Last night I nearly cleaned out my social media presence on Instagram as I’ve used it about 6 times in two years. More generally, I want to pull back on any social media that isn’t adding to my life (yeah, Facebook, I’m talking about you). Is there anything worth staying on Instagram for? I know students use it to show off the photographic techniques they learn in their digital photography class. When I scrolled through to see what photos have been posted from the location of our school, I was caught by a very striking image that represents a view out of a classroom.
One of the most striking things about Instagram is how students engage with it (likes) way more than they do our school Twitter stream. I care about where their engagement happens since in the last two days of learning conferences, many students told me that they got their news through Snapchat. But neither Instagram nor Snapchat are where I have the interactions that I value.
This poses a serious challenge for teaching media literacy, but also for teaching the more traditional forms of text. With my Grade 9s, we have been reading and crafting memoirs. How does their construction of ephemeral memoirs on Snapchat and curated collections of memories on Instagram shape both how they write and see themselves?
Even though I understand how Snapchat works, I will never understand what it’s like to feel the draw of streaks or notifications. And with Instagram, I’m well past a point where I’m drawn to construct images that vie for hundreds of likes. I’m simply not shaped by these medias in the same way.
Beyond different medias, students really carry around different devices than I do, even though they may both be called iPhones. Few of them read the news on it or need to sift through work emails. But in both cases, these devices form the pathway to a public presentation of self, which is something that I struggle with on many levels. I’m happy to be out here in public intellectual mode sharing and criticizing ideas, and to reflect on my teaching and share what my students are doing, and to occasionally put out parts of my personal life, but I resent the way that platforms work to combine all of those roles into one public individual.
Just this morning, I received the most bizarre notification from my Apple Photos: “You Have a New Memory”. So, even in the relatively private space between my stored photos and my screen, algorithms give birth to new things I need to be made aware of. Notified. How I go about opting out of social media now seems like an easier challenge than figuring out how I withdraw from the asocial nudges that emerge from my own archives.
Header image by Soragrit Wongsa