Stop, Drop, and Scroll
Questions to Guide Your Social Media Behavior
By NAfME Member Lori Schwartz Reichl
With its ability to create and share content instantly and globally, social media has crept into our lives as educators. Here are some tips to improve social media etiquette and ensure using it advances your teaching, helps students with their learning, and casts a positive light on the school and its music program.
As music educators, our personal and professional lives often intermingle. Our profession is our passion. From creating, performing, and responding to music to presenting, conducting, and adjudicating, we often find ourselves in the same environment for work and play.
Because of this intertwining, we must be cautious about what we share through social media. Are we considering the content, context, viewers, influence, and impact of our virtual communications? As an educator, clinician, or visitor to a school, classroom, or rehearsal and performance space, it is crucial that—if we choose social media for both personal and professional purposes—we ensure that the posted content is legal, positive, and kind.
Our messages, posts, and responses on social media can quickly spread either positively or negatively to students and their families, colleagues, administrators, and supporters. When we advise our students to be responsible in their use of technology, are we complying with precautions, too? Do we consider the feelings and beliefs of others before we post information, opinions, or photographs online? Have we given careful thought to the effects our words and images may have on an audience, institution, or the profession?
The desire to document our lives and instantly share our experiences has ignited an eagerness to photograph our actions and our associations with others. Snapping a selfie is extremely common. Do we have permission to take these photographs? Do the photographs include others? If so, do we have permission to post the images of each of the individuals in the photographs? If these individuals are students, do we have approval from their administration, teachers, and guardians to post their pictures on social media? Do the photographs we choose to post represent ourselves, our students, programs, schools, and communities in a positive light?
Material posted on social media can be edited and deleted, but someone could permanently capture an original message on camera or video before it is altered or deleted. Instant gratification is not worth the consequence of a careless message, duplication, illegal upload, reprimand, or termination.
Michael J. Martirano, superintendent of Howard County Public School System in Ellicott City, Maryland, states, “I urge you to be mindful that the content you share—through social media, e-mail, a text message, photo, or any other medium—is an indelible reflection of your entire persona, including your values and professional role as an educator. Be aware that the lines between our personal and professional lives are blurred because, whether we are on social media or at the grocery store, students and their families will always perceive us as educators and leaders.”
“Be aware that the lines between our personal and professional lives are blurred because whether we are on social media or at the grocery store, students and their families will always perceive us as educators and leaders.”
Martirano continues, “Our children are always carefully watching us and, whether or not you intend it, your online posts are very likely to be seen by students and their families. Please be thoughtful and ensure every message reflects our mutual values of kindness, acceptance, and compassion. When in doubt, don’t post—or first run your message by a trusted mentor or colleague.”
Allow this lyric from the Broadway musical “Mean Girls” to guide your social media decisions: “So before you snap, tag, like, or call, here is my advice: Stop. Do better and stop. I know it’s hard, but try. Don’t instantly gratify.” Then, put down your device and scroll through this list of questions to guide your social media behavior:
- HOW am I using social media? Are you using its capabilities for personal or educational implementation? Do you have the same desire to share a message once you’ve waited a few minutes, an hour, or even a day to post? Consider drafting a version of the message and having a second pair of eyes review its content and tone before posting.
- WHAT is my intention for its use? Is the message you plan to share on social media intended as communicating, networking, disseminating information, delivering resources, sharing knowledge, or showing gratitude—or might it come across as boastful? Consider how others may perceive your message.
- WHY am I choosing to use this particular form of communication? Are you solely posting this message on social media? Does everyone you hope to interact with use social media on a regular basis or even at all? Consider additional forms of communication to reach all stakeholders.
- WHEN am I posting on social media? Are you planning to post personal content when you should be engaged in an assessment, lesson, meeting, rehearsal, or performance? Consider the time and place as you post.
- WHERE am I posting material? To which social media accounts are you posting? Are you posting where your audience is and not just on your own favorite platform? Are you violating any employee expectations? Obtain approval for use of all accounts and photographs.
- WHO is the targeted audience? Who will actually view the material? Is it meant to be shared with only your closest friends and family, or does it target students, colleagues, and the school community? Consider who your “friends” are on your social media accounts.
A good general rule for all music educators: Before posting to social media, always remember to stop, drop, and scroll.
About the author:
Lori Schwartz Reichl is an author, educator, and consultant. Visit her at makingkeychanges.com.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.