Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Scourge of Social Media

   I don't like what I see on many social media sites. I haven't for years, and this was before Trump took to tweeting I grew to detest social media via my expansive experiences with teens and seeing first hand social media's often devastating effects. In addition to being a teacher, I'm a certified mediator and did them almost daily. On most days I did one or sometimes two, but when our students started getting cell phones, I was doing about ten a day. It became quickly apparent we needed more mediators and several staff members volunteered for the training. (I believe all teachers should be trained - it helps in a myriad of ways.) Many of these mediations were intense, emotional powder kegs that had the potential to escalate. It was mandatory after a fight and a mandatory suspension. We had a minimum of one fight a day - our school had approximately 2000 students, in a building built for 800. Ninety percent of the altercations dealt around social media. This was at a time when phones were banned from school. (There was a truck or the corner bodega that would hold them for a dollar. If a cellphone was found in school it would be confiscated and only returned to a parent.) During those years My Space, AIM and then Facebook became de riguer. Someone would gossip and say something nasty on one of the sites. It would result in a fight, which if fought outside, would be filmed and posted. The NYPD, out of pure necessity, put an Internet division in each station house.  It seems that technology, especially technology that allows one to be anonymous, creates a viciousness that will often result in violence. Violence directed at the suspected parties, or most appallingly  at oneself.
   When I was young if we said or did something awful, we saw the results of our actions. On the face of the recipient, or with a fight, a suspension and/or a severe punishment at home. That fact alone stopped the behavior from happening and/or stopped it from happening again. Zen and the art of teenage discipline could be letting kids see the effects of their actions in a natural and tangible way, but that isn't happening presently. Many young people are receiving no discipline at home or at school. Now, unbelievably, phones are allowed into schools, but I must say many schools have started to collect them at the door. The staffs however are not trained in mediation and/or restorative justice, just say they are and do nothing. There needs to be real training (not a half hour PD) for staffs and tangible consequences for students, when warranted. It's insane to allow students to bring their phones to class, especially schools that have severe discipline problems. Again, you can quickly judge the quality of a school by how it deals with this issue. Some of these schools don't even have a dean.  Schools are a microcosm of society and even we are not immune to social media's invasive tentacles. It actually makes us less socially adept. The people that I know with thousands of friends on Facebook have no close friends. Those that like to be combative on Twitter can't argue face to face. Social skills and civility are being replaced with silence, texting and walking into fountains.
    There was a case earlier this month that involved texting and outrageous cruelty that I have been following closely that I hope may change much of the unfettered viciousness of those that cause others to hurt themselves. . Teachers, administrators and parents need to be cognisant of the effects of technology, youth and the all encompassing indifference I see everywhere from almost everyone.

7/3/17 Update : Michelle Carter was convicted and is looking at a 2.5 year sentence.

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Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.