It’s our lingo: we like, share, follow and connect

Just how well do we speak the digital language?

Image of Social Media Icons
Social Media Icons

One does not have to be logged on to any online platform to receive a prompt to Like, Follow or Connect. Television shows and programs flash these prompts several times during their broadcast time. It’s called interactivity. It thrives on audience attention and participation.

Here is the BIG QUESTION

What does our ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘share’ mean? How do we choose what to like, who to follow, befriend or connect with?

To someone with digital literacy these questions are at the core of every decision they make online. In short, the people, institutions and events, as well as the content we like, share and distribute reflect our own thoughts, beliefs and create our profiles. Does this echo the sentiment of the English proverb “show me your friends and I will tell you who you are”? No shock intended.

Now here lies the real problem

First of all, we all go online for different reasons and engage in diverse activities, sometimes unaware of what traits we possess and demonstrate based on our online participation. There are lurkers, stalkers, social surveillance and mass surveillance participants as well as those who go online for entertainment, to learn, educate or plain vent out their frustrations. Better or worse still there are those who find these platforms purely as spaces to nurture their narcissism. Hands up if you are guilty of this (Even if it’s once in a while).

Maybe the sentiment expressed above is a ridiculous assumption. Then I am saved by the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Back to the problem: our ‘children’ are obsessive internet and social media users. I have listened to friends, family members and colleagues lament about Facebook as a ‘hole that has swallowed their children’. They are clutching at every bit of hope they can find to wean the ‘lost souls’ off the destructive affiliation. A colleague once gave me a terrified look when I told her she was fighting a losing battle if she thought she could lecture her child out of social media. I love the honesty that was shrouded in her question… what are we supposed to do? She asked.

“I swear you can’t beat him and you know what you should do if you can’t beat them?” was my brutal response.

Other stories of lamenting parents involve children who have resorted to using pseudonyms and ‘ghost’ profile pictures as a way of evading surveillance by their teachers and parents. I think I should write a letter addressed to all parents and teachers. The letter would read:

Dear all

Please note that you are not alone in the challenge brought about by the ubiquity of the internet and online engagement.  Governments are facing the same problem which makes it difficult for relevant authorities to regulate online content. The following excerpt from the “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace 1996” illustrates the enormity of the problem at hand. It begins like…

”Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
by John Perry Barlow

In view of this, I urge all of us to take a moment to learn the digital language and engage with our children, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces and channel their online engagement into meaningful participation.

 Yours faithfully

Another concerned teacher

Of course the internet and online platforms present complicated issues of governance. Are they also going to intimidate parents to a point where they have no control over what their children do?

There is sufficient evidence confirming that children can never thrive in online platforms without the involvement of adults.

Are they leaving constructive digital footprints?

Let us join hands to teach our students and children online protocols. Let us protect them from cyber bullying, cyber porn, child trafficking, and the many distracters that are rampant online.

This is a language we all [young and old] need to speak with fluency to a significant degree.

You are welcome to share, like, and comment on this post.

PS: This post was inspired by the many utterances I hear about digital technology taking the role of teachers. In my view, learners need us more than they did before the digital era, so we can order their steps inthe right direction.

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