Here’s what surprised me most Tuesday about my time presenting at the Iowa FCCLA state event in Des Moines:
- The reaction of some high school students to cyber bullying
- Their reasons for posting pictures on Facebook
- Their thoughts on consuming news and information
First, some background. I was asked to present a session called “Media, Communication and Technology” during three separate breakout sessions that are intended to introduce high school students to different topics. I was prepared. I had all sorts of great and different things to talk about, but the best parts of the day came when students steered the conversation as I made sure they kept their topics within a loose frame of communication and technology.
On the topic of cyber bulling one student laughed, “Oh yeah, we all do it. It’s part of it (Facebook).” To which a few friends seated around her nodded or voiced their agreement. I was shocked. From all that I’ve read, cyber bulling is the new “it” social issue. Maybe it was just this group of students who had a different take. They were talking and laughing and nodding about just as casually as if they had said they put fruit in their yogurt. Later in the day a mom and teacher who had not been part of our conversation separately brought up cyber bulling. I conveyed my story, which she corroborated. “They’re doing it,” she said.
One student out of the group of 40 – just one – said she wasn’t on Facebook. The reason: “Too much drama,” she said. “It was just too much drama. I deleted my account. Every day there was drama.”
POSTING PICTURES ON FACEBOOK
I always like to ask students why they post pictures on Facebook. I do it too, so it’s not a judgment. I’m curious why they post.
Me: What kinds of photos do you post?
Student: Pictures from parties, mostly.
Me: How many people do you think care about the photos?
Student: I don’t know, maybe 20, 30.
Me: How many Facebook friends do you have?
Student: Like, 500.
Me: So why not just start a Flickr group? Or email them to your friends so they can have them. Why put them out there for your 470 friends who probably don’t care?
And then I got the most honest answer I’ve ever received from this question.
Student: So I can feel important.
Me: How does it make you feel important?
Student: Because everyone will know I was at that party and what I was doing.
Me: It’s not enough to have fun at the party and share the pictures with your friends?
Student: (Shakes her head no)
Me: Does anyone else feel this way?
Another student: I put up my spring break photos because I got a tan, and I’m never tan. I wanted everyone to see me tan.
So there you go.
CONSUMING NEWS AND INFORMATION
Ninety percent of students at this conference are not going to major in journalism, media, communications or a related field.
So I focused much of my talk on helping them learn how to become educated media consumers. In other words, to become educated skeptics about the mass quantities of media and other information pumped their way.
This result was far more encouraging. There isn’t much to report beyond this great quote from a student:
“I think we’re all learning what we can trust and what we can’t.”
Contact Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.