The Sometimes Misleading Nature of Social Media

Most of what we see on social media offers only one perspective. 

One topic that continues to resonate with me following ISTE 2017 surrounds the misleading nature of social media feeds.  What we see in the posts of those who we friend or follow are typically the highlights of their lives.  People tend not to share the more mundane aspects of their lives, nevermind the negative moments.  So given the fact that our lives are a series of peaks and valleys, we need to take the time to remind students of this phenomenon.

Think about your old photo album…

George Couros’ great session on Digital Leadership reminded me of the process that used to be followed to produce and organize photos. Many of us have photo albums around the house from when we were younger.  The albums contain only the best pictures from the photos that were taken and developed by our parents. They didn’t throw in all those pictures that weren’t good enough to take a slot in the photo album. What percentage of the pictures taken with a roll of film do you think actually ended up in the album?

We need to help our students keep perspective on what they see posted

There are so many articles referring to the links between student depression and social media.  It is no wonder given the fact that students may not realize that social media feeds are typically a highlight reel of a person’s life. Most people share all of their best moments on Facebook while keeping their low-points to themselves.

In her ISTE Keynote, Jennie Magiera highlighted this point while referencing a recent New York Times article by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz titled Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable.  In the article, Stephens-Davidowitz discusses his work analyzing Google search data and how the terms people enter into the Google search bar are the polar opposite of what they are posting on Facebook. Here is one example he cites:

On social media, the top descriptors to complete the phrase “My husband is …” are “the best,” “my best friend,” “amazing,” “the greatest” and “so cute.” On Google, one of the top five ways to complete that phrase is also “amazing.” So that checks out. The other four: “a jerk,” “annoying,” “gay” and “mean.” 


The excerpt above, which Jennie highlighted in her keynote, also comes from New York Times article and it is something that we need to ensure all of our students understand. I have no doubt that many students look at all of the beautiful pictures that their peers are sharing on various social media platforms and then begin to feel that their own lives are inferior in some way. As educators, we need to ensure that our students have a balanced perspective.

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