I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say ‘Oh, Facebook’s not for
me’, or ‘It seems better not to get involved with all this online stuff’. But if you’re
a music teacher in the 21st century, the reality is very different.
These phrases always make me flinch. I’m not prejudiced against techno-idiots,
it’s simply that these throwaway comments reveal a lack of understanding of the
importance of the internet and social media. And this stuff is too important not to
be aware of.
We live in a world centring on image. What image do you project? How do people
perceive you? This is the importance of social media that people fail to grasp. It
can be a subtle way of conveying a piece of yourself – what drives you, what’s
important to you – to the outside world. If you’re in the education business then
this is integral to what you’re doing; you are a mentor providing a role model.
Your passion, your personality, your skills are what you are selling.
Consequently it’s important to recognise how influential social media can
be. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be tweeting away ten
to the dozen. It’s about understanding what image you want to project. An
internationally renown teacher might wish to retain a distance and exclusivity in
some circumstances. Perhaps he/she should refrain from getting involved with
Facebook/ Twitter altogether. But this is the point. It’s perfectly possible not to
use social networking sites for interaction, and instead use them to get across
your image. It seems more useful to think of these sites a magnifying glasses
rather than ‘networking sites’; they throw your name and values outward for
people to see and react to. No matter what you may have heard people say, if
you take the time to understand how to use these effectively, you really are the
master of your own image, and you are the sole person who has a say over what
The most important point to recognise is that there are no hard-and-fast rules.
There’s no easier answer to the question of ‘how much of yourself do you want
to expose’? Whether or not you separate your personal account from a ‘work’
account is an individual choice, but it’s critical to understand that everything
you publish online is in the public domain. No matter how quickly you de-
tag that photo. Being a teacher means that you are in a position of trust and
responsibility, and nothing must be allowed to compromise your ‘professional
character’ because that is the product you are selling. This is particularly
important if you work with students of a younger age (who will almost certainly
be adept at using these sites anyway).
However you choose to deal with the social media question, it is really important
to convey a genuine image. Restrict the amount of information you provide,
yes, but don’t create a page which doesn’t authentically reflect who you are as a
teacher. A negative aspect of social media sites is that they allow people to create virtual personas that often diverge greatly from reality. It’s important not to get this wrong; teaching is an occupation that revolves around personal interaction, and truth is a fundamental part of this.