The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: September 12, 2011

Am I failing at social media?

I can't unfollow you
(Image credit: docpopular)

When I first got started with Twitter, I set up a filter so that whenever I got a notification from Twitter that someone followed me, it was sent to a special folder in my Gmail inbox.

That folder now has 9581 emails in it. So 9581 times, I’ve gotten a notification that I was just followed by someone. There are a couple of people that follow and unfollow me repeatedly, trying to get me to follow them (while never engaging in me in dialog at all, I might add), but almost all of those notification emails are from new people. 

However, I don’t have 9500 followers, I actually have about 6600 followers.

Some quick subtraction shows that of the 9500 or so people that followed me at some stage during the past three years, nearly 3000 of them have unfollowed me. To put it another way, nearly a third of the people who follow me eventually unfollow me. Are these 3000 lost opportunities to connect with people? 

Why do these people unfollow me?

  • My friend told me that she unfollowed me because I was tweeting too much and overwhelming everyone else in her network.
  • Some of the "people" who unfollowed me were actually spam bots and eventually got blocked by Twitter.
  • Some of them unfollow me because the information I post doesn’t meet their needs.

The key thing is, most of the people who unfollowed me because of their needs, not because of what I’m doing or not doing. It’s easy to take being unfollowed or blocked personally, but I really try hard not to. After all, the whole point of a personal learning network is that it is personal, and that you need to meet your needs.

What 9/11 means to me

Like most people, I will never forget where I was the morning of September 11th, 2001.

It was my second week of training to become a teacher, and I arrived early at the library to see everyone glued to the screen and watching CNN. As I walked into the library, the second plane crashed into the tower. It was a difficult day for all of us, and we knew that our day was nothing compared to the poor people in the tower. I remember people crying, and all of us felt numb.

A year later, I was in NYC teaching in Brooklyn, and the school year had just started. The first anniversary of 9/11 came up, and I realized that my students had all lived through the experience in a much more personal way than I had. We talked about it. We shared stories. It was the most intimate day of the year for us, and one of the only days that my students were quiet and contemplative.

Over the years, I grew concerned as I watched our liberties erode and the culture of surveillance grow. Boarding a flight turned from being something enjoyable, sometimes even exciting, to something I dreaded. When I learned about the Patriot Act, and all that it entailed, and how it even affected me as a Canadian living in England, I became worried. How could we let one act of violence change our world so much? No one who is content with their life resorts to violence to communicate.

In 2006, on the 5 year anniversary of 9/11, everything changed, at least for my wife and I. Our son was born at 4:03pm. 9/11 changed for us forever, from being a day we mourn, to a day we celebrate. While I will not forget the events that happened on that fateful day, the joy of the birth of my son outweighs all of the negative emotions I have attached to 9/11.

Our son knows nothing about 9/11. He is too young. His life is filled with playing and learning about the universe through the lens of a small child. He does not need to know about the ugliness of the world yet.

In the birth of my son, I learned that even a day of great destruction can become one of hope. Through my son’s eyes, I am reminded that the world is full of wondrous things. I see hope for our future in him, and other children like him who were born into the post-9/11 world.

Each year that we celebrate our son’s birth, I am reminded again that we have not lost celebrations and other reasons for living. I am reminded that our lives should be about building communities and families. I am reminded again of why I want to raise my son to be a good person, a critical thinker, and someone not bound by prejudice. I am reminded that on a day of great trajedy and sorrow, I received the greatest gift of my life.