Mission Accomplished, Lessons Learned.

My initial blog post was titled “Let’s get uncomfortable”. The point of the post was that while I was a very technology-centric individual, I was also incredibly private with regards to my social media presence. I used every privacy control and tool at my disposal to protect myself from the big bad internet and the trolls who I heard dwell in its depths. So what I wanted to get out of the class was “the opportunity and ability to step out of my comfort zone”. Did I get what I was hoping for? Let me say it loudly for the people in the back: OPPORTUNITIES ABOUNDED. There were plenty of times where we debated complex issues in class, and I’m thankful for each and every one of them. However, one particular experience really stands out to me as a perfect example of why you should be careful what you wish for.

On April 5th, I saw a Twitter post (likely posted by the someone in the QAnon group that Jim taught us about) spreading misinformation. The post was about US politics, specifically American immigration policies, with a picture that I immediately recognized as a non-US border crossing. A quick reverse Google image search indicated that this photo was taken at the Greece-Macedonia border, at least according to Getty Images, who owns the rights to the photo.

I must have had a pretty salty breakfast that morning because I replied to the original poster and told them the facts: “This isn’t the Mexican border. It’s the Greece-Macedonia border and this has nothing to do with US politics.” However, wanting to dip my toes into the deeper waters of the Twitter world and see what all the hype was about, I also added “Do your homework.”

Now, I imaged that I would get a flurry of aggressive responses from far-right or alt-right individuals. I figured that calling out the photo as ‘fake news’ would result in a torrent of hate and criticism. I was prepared for a flood of direct messages, people finding out where I go to school, calling my workplace, and all other manners of internet horrors. I knew all of these things were a possibility and I was prepared to handle the backlash, delete the post, or even create a new Twitter account for class. But I should have known better – I should have known that the blowback I was expecting wouldn’t be the blowback I received.

Within the next day, three separate people (less attention than I had hoped for, but in hindsight, definitely for the best) replied to my comment. However, not a single one had any issue with the fact that I called out the photo for having nothing to do with US politics. Each reply was from a Greek, offended at the fact that I called it the Greece-Macedonia border (see below).

To me, this is a perfect microcosm of internet behavior. While I only got three comments, I understood much better how people find themselves in situations that they never could have expected due to the nature of the internet. That tweet showed me how much tunnel-vision I had when I looked at social media and how we use it. For me, those three comments were enough to show me that I understood much less of the internet than I ever believed.

But that’s just one tiny drop in an ocean of lessons learned. Through the blog posts I learned that senior citizens understand and use technology in ways, and quantities, that I never could have imaged (thank you, Caitlin). I learned to consider how technology can be designed for and used by people with intellectual disabilities (thank you, Lindsay). I learned about how AI, a technology I’m very familiar with, can be used to solve problems that I would have never applied it to (thank you, Shannon). I learned about how technology can be used to help those who need it most (thank you Mason – for both of your posts). I learned about how technology can be racist and sexist (thank you, Trevor) and how manipulative advertising can be (thank you, Cynthia). Each of these blog posts taught me so much about a world I thought I already knew everything about. I thought none of these posts would surprise me, but I found something fascinating and novel in almost every single one.

But most of all, thank you Professor Kane. This has been one of the most uniquely interesting and uniquely challenging courses I’ve ever taken. The guest speakers alone would be enough for me to recommend this class to any student who asks me for my recommendation on which classes to take. And while I liked some more than others, I think that every reading, video, and discussion (in both large and small groups) taught me something new and gave me a new perspective on a variety of issues and topics. I’m leaving this class with a much better understanding of how little I know and how much further I have to grow. This class helped me realize that I was much more set in my ways than I would have cared to admit.

It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

So I leave my fellow students with this: Ask questions, keep learning, and please keep posting to Twitter :)

10 comments

  1. Great finale! I have also had several similar experiences on Twitter similar to your Greek-Macedonia thing. It’s led me to be far more humble online! Haha. I love the fact that you called out the various presentations from peers. I enjoyed having you in the class!

  2. Olivia Crowley · ·

    Though I can’t say I have ever found myself in any type of similar scenario, I appreciated your personal anecdote as I agree that it perfectly exemplifies the situations people so often find themselves in on the social media and the internet as a whole. Not only does this happen to individuals, but it happens to companies as well–something I feel the need to constantly remind myself as I will soon be entering the workforce. I also appreciated your summary of all the amazing lessons we have learned through the blog posts written by our peers with semester, and agree on all accounts. Great post!

  3. taylorfq6 · ·

    I loved how you shared your own experiences here! And how much the class has helped you grow your online presence. I was similarly nervous about using Twitter since I had never used it before and had obviously heard of the horrors it can cause. I feel like the class helped us all learn and grow in similar ways – even if we didn’t call out others for doing their homework! All in all this class provided many major growth opportunities for all who were enrolled. I’m sure we will all continue to learn through these methods as we go forward in life, and are now better prepared for it as a result of this class!

  4. I absolutely loved your twitter thread and how it represented a microcosm of social media interactions. Despite the fact that people often associate online conversations as not emotional or personal, you can feel the anger and agitation from the last response. It reminds me of the tedtalk we watched on online bullying. Even though these are faceless accounts, they could be bots for all we know, all three tweets feel personal and as if someone is directly arguing with you. This highlights how social media could be taken out of context and feel like an attack when in fact it could’ve been a harmless correction. I also find it fascinating that people found your comment amongst the 241 responses to the original tweet and chose to respond. I am personally still intimidated by aggressive tweets and try my best to avoid online conflict.

  5. licarima · ·

    I like you have tried to maintain the private side on the internet, never really understanding the need to have a presence with the recent ways I saw social media going. This class rocketed me out of my comfort zone, so you are not alone screaming to the students in the back. If there is one thing that Professor Kane has taught it is not about having a presence just for the sake of having one it is about how you have a presence and how you why you have one. This is an awesome example of the ways in information now flows in our society and how easy it can be to spread “fake news” so I commend you for stepping out of that zone. We have learned a lot from each this semester which you have summarized nicely, but social media allows to learn more and more from those we may have never connected with once before, example by your tweets above. This experience and learning journey has been like any other, and I agree let’s keep the conversation going!

  6. MiriamPBourke · ·

    Oh my goodness I had so many of the same fears when I was twittering ! I still feel like I second guess all of the tweets I write. I guess I’ve been told for so long that the internet is written in ink, that I’m still uncomfortable putting my thoughts online !

  7. huang91j · ·

    It’s crazy to think how certain messages or a slight mistake could lead to a storm of angry people on social media. Twitter is one of those platforms where in a matter of minutes a Tweet could reach a large audience and the original user could either get praise or criticized to a point where they’re forced to shut down their account. We’ve learned so much throughout this semester and one thing I’ve realized is that I do like to stay out of controversial conversations, especially online. Whether it’s my fear of being called out for being wrong or for my stance, there is something about it that makes me feel uncomfortable. I think ultimately as a society, people need to be more understanding and not act on impulse and assuming the worst.

  8. merrimju · ·

    Great post! I almost wish this had happened earlier so that we could have has an in class discussion on the fact that no one cared about the parts of your tweet that were right but only focused on correcting where you were wrong. I think this comes back to social media is a tool and we all need to learn to wield it wisely and positively to stop the “trolls”.

  9. Great post! I honestly can’t believe that people can be so ignorant on social media sometimes. Good for you for tweeting back about the fake image. If this class has taught me anything about Twitter, its that you always have to double check what people say.

  10. cynmzfigueroa · ·

    Thanks for sharing that tweet exchange, how funny that this ended up having pushback but not the kind that you were anticipating. I’ve definitely had some of these moments online and truly sometimes it is surprising the type responses you can end up getting, good or bad. I’ve had some pretty innocuous comments (to me at least) end up with a flurry of contradicting responses and it can be challenging not to continue sparring online. Good for you for calling out the spread of that image in that erroneous context!

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