On Wednesday, 16 November 2011, I had the pleasure of guest lecturing for an evening session of Interpersonal Communication at Ohlone College. The students prepared for our class by reading the previously published post “Digital Citizenship: Cultivating an Online Presence, Part I.” After a quick introduction, they broke into small groups to review the text and come up with discussion questions where we dived into what it means to be a digital citizen, how and why we use social media sites. For reference to digital citizenry check out the NY Times recent article “Protestors Look for Ways to Feed the Web,” which is about social media’s role with the Occupy Movement where Jennifer Preston writes:
The movement counts more than 400 Facebook pages with 2.7 million fans around the world. On Tumblr.com, the “We Are the 99 Percent” blog continues to publish the personal stories of hundreds of people struggling with student debt, health care costs and foreclosure. There are also dozens of new wikis and Web pages, including OccupyWallSt.org and HowToOccupy.org.
Interpersonal Communication is the study of how we communicate with self and others. Relationships remain an essential component of human existence. We must ask ourselves: How well do we function in our relationships, and how might we improve our relational competencies? The class was wonderfully diverse, with students from all over the world sharing insights about their experiences with social media. We discussed the following topics:
- citizenship vs. consumerism
- digital community vs. face-to-face community
- what’s expected of citizens online
- what’s expected of digital communities
- how do different digital communities interact. For instance, Tumblr is for showcasing individual work and Facebook is for catching up with friends and family
The students then drafted group contracts between online users and online communities to determine what the community can do for digital citizens and what digital citizens can do for their community. Some of the policies they wished to implement included:
- no kids ten-years or younger should be on Facebook because they don’t have much to contribute to the community
- need to have expectations on what people can and should post
- users need to understand that sites like Facebook are not games
- time limits to ensure productivity at work and in school
- cut unlawful browsing
We concluded the evening with two writing exercises to help students become more conscious of how they present themselves online and how they interact with others:
1. Self- Evaluation from the Point of View of a Friend or Family Member
(This proves highly relevant to course content as the class discussed ‘Significant Others’ and how the relationship(s) affects our perception of ourselves. ‘Perceived Self’ / ‘Presenting Self’, Ego Boosters and Ego Busters along with Perspective Taking.)
For this freewrite you will want to assume the point of view of a friend or family member who knows you well. You will be writing from their perspective to give a critical evaluation of yourself. Imagine that they’ve been asked to give an honest and thoughtful assessment about your self. Your friend or family member must give a truthful evaluation about your character, your motivation, and your ability to follow through with action. In addition, they are required to support their opinion with concrete experiences, memories and events that illustrate their assessment.
To assist with this exercise you may want to answer some of these questions, again from the POV of a friend or family member who is evaluating you:
- How would you describe your personality?
- What motivates or inspires you?
- Who has influenced you and why?
- What past events demonstrate your strongest skills and traits?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How do you handle your weaknesses?
- If you could make changes to your life, your drive, your behavior, what kind of changes and why?
- When are you at your best? When are you at your worst?
- How well do you work with others?
- How well do you take direction?
- What kind of a leader are you?
- How do you inspire others?
- Other questions???
2. Personal Ad for Dating Agency
(This proves highly relevant to course content since the class addressed both mediated (digital) communication and the dynamics of ‘self-concept‘.)
Where did you grow up?
Get To Know Me:
About My Date (Describe who you’re ideal date is):
In My Own Words (give a paragraph description to entice potential dates):
If you could draw up a contract between digital citizens and digital communities what would be the roles each play for what purposes, and what policies would regulate the relationships?
For kicks, here’s a take on the internet from two favorite digital citizens: