A few years ago, I attended a session at a conference, and I didn’t agree with what some of the presenter was saying. Much of it was great, but what I chose to focus on was what I didn’t agree with during the session, and I chose to tweet that out. Twitter was a place, in my mind, not only to develop learning but to really challenge ideas. Although I had never met the presenter before, I thought challenging would be good for my thinking as well as theirs.
Later that night, I had dinner with some friends, and the person who was presenting, little to my knowledge, also came to the same dinner. I was embarrassed. Not only was I embarrassed, but he seemed upset although his session was widely received as positive. I had become the drain, not the fountain. I sucked the life out of what should have been a great moment for someone I did not know. The two or three tweets that I had sent that took a few seconds of my time, could have stuck with that person the entire day, maybe longer. Not only was he a really smart person, he has also become a friend. I knew that my words mattered, and I had wrecked someone’s day.
And it wasn’t that my voice mattered because of a number of followers on Twitter, it was because it was a person criticizing another person’s work. Someone with ten followers on Twitter, can have that same impact. We sometimes get confused between the “persona” and the person. The reality of it is that if there is no relationship, there is no learning, and although sometimes we see it as challenging ideas, the way we do it, can make a tremendous impact (negatively) on someone else.
Maybe because of this I have added to the idea of the “Twitter echo chamber”, and honestly, I am okay with that. It is not that we shouldn’t challenge other ideas, but I know that if that is all we do to people, our voice will eventually be ignored. If I don’t agree, I am focusing on asking questions, not making statements. This would go to Covey’s idea of, “seek first to understand, not to be understood”. I also know that there are a lot of educators that are going to Twitter and spending their own time to become better educators. If you hate teaching, you probably don’t go spend extra time on Twitter to try to become better at it. There are a lot of people that don’t just go to social media for ideas, but for inspiration. How much learning can we truly do if we don’t feel valued? The idea is not only for our classrooms, but for learning in general, offline or online.