To tweet or not to tweet

– that is no longer the question for teachers

I use social media a fair amount. Actually, a lot. This is because I take the train to my school and I need distractions and to plug into the world outside, especially through Twitter. Here’s a few FAQs that can be answered from my experience.

But … isn’t Twitter (and other social media)mainly just about sharing pictures?

It can be, but mostly, it’s not. There is no better tool to share news, read news as it’s breaking and discuss ideas in real time, rather than in halting Facebook time.

Twitter is just people talking about eating or stalking celebrities, isn’t it?

No, that’s Instagram and yes, people can just stalk celebrities. But Twitter is all about tailoring your timeline and who you follow. If you like someone, follow them. If you don’t, stop following them. Once you have set up your following list, you can see the news on it and then share it, comment on it. We are teachers, we like to connect and share, so Twitter is a great and quick way of doing it. Plus, we can connect to communities and ideas away from our close circles – it is better than Facebook in that regard. And connecting with these circles on Twitter can be invigorating, as people can plug into what is cool, what is new as well as emerging discourses about privilege, social movements and other concepts perhaps previously unstirred in our known communities.

There’s someone ‘wrong’ on the internet!

Yes, there are people who are saying all sorts of wrong things, bad things, sharing ‘fake news’ or propaganda. But there are ways of avoiding them, or dealing with them and keeping your integrity.

Stick to the hashtag chats if you just want professional communication. During various evenings, there are chats centred around a hashtag, such as #aussieed, where a moderator asks questions and people tweet answers using the same hashtag. That way, others using the hashtag can find your tweets and respond to them. Interactions therefore are civilised and tightly controlled – plus, you can float and gain ideas. One drawback is that after a while, some can find the hashtag chats a touch repetitive and restrictive. Professionally, however, they can be very useful.

Consider your online consistency

In order to cover yourself, it is best to try for a consistency of message style, values and substance. Ask yourself whether your tweets represent who you are as a person. If you are happy with being linked to those views, then stick to them. You can’t control how people will react to your tweets – and almost every tweet can be seen negatively by someone – but if you feel as though they have integrity, leave them there as a signpost.

Consider the credentials and background of others when engaging with them. So, avoid what I call the ‘Frogs’. There are a lot of terrible people who use Twitter. The recent rise of Donald Trump unearthed a swathe of racist, sexist Twitter users, who embraced Pepe as their symbol. Each time there is a controversy about female sports people or politicians in Australia, there’s a swathe of men ready to throw unattributable insults at women via Twitter. If such a person has responded to one of your tweets, it is handy to click on the username of the responder and check out what else they have tweeted, who they usually talk with. It doesn’t take long to find out what the person is like from their timeline – a racist, sexist comment or meme usually arrives early. On such occasions, if they really are just what I call a ‘Frog’, ignore them, or if they continue, block them. That way, you aren’t dragged to their level and wasting your time trying to reason with the ‘Frogs’.

The best thing to do is to watch for a while, find the good people to follow and ask advice as you go. My next article will be about the finer points of discourse and discussion. Until then, follow me @mrmarkosullivan and ask whatever you like about Twitter.

Mark O’Sullivan is an English teacher and Year Coordinator who has been in classrooms for 20 years. He is also a NSW IEU Councillor for Central Metropolitan sub branch and is a keen supporter of the GWS Giants. Mark is also an enthusiastic tweeter and can be found via the handle @mrmarkosullivan