Sharing is Caring: Social Media Gone Mad

I finished The Circle by Dave Eggers and had a varied reaction to it. It was part genius, mirror, and possible futurist examination. Attentions spoilers are ahead. The book opens with the protagonist, Mae, getting a dream job at a tech company that is Google, Facebook, and Cisco rolled into one. Soon Mae immerses herself in the culture of the Circle. She becomes an extremely productive employee of the Circle and embraces the cult-like philosophy of the company. Mae is an ambassador to the brand of the company. She comes to learn that above all everything must be shared. “Privacy is theft.” The book reads like many dystopian novels, but resonates with some familiarity given our plugged in society.

Some of us were outraged when we found out the depth of surveillance by arms of the government, yet at the same time many of us share intimate details of our lives on blogs, tweets, and status updates on social networking sites. Where is the happy medium? That medium ultimately is what we are comfortable with our particular digital footprints. However, Eggers gets on to something more insidious with the absolute need to share. Sharing is caring and consequently this also means that privacy is selfish. Transparency becomes the norm and this requires completely embracing the panoptican. Jeremy Bentham would be so proud or perhaps horrified. Would it be democratic, though, to make everyone vote? Mandatory voting does exist, but as of right now it is not facilitated by a social networking site.

Dave Eggers is on to something with the book, though. The want to share everything and also feel accountable to your community of watchers is problematic at times. Here, Mae’s thoughts reminds me of disordered eating and people who report their food intake on Mia and Ana sites. How would you act if you were constantly surveilled? The idea is that with an audience one would be on their best behavior–eat right, exercise, and say the right things. But, being on all the time is exhausting and some of Mae’s friends realize this.

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The book might give you pause as you think about your own connectedness. I know that I walked around campus more cognizant of needing to be unplugged.

 

Eggers, Dave. 2013, The Circle. NY: Vintage Books.

Parenting, Community Building, and Email

I never thought I’d post about something as mundane as trying to get birthday invites to my elementary aged daughter’s friends. Previously she was enrolled at a private school and not only did we have an online family directory, but we also had class representatives who collated a parents’ email, address, and phone list. This made birthday or play date invites extremely easy. This also allowed for socializing among the families–yes, for community building and did so in a way that many of us appreciated. We could email and connect or choose to call and coordinate.

I have booked my daughter’s birthday party and given that she’s two months into a new public school I thought that I should find out what the protocol is for birthday invites. Actually, I walked into the office assuming that I would get the contact information for the classroom parents or an email for the class representative. Well, I could not even get the teacher’s email. Nope. This violates privacy laws in the province, allegedly. No information about the child can be disseminated via email. Whether or not this is true is not my bone of contention. The fact that in 2013 I could not get the work email for my child’s teacher was absolutely ridiculous. I was politely told that my daughter can distribute the invites at lunch or recess. This is a great exercise for kids to see who is invited and not invited. Big sigh. The e-vites allows for no paper waste.

The staff suggested that I speak with the teacher to see what she prefers. So, off we trundled down the hall. I spoke with the teacher and she would not give her email. She asked if I could just come in. I explained that I am always near a device, so that email is convenient. I received another polite smile and was told that she’s happy to meet with me prior to school. I’ll have to be happy with that. Apparently, she does not check her email often–and that’s fine. But, I’m still shocked. I inquired about the birthday invites and was again informed that my daughter will need to hand them out during recess or lunch.

I might sound like one of those self-entitled parents who demands that the system works her way, but I’m not sure if that is the case here. My concern is three-fold: ease of communication, access to information (emails) to set up play dates or arrange a pick up swap, and understanding that it’s 2013 and technology is pervasive. So, slap my rear and call me Betsy, because I was shocked with my findings today. Seriously, I have to go old school and have my kiddo pass out invites. This also means that I have to meet the other parents so that we can actually become part of this new community. I have some “let’s arrange a play date” note cards that I can finally use. The good news is that I’m going to be more outgoing at drop off and pick up to meet other parents. I’ll roll with it.

My second to last concern is that the kiddo is not inviting the entire class, so the chances are that some kid will have her or his feelings hurt. We have a set limit for the party and we are inviting a mix of kids from the old school and new school. Thankfully, I can use an e-vite for the kids from the old school. Regarding the hurt feelings, well that’s part of growing up–I know. I will have a chat with the kiddo about how to do this as discreetly as possible. And, my last concern, I’m still troubled by the fact that the nuclear codes were not made available to me as a parent– I don’t have the teacher’s email address. An email address is something so basic in my world as an educator. But, then again, maybe the teacher is drawing boundaries and really prefers only face to face interaction. At this point in time, I’m expressing my surprise via the blog post, but I’m not about to write the school board. This is not official complaint worthy. Thoughts?

Adding–of course–I googled the teacher. Her email was not found and she is off the grid. Boundaries, time management or teaching philosophy…

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