We live in a world that is more connected than ever. Everyone is on social media. It’s become strange to meet someone who is not online and even those that are too young to use a cell-phone or a computer already have a digital footprint. In class, we looked at some staggering stats which stated things like “34% of children have a digital footprint before they are even born”. A digital identity is no longer a thing people choose, it is something we are born into.
This week we had the chance to watch the video “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” which attempted to contextualize YouTube, the content on it, and the participatory community mentality of the website. I found this video extremely interesting to watch because I am a surface level YouTube user. I mostly use YouTube to watch The Tonight Show, music videos, and the occasional web series (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was pretty awesome!) and had no idea really that people used the platform to engage with a greater community.
The most interesting part of the video to me was the section where the presenter, Michael Wesch, broke down the idea of cultural inversion, emphasizing the tensions that exist between what we value as a society and what we express. I think that this trend can be seen in every form of social media. It is why people obsess over followers and likes. It’s why everyone posts every detail of their lives from the trips they take to the food they eat. And as much as the video seemed to romanticize the community that is created via media platforms such as YouTube I think that it is a sad commentary on the state of the world. We are so concerned with being digitally connected that we overlook the relationships we should be cultivating around us. We are too afraid to be vulnerable and authentic with the people around us and so we create these online personas and pretend to be people we aren’t in order to feel valued.
The portion of the video that discussed the lonelygirl15 debacle was extremely interesting but I found it completely ridiculous that people, as members of this participatory community, were so gullible and emotionally invested in a person that they didn’t really know. They were so desperate for the digital connection that they were deceived by this campaign. As future teachers in an increasingly digital age, it is our duty to teach students the skills to be critical consumers of digital content.
I also think that as teachers we can tap into the idea of the participatory community while providing students with a more authentic space and way to engage with each other and the world around them. In the video, there was a section that talked about the masks people put online as part of their digital identity and in our classrooms, we need to make sure that we are creating spaces where students feel the sense of acceptance without having to be masked. There is a clear desire in our students to be involved in something bigger than themselves and we need to be innovative as teachers and create ways for them to engage in that in the classroom. As I watched the video I couldn’t stop thinking about the craze of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and how many people I knew that participated in that phenomena. If we as educators can get our students engaging in a larger context (whether that is on a school, provincial, national, or even global scale) through their learning then students will buy into their learning much more and then more authentic learning will occur. It will be important to present classroom sand schools not as vacant buildings to be filled by the students but as rich learning communities that they can take part in as we move forward in the digital age of teaching.
If you are interested in checking out the video the link is listed below: