readers or educators with a vested interest in social media or ed-tech, find this information useful to the extend they use social media in their lives,

Facebook and Twitter seem fairly new for both schools and social media, but it seems as though when the year progressed, many more schools were participating more frequently through social media as well.

Getting pictures, photo and info is necessary and efficiency helps. When teachers and staff have pictures of positive things students and teachers are doing around the school, they need to be reminded to forward the pictures. Some teachers are good with emailing. Others need to be approached and reminded. It's comparable to customer service where the customers and product providers are both your teachers and students, and then the users are compared to the customers on the other end when viewing, interacting with, and sharing the information.

It's impossible to be at every school sports event, activity, performance, or even classroom. It helps to ask people to send pictures, but coaches and staff are always busy. One way to get pictures is to ask spectator staff attending the events to text or email an image of the event. A cup of coffee the next morning is a small price to pay in exchange for a school event picture being texted or emailed for posting purposes.

Facebook needs pictures. Just about every post needs a picture. Without images, the posts do not get any exposure. Also Facebook and Twitter are two different things. Twitter is a constant running feed and not every post requires a picture. Facebook requires pictures, and less frequency of posts.

Too many Facebook posts can be annoying; they need to be paced appropriately. For example, if there are a lot of happenings throughout the week, A good number of posts for Facebook is 3 per day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Another thing to be aware of is that too many Twitter posts at the wrong time or geared towards only one group can lose followers. In order to increase users engagement, the director must also strategically promote certain concepts at certain times. There are certain times when a post needs to be left for a few days. One example of this would be a huge district success, for example a team winning first place. The post should be posted for a few days and left alone. During times of nation or world disasters or events, it seems proper etiquette to quietly post apologies, recognitions, and condolences, and refrain from posting for a while.

Posting Content
The time of day when posts are made makes a difference depending on who is being targeted and how many viewers will see the post. Also the contents of the post make a big difference. There is much research for social media marketing in the business world that shows what times of day and what types of posts are most effective when marketing to promote the brand. One trick is understanding these viewpoints and using the marketing data geared towards a school environment. For example, in the business world, people work 9-5, but in a school the times are mostly 7-3.

The times make a difference when marketing to students, parents, alumni, and the school community. It seems as the majority of alumni check Facebook according to times before or after typical 9-5 work hours and mostly on weekends. It seems as if the older possibly retired generation checks during the middle of the day. Students tend to check either immediately before school, immediately after school, or after sports about 6pm. Finally it seems there are users that check in in the late evening, comprised of a variety of users; parents, students, alumni, and community members.

Understanding the district's culture is very important in order to successfully run the school's social media. This all depends on the community's beliefs, demographics, interests and priorities. Urban, suburban, and rural districts based in various regions may have differing needs, viewpoints, and opinions. Each school community places priorities in different areas including sports, clubs, referendums, neighborhoods, finances, alumni relations and various other agendas. Different school communities have different online participants, users, and followers; some have more parent involvement, some more student involvement, some more teacher involvement, community involvement, and even alumni involvement. Each party has different interests, motives, and purposes for using and connecting to the social media. It's important for the director to understand that various parties have different interests, and to cater to these needs and interests during various times of the day.

There are many purposes for social media in school districts, but the most important focus should obviously be education, both promoting the successes and positive aspects of the educational institution and system while educating and modeling to the school community about events or information. The idea of education still encompasses many factors, including informing the school community of happenings in the classroom, showcasing student successes sports and club achievements, alumni relations and events, promoting fundraisers, and much more.

There are many successes for school social media. Besides being a venue to share positive news and important information, it serves as a platform for the school community to socialize and communicate with each other. One of the benefits for students is that it makes a connection from their academic life to their personal lives, where there tends to be a wall dividing the two. Another benefit it does for the students is increase their awareness that the content and profiles students share are publicly available. Their words are public. It seems as though this would automatically make a social media user aware of the public's perception in seeing comments.

Another benefit of school social media is that all other schools, government institutions, and businesses are using it. Without it, it may seem as if a school or district is behind the times. It's possible that they want to move forward, and are having qualified or interested parties involved in facilitating it.

Positive behavior is encouraged. In the beginning, there were not so many comments on Facebook, and students seemed resistant to follow the school Twitter. Yet through "liking" positive comments on Facebook, and retweeting positive mentions on Twitter, it seems as the appropriate interactions are reinforced, which allows them to evolve and continue through the social media. It seems as the are and amount of appropriate and positive activity has grown exponentially.

One final thing social media benefits the school community is its a place to model and practice appropriate online communications. One of the best examples of this is when a sports team or club makes first place in a competition, the online Facebook and Twitter communities click "like", make many supportive comments, and retweet and "favorite" posts.

Engaging the users is necessary to promote social media, yet it needs close monitoring to ensure comments being made are appropriate. There aren't too many challenges, although the occasional inappropriate or snarky comment appears, an inappropriate profile bio or pic, or an angry user.

This activity happened more so in the beginning when the school's Facebook activity was in its early stages and users would use inappropriate language or being snarky, whether directly commenting to or describing a picture. There are several ways to deal with this depending on the severity of the post or communication. If it's an appropriate respectful expression of disagreement with the post, as long as it doesn't violate any rules or policies and is in relation to the post, it usually works out fine to leave it and let others respond. Conversations tend to die down after a few days. In many cases, both parties communicate good points in a civil manner, and others witness various viewpoints on a situation while observing demonstration of civil disagreement online. Others might throw in an occasional jab at a topic or person in a picture. A polite reminder to the community, not directed at any user in particular, just posting a general statement reminding the rules of etiquette and guidelines for social networking seems to work.

Occasional language not appropriate for school settings appears, seemingly with good intentions, for example, "Let's kick the other team's ass!" These types of situations are just hidden from the public, yet still viewable by the poster and their friends. Last but not least another Facebook offense is when users get really upset or angry and use the social network as a platform to vent their opinions on a situation while possibly including staff names and/or false statements. These users are blocked and banned. Again these are rare instances that deserve immediate attention or close monitoring. I do wonder what other types of situations directors face and how they are dealt with.

On Twitter, there seems to be more of a following from the students, with a higher frequency usage from staff and teachers, rather than alumni and parents. Some accounts are blocked due to inappropriate usernames, bios, profile pictures, or handles. It seems these users have either not been educated on the appropriate online behavior, or just simply do not care for their actions or public perceptions of the way users portray themselves online. It seems commonplace for organizations to block inappropriate Twitter handles, even though the users have positive intentions of attempting to network with an organization and communicate and share information with users.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers in starting social media is fear. There seems to be many fears, especially from people unfamiliar with social media. Even those that are, seem skeptical due to horror stories of Facebook or warnings from legal organizations in regards to online behavior. Of course, it's a public online platform where virtually anybody can express their thoughts or feelings in a manner they choose. Yet, just like in the physical world, there are consequences for that behavior. In every system, there is a system in place for dealing with situations, and there are typically good or bad consequences for every action made, depending on each situation.

One thing a director needs to be ready for are situations where the school urgently needs to communicate information. One example is if school will be cancelled or post-poned or dismissed early to due dangerous weather conditions. This might mean standing by for a phone call in the very late evening or early morning hours to report the info online. Social media allows for more than one manner to communicate and contact with the school community.

A final challenge from the social media director perspective is continuing the use of social media through other school staff. It seems some users get excited, open Twitter accounts or group/department Facebook pages, but then there is not continued use. Almost as if they try it, yet don't continue to maintain using it. I'm pleased the users gave it a try. But I do wonder what happens that it doesn't continue to get used. I personally can't see myself stopping using Twitter any time soon. They're probably just not that into it. Should there be more support, or is there a disconnect somewhere?

Final Thoughts
Social media and technology moves at a rate typically faster than people can keep up with. One thing social media directors should be aware of is not getting too comfortable, because trends change and new fads quickly replace old ones. In moving forward with school social media directors should be ready to address the school community if the community requests to be more educated in the area of social media. Another trend that seems to be rising in both high school and college settings is student-created and maintained accounts, appropriately representing school clubs, organizations, or activities. Similar to teacher or program related accounts that begin and do not continue, there are a couple student accounts that aim to make a positive online change through the online school community, however do not continue to be active, or are sporadically active. Some staff seem to find useful professional development in various areas of social media.

One last thing to think about is that occasionally Twitter users request follow-backs. As of now, it seems the norm to not follow the majority of followers, and only sticking with official educational accounts or local education-related handles, yet it seems as though bigger organizations are beginning to follow back their followers. For right now, I would suggest to follow back established alumni or accounts with a positive objective.

Thanks for reading. I always welcome any questions, thoughts, comments,  experiences, or any thoughtful answers to above thoughts and questions regarding social media for schools.

Gary Feltman

Twitter: @garyfeltman 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Experiences and Thoughts About Facebook: A User Perspective by GaryFeltman

For the last few years, there have been many articles about Facebook getting people into trouble including people losing jobs, Facebook ending relationships, and Facebook being used as court evidence. Facebook is a social networking platform that users of all ages and demographics interact with each other globally.

Now new studies are out saying that using Facebook causes anxiety and depression.

That makes sense. I can understand this.

Many people probably use Facebook as either a primary or secondary means for their social life. I don't think it's humanly possible to keep up with more than a couple hundred "Facebook" friends. I've also heard people say that Facebook is the grown-up online version of being in high school again.

There are many reasons people use Facebook. Some use it to share posts, statuses and updates, observe other posts and updates, be aware of commercial products and community services, communicate with family, and play games. Some people use it professionally for research, marketing, and communication. Others use it to share vacation pictures with family members across the world. Some actively engage themselves while others quietly observe.

I use Facebook and most other social media in one of two ways: personally and professionally. The purpose of this post is to discuss my personal experiences possibly giving specific examples and insight from a user's perspective of why I might agree using Facebook might cause anxiety and depression. At the end there are related links and resources you may find interesting.

Requesting friends, being friends, and un-friending others

One time a while back I friended almost everybody I work with that had a Facebook account. Later I had second thoughts and unfriended many people I was not familiar with, or comfortable sharing my personal posts with. I do realize settings can be modified so people won't see your posts, but then they could see others commenting or hear about it in real life.

When people request me as friends there's always a feeling of brief excitement followed by many questions and an underlying tone of uncomfortableness, regardless of who is sending the request. I think I understand people's expectations in the physical world, I am sometimes unsure those same expectations apply in an online environment. I wonder if my posts that I find amusing may offend other viewers with different beliefs or ways of thinking.  These thought processes alone create anxiety about friending new people online, while managing and maintaining relationships with current "Facebook" friends, regardless of my will/want to continue any of the friendships.

Everyone has their own reasons for un-friending people; even I have my reasons. But it's not a good feeling when I am unfriended by someone else. It leaves me with a feeling of wondering: "was it something I did, said, or posted?" At least I used to have that feeling. Lately I have gotten over it. When  I am un-friended, or when I un-friend others. Then I also feel horrible when un-friending others. I just have to let go of the fact that everyone including myself has reasons for doing so. Yes this thought process of friending and un-friending seems to cause racing thoughts, therefore creating anxiety.

Posting and Sharing

Then there's the postings.  There are many reasons and purposes Facebook users have when they make posts. I have learned that most Facebook users either find those views interesting or feel uncomfortable after learning the type of Facebook user they themselves may be. Others may be completely comfortable and accepting of their posting reasons and style. Posts range from the things people are doing, places they've been, bragging about luxuries, sharing information, promoting their interests or products or soliciting.

The recent research seems to say that people simply view what others have, possibly get jealous or an empty feeling of sadness, and begin thinking about the things they don't have in their lives. It's just a possible sad reminder of things that might be missing from other people's lives. I don't speak for everybody. Sure there are Facebook users who are perfectly content with things in their own lives. But I'll admit seeing pictures allows my mind to wonder about others lifestyles and how time is spent.

Businesses have gotten savvy in targeting Facebook users based on their interests and activity. This makes me wonder who's watching my activity and how it's being analyzed. There is an entire marketing and business world to Facebook that most users don't even realize.

I personally don't enjoy when people use Facebook as an outlet for political or religious beliefs. The things people post depend on what type of Facebook user they are. I feel like just un-friending, but I don't want to cause stress in the physical world, possibly leading to discussions of reasons behind the un-friending. So I usually just block the posts so they're not on my feed, which leads to the question of "why am I friends with them in the first place?." Again, more anxious thoughts.

Sometimes when I make posts, I wonder why not many people clicked "like." I'm not even that into Facebook; although I don't worry about it too much.  I wonder the anxiety that other people go through when nobody clicks "like" on their posts. Some people may choose to think about this, and it may bother others subconsciously.  My objective when making a post is to either share funny content or share a cute image of my kids. Everybody likes posting cute images of their kids. But even I get sick of looking at other people's kids, and if I'm thinking it, I KNOW others are thinking it about my kids. But on the other hand, there are other users who genuinely enjoy viewing all posts that others share on Facebook, just to see how people's kids are doing.

Finally I constantly choose to just scroll through my Facebook feed on my phone when I'm bored. My phone is there, or course, connecting me 24-7 to my email, Twitter, Facebook, and other time-consuming apps and feeds. I get bored and check my Facebook. Maybe in a store line. Maybe at a long stoplight. Then people post, and my mind starts racing with statements and questions: Is this video worth my time? do I have to click "like?" "This is in bad taste… I don't care to read this," "why am I friends with this person?" All these thoughts happen in a mere matter of seconds that I choose to view my phone because I was bored. Then there's always unfinished business. Yet me and all the others, for some reason or another, continue coming back for more.

Final Thoughts

This is just my view and experience. Maybe it gives insight or not, but I don't need convincing from the articles that Facebook causes anxiety and depression. I could definitely understand why. There are some many things to think about. Facebook causes so many unanswered questions. Questions that have no definite answer and challenge a mind to question so many topics on so many levels.

I continue to be fascinated by what and how the Facebook experience continues to evolve into over the years. I am amazed by the amount of time some people spend on Facebook. I am shocked at the comments people put at the end of articles and blogs that point out various types of Facebook users. People get angry and defensive about the purposes of Facebook and perceptions of how Facebook is used.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Here are some links and resources I've collected that you might find interesting.

Can More Friends on Facebook Induce Stress and Anxiety?

Facebook is Bad for Your Health

Facebook Causes Depression

Social Media is Causing Anxiety

7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook Replaces (anything you want) In Your Social Media Feeds with Things You'd Like to See (Like Cats) in a Google Chrome Browser

23 Parents Who Facebook Better Than You

20 Things Your Most Annoying Friends Do on Facebook

What Your Facebook Likes Say About You

This Tells You the Type of Person You Are Based on Your Facebook Likes

Selected Most Predictive Likes

Last but not least, below is one of my previously unpublished and blog posts, which I never really intended to publish. It started as a draft for venting about Facebook. I decided to share it here. If one finds the above blog and links interesting, one might find my next post interesting as well, as it might give more insight to people's thought process while using Facebook. It's more me explaining the actual history, successes, and challenges, and thoughts I've encountered while using my Facebook account. At the end of the post, it also contains links to resources/articles about how Facebook relates to teachers and education.

Facebook: Observations, Evolutions, Implications, and Possibilities by Gary Feltman