Who are you? How, when and where would I get to know who you are? Should I assume that it has to be “in person”? To be honest I kind of hope not, because that really limits the potential of the connections I can make.

Recently I had a very interesting (and informally structured) conversation with a group of diverse strangers responding to the prompt: “why is it so hard to have a proper conversation?” Since these were not educators, and they are not part of the community of learners I usually work with, I was very curious to see where this conversation would go.

I was not surprised to find the group quickly agreeing that it’s almost impossible to have a meaningful conversation today because everyone is “addicted to their phones”.

Of course, I have a lot to say about that, but I was even more interested when we started discussing the potential of having a deep, meaningful and authentic conversation with strangers who you might randomly meet traveling versus in online spaces.

The initial consensus of this group (at this time) was that we can definitely have deep, meaningful and authentic conversations with random strangers we meet face-to-face but we can’t possibly have the same type of conversation with someone who a) we don’t know in the physical world and b) is not in the room with us.

I disagree.

The Real Me

In fact, I argued that the person I am online is the real me, perhaps even more so that the person they were sitting with in the room at that moment.

Maybe other people don’t think like this, but:

  • all of my social media profiles are tied to my name (here are a few: Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit),
  • I regularly post and share my thinking on a variety of topics in many online spaces (my most recent favorite is this AMA which is basically just a brain dump of everything I think about instructional coaching in one long series of Q&A),
  • you can easily see the growth in my thinking here on this blog (if you want to see where I started, check out my very first post <cringe>), and
  • I even track my fitness progress in online spaces associated with my “real” name.

When I share in online spaces, it’s just like a continuation of a conversation I’m having – both in face-to-face environments and online.  Sometimes I am very lucky and I get to see my friends and colleagues in person, but more often than not, I share, connect, and collaborate with them in online spaces. And that means what I share online is a mix of personal and professional – we all have many facets to our lives, being able to see different sides of the people I learn from is inspiring and interesting, and helps me understand them better as “real people.”

For sure I polish it up a bit. I know I’m a teacher and I’m held to a bit of a higher standard in terms of what I share, so I don’t swear in online spaces, I try not to post pictures of me drinking alcohol (not that I do it that often), and I make a conscious choice about what I share even in “private” online spaces. But looking at those profiles over time is much more a reflection of the real me than I could ever hope to show in one conversation.

I’m sharing this here because I know the people who read this blog have probably had this conversation more times than they can count. Maybe you are as frustrated with it as I am. It’s not that I think everything people do on their phones is worthwhile, meaningful and a purposeful use of their time. But, I also don’t think that everything people do on their phones is worthless, pointless and a waste of time. Why do so many people see this as so black and white? And, how can we help them see the gray?

The Value of Sharing For Learning

And along those lines, when, where and how are we giving our students role models for realistic, responsible, but also fallible, social media profiles. It seems like they either see the “perfect” version of their teachers, or the “over the top” examples from social media or hollywood stars. Where are the regular, real people they can have a chance to learn from – to be able to see regular people, share different facets of their lives, to make mistakes and to recover from them?

And beyond just sharing the real version of you, there is much more value to sharing in social media spaces than might first be apparent (which is why I think we need to make time to create):

The fact that social media is an act of expression, reflection, elaboration, retrieval and practice is of interest to those of us who like to see concrete evidence for powerful learning and retention. I often feel as though I remember more when I use social media, indeed have stronger memories of the things I posted than the original exposure. Tweeting during a conference helps me consolidate my thoughts and capture key insights. Facebook helps me share resources. LinkedIn is a useful professional tool. However, it is blogging, such as this post, that is by far my strongest form of learning, as it involves a number of things that are all supported by researched learning theory, and which improve memory and recall…

The Real You?

What about you? Where can we find the “real” you? Are you the “real” you online?

Photo credits:

5 thoughts on “The Real Me

  1. Hi Kim,

    This resonates with me (even though I am only a very sporadic blogger).

    I am sharing a house here in Bolivia and I have lived with a bunch of different people in the last eight months. At the moment, one is a student from the Netherlands doing research for his master’s. He’s young (at least relative to me) but has decided not to join any social media networks. He has a dumb phone and sticks mainly to email. We have become friends but I feel like there is part of me that is invisible to him because he isn’t seeing my photos and posts on various social media sites and we aren’t having conversations and/or interactions outside of face-to-face ones. In contrast, I have ended up being Facebook friends very quickly with some volunteers, travelers and local people who I don’t think I will end up maintaining ties with and sometimes I feel a bit exposed when one of these people comments on one of my posts. (Especially when I discover that we have very different views of the world!)

    I hope our paths cross once I am back in Asia and we can add some face-to-face to our current ways of interacting.


    1. @Megan,

      Such a great point! I feel the same about some of my oldest friends from home (that I’ve known for ages) who just aren’t as interested in online sharing as I am. I almost expect them to know things about me or that I’ve done and when they don’t, I’m surprised. I also feel like I’m missing out on their lives because they don’t share as much either. I have one particular friend from this same group and he shares a lot, over time I feel like I’ve grown closer to him because of being able to stay connected throughout the year, rather than just catching up once a year when we visit the US.

      Looking forward to seeing you soon!

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