So here’s the thing. I am not one of those people who feels we need to pat our Twitter buddies on the back all the time, tell them how wonderful they are, compliment their every move and grovel at their every sagacious tweet. I mean, it’s nice to be supportive and cordial and all that, but it’s also important to challenge, question, and argue.
Of course, it’s the way we do these things that defines our online presence and helps shape the perception of who we are and what we are involved in.
I’m going to be vague in the details of what I say, so I apologize for that. I was involved in the very early days of one of my favorite chats, way back when it started up, I guess, a little over a year ago. It was a weekly meeting spot for educators facing similar challenges and a place where we could throw around ideas and debate philosophies. Really stimulating, actually.
For whatever reason, I was away from it for months, until recently returning over the summer. There was now a whole new cast of characters involved, as many of the old guard had drifted away and other passionate people had supplanted them. It started off wonderfully for me. I was glad to be back and meeting new people.
Lately, though, this particular chat/hashtag has been populated by an absolutely insane, unprofessional, unbecoming amount of personal bickering that – believe me – bothers many people other than me. As a result, our weekly chat always winds up having a couple of people engaging in their back and forth while the rest of us try to continue talking about ways to improve our practice and our students’ educational experiences. Being around this has become extremely frustrating.
I know I am not the only one who feels these “extracurricular activities” are a waste of time. Not only that, they are sullying the name of this hashtag/chat and, I predict, will drive people away.
The same way a school can not succeed with infighting and attention brought upon personal differences, neither can a vital weekly online chat. People will inevitably grow tired of the incessant ridiculousness, stop believing in the value of the bigger picture, and say “See ya.” I would venture that no one involved in the hashtag/chat wants to get to that point, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it myself.
An analogy: say you have a disagreement with your colleague at work. Are you going to stand in the middle of a packed staffroom and yell at each other? Or are you going to agree on the spot to disagree and then return to your discussion away from the prying eyes and ears of others? When these things happen in public, they become fodder for idle talk, and in the case of this hashtag/chat, that is exactly what is happening. Passionate, caring people – no doubt with good intentions – are allowing themselves to be dragged into petty lunacy that is changing peoples’ perceptions of them. Of course, that is their choice, but let’s never forget that perception is indeed reality.
So, here, I’ll make an open call to everyone. When you are on Twitter, please project yourself the way you would in your workplace. You are a professional and you are an adult. Save your issues with others for the privacy of e-mails or direct messages, because most of us don’t care enough to have our experiences tarnished. I take no sides on these issues because they are not mine to consider, and quite frankly, I have more important things to occupy my time.
I’m not suggesting we all be friends. I am suggesting, however, that we all be civil. And if you can’t be civil, at least spare the rest of us the drama. There are too many people out here who care too much about what matters to be involved in the insignificant squabbles of others.
I submit this respectfully, knowing that Twitter educators are a passionate bunch. I also submit it knowing that some will agree with me and some will disagree. I’m not too concerned. I am most worried about the direction we are going and how to set ourselves back on a positive, productive course.
I am simply asking that you stop the nonsense and allow the rest of us to move forward. You are doing yourselves no favors, you are upsetting other people, and you are harming our hashtag/chat’s credibility. This shouldn’t be about you. It should be about all of us. Do the right thing so we can all move on.