Gone Fishin’: Reflection on Social Media

Disclaimer: This post is going in a very different direction than usual. Not everyone will agree, and that is totally okay.  However, I wanted needed to chip in with my own two cents.

First of all, let me say that my PLN absolutely ROCKS!!!    

I have been having a blast over the past year, while learning alongside great teachers all over the world.  The collaborations have been excellent.  I am also thankful for the times when we have had those courageous conversations, for these are the moments when I get to re-examine my thinking.  We all need to be exposed to different perspectives in order to see situations from many angles.  It is in this spirit that I write this blog post.  

Please keep in mind that I am dissecting ideas, and not attacking individuals.  For this reason, I will not mention any names or specific blog posts, except for those that have inspired me in a positive way.  The views below are my own, and I am not speaking one else’s behalf.  With that being said, let’s begin.

The Fish

Rafranz Davis  wrote a phenomenal blog post this past weekend, which got my gears turning.  I told her that I loved it so much, that I could “blog about [her] blog.”  At the time, I was joking, but later that week, I saw some very different posts being spread so virally that now I’m dead serious.

Rafranz is totally right.  There is a weird Twitter dynamic in the world of educational technology.  Some of my other friends and PLN members have mentioned it, too, such as Elle Deyamport and Angela Watson.  They both utilized a metaphor that I really like, being fish in a pond.

To continue the extended metaphor, our networks would be the pond, and we educators are all the fish, splashing around.  I, personally, am thrilled to be a fish in the pond, swimming in this good salt water…or fresh water…whichever is in a pond.  Obviously, I’m not a science teacher.

There are all different kinds of fish in our pond.  I like to consider myself an exotic, quirky fish, if there is such a thing.  Maybe a little red one, swimming in the blue water…a Haitian fish.

Anyway, back to the point.  There are guppies.  There are goldfish. There are dolphins (I know there are no dolphins in ponds…humor me, people).  That’s what makes our pond so great! Fish come in all different varieties.  In all honesty, the size of the fish (i.e. how “known” you are) really doesn’t matter.  You’re a fish.  You’re already a rockstar.  But since fish size is a reality in the lovely world of educational technology (and most other fields), I’m not going to ignore the elephant in the room.

To loosely paraphrase Angela, sometimes you may be a guppy in one pond and a dolphin in another.  There is nothing wrong with being a little fish, a medium fish, or a big fish.  We are what we are, let’s face it.  It’s all good in the hood…er, the pond…however, lately, I’ve been reading some things that have made me go, “hmmm???”

There is no need for me to “call anyone out,” or for any rachet behavior of any kind.  This is not Worldstar Hip Hop, thus I will not mention anyone specifically.  The point is to address a certain way of thinking that goes far beyond a few blog posts.  Many people seem to share this philosophy, so I wanted to chime in and offer some food for thought.  Fish food, if you will.

We can agree, we can agree to disagree…it’s all good baby, baby.  I have love for my educators either way.  With that being said…

Here We Go!!!

Twitter is a social medium.  Let me slow that down and bring it back one more time…social…medium.  Those two terms would lead us to believe that it is a tool for collaboration, oui?  Twitter and other social media have brought me out of teaching in isolation and into 20-freaking-14, allowing me to collaborate with, and bounce ideas off, educators all around the world.  In other words, using social media has put me into a new pond.

(BTW, here are some ideas to get you going if you want to rock social media for collaboration.)

The way I approach Twitter (and other SM) is that I am here to learn.  I am here to share.  I am here to grow…with you.  However, lately I’ve seen a few blog posts, with the writers sharing their criteria for following back.  I totally respect that everyone has their own methods.  Yours may be different from mine, and that is A-OK.

However, I’ve been seeing one recurring word that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  This word is, “impress.”  A lot of times, people say they won’t follow back if they’re not impressed. I’m baffled.  I’ve heard this term enough over the past week that I would be remiss if I didn’t address it.

What, pray tell, are the criteria for “impressive?”  If I have less than 1000 followers, am I not impressive?  If I don’t have 50 million accolades listed on my bio, am I not impressive?

Personally, I’m impressed simply by the fact that you’re on Twitter, trying to better yourself for your students. The last time I checked, we were all fish.  Do we not have fins to swim?  Do we not have gills to breathe (ok, science teachers, I know…just work with me)?  And since we are in a magical pond where fish can change species, did we not all start out as guppies?  

Don’t get me wrong…I have criteria, too, for when I will follow back.  Obviously, you can’t follow every single person who follows you, or your timeline will be complete junk.  I made that mistake on my first Twitter account. But, what is junk?  To me, the voice of a fellow fish will never be junk.  Junk is that spammy stuff that pollutes our beautiful pond.

***(Random sidenote: Dolphins can learn from guppies as much as guppies can learn from dolphins.  I’ve met some great dolphins who know this, and some great guppies who had the confidence to insist upon both listening and being heard.)***

Here are my criteria for following back, in a nutshell:

  1. Are they clearly involved in education?  (If yes, follow back.)

It’s that simple.  Every now and then, someone flies under my radar, but that is an oversight.  I apologize profusely to anyone whom I may have missed.  That being said, every educator fish is welcome in my pond.  The more, the merrier.

To reiterate, I’m not attacking individuals, just dissecting ideas here.  I’ve heard the argument that people’s streams will get diluted by info they don’t want, etc.  Again, I believe that everyone has a voice and something valuable to bring to the table.  In addition, you never know what guppy is going to become your “personal dolphin” someday, i.e. have a great impact in your life.  I cannot begin to tell you all how many seemingly random strangers I have connected with online, who have come to play a major role in my life.

However, I do understand that there are certain people you want to connect with more closely, which is hard to do when you follow hundreds or thousands of people.  That, my friends, is the beauty of Twitter lists.  I just created one with about 100 of my personal dolphins…close friends in my PLN with whom I want to stay tightly connected.  I set this list to private, and I check it frequently.  It’s the best of both worlds.  I can now have that ever-growing pond, while still having that VIF (Very Important Fish) feed.  Ok, I’ll stop with the fishy metaphors now.

Nobody has to use my methods.  Who am I to tell you who/how to follow?  However, as a friendly fellow fish (I totally lied about stopping with the metaphors), I wanted to share what works for me.


Student voice is a concept that has been gaining ground in terms of best practices for instruction.  In my district, teachers cannot be evaluated as “distinguished,” unless they give every student the opportunity to be heard.  To me, this is phenomenal!  Why are we not treating each other with the same respect?  We need to start knocking down these walls, and shattering glass ceilings.

I’m not going to mince words.  Like I said, I am all for collaboration, and will continue to actively pursue and facilitate those connections.  I have love for all fish, regardless of size, but I personally do not have any interest in “impressing” anyone.  There are plenty of other fish in the sea, willing to work together for the sake of all our students.

Guppies.  Goldfish.  Dolphins.  Who knew that we fish could make so much noise?  The funny thing is that Twitter is just a tool!  It really isn’t that deep…at least it shouldn’t be.  We are here to listen.  We are here to share.  We are here to do right by our students.  Make your own pond, and fill it with all kinds of fish.  Don’t forget your personal dolphins 😉

Some awesome quotes to leave you with:

I’m proud that I can inspire someone but what makes what we do even more amazing is that we are also constantly being inspired by others. – Rafranz Davis

We need to continue venturing into other ponds and making connections so that every fish can feel welcome wherever they go. – Angela Watson

I was glad to take the plunge because below the surface I was able to find my school of fish. Now I feel I can take my next adventure out to sea, and this time, I don’t have to do it alone.  – Elle Deyamport

What is your $0.02?  Chime in below in the comments.


16 thoughts on “Gone Fishin’: Reflection on Social Media

  1. Sarah,

    I agree with the heart of your post. The use of terms like “Twitter Rockstars” is a major pet peeve of mine. I think it takes the focus off of the reasons we are on social media, namely to collaborate and share. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are here to help our students (our little guppies) succeed and that all of our efforts should be directed to that end. Whether you have 2 followers or 200K, if you are here for collaboration, learning, and helping our students, then I’m glad to be in the same pond as you!

    1. Hi Chris! Thanks a bunch…I totally agree with you. As educators, we owe it to our kids to share what works. Everyone does something well. We should all be encouraged to share our experiences. Thanks again for weighing in!

  2. So well said! I, too, follow back pretty much everyone whose bio indicates they’re in education, unless they represent an education company, and then I take it case by case. Some of those “little fish” end up becoming “big fish” because they have incredible ideas to share, and not being “impressed” with them today would mean I would miss out on all their growth and experiences along the way.

    1. Hi Angela! Thanks for the inspiration and for stopping by. I couldn’t agree more. We are all at different points in our journey to connectivity, but the end goal is the same. It’s great to have people like you, who help other fish along!

  3. S, I have enjoyed ur voice since “discovering” you on Techlandia…thank you articulating so respectfully ur awesome tghts! Keep swimming, i’ll be paddling alongside ya!

  4. Thank you, Sarah. You just answered one of my big twitter questions: how can one possibly follow over 100 people? I really did not understand how folks manage that huge influx of information daily. So, hooray! I’m going to get my lists sorted going forward because the connections are important and I’d like to have options for differentiating.
    Also I fully appreciate the sentiments you voice about that follow you/follow me dynamic. I am still navigating those strange waters and do not have a formula and I am happy with the mix I have right now. My learning is ever expanding and as a result I get to discover people like you. Your post and your presence have made my twitter day! Thanks,

    1. Hi Sherry! Thanks so much for weighing in 🙂 I didn’t start using lists until very recently, and it’s really helped me to keep in touch better. It’s so nice to connect with you…you’ve made my Twitter day as well! Have a fantastic weekend!

  5. Wow, what a good blog post. Love the fish/pond metaphor. I never realized there were so many “rules” to Twitter following. You’re so right when you said that you never know who you’ll impact. That’s true in the case of working with students and other teachers. Sure is inspiring for a new teacher like me to connect with so many wonderful teachers (“big fish”) like you!

    1. Thanks so much, Hillary!!! Just do what works best for you 🙂 It’s such a pleasure to connect with you…so happy to have you in our GEG!!! You are a big fish in our pond 😀

  6. I so agree, Sarah, and I absolutely love Rafranz’ quote. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of sharing something your followers find valuable, or in gaining followers who you admire and respect, but we have to continue to remember where we came from and why we are here. Sometimes those little guppies say the things that change your life.

    1. I totally agree Jessica! We are all guppies in some ways and dolphins in others. Sometimes the edtech guppies bring their dolphin knowledge in other areas. Thanks for coming by and weighing in!

  7. I loved reading this post! I have only just recently begun to grow my PLN, and I have been following anyone associated with education as well. At first I was following everyone in the education lists I was added to, but I’ve stopped doing that because I figure if I’m meant to follow them, I’ll run into them in a conversation or two. That being said, I still follow a ton of people, and it doesn’t bother me because when I am able to spend the time, I get a ton of awesome ideas or hear of new blogs- like this one! You talked about your more specific private list- are these just educators that you’ve connected with several times? Do you start conversations just within that list?

    I will be sharing several blogs/articles on my own blog later and plan to share this post- Please feel free to read it later tonight! http://Www.allstarmusicva.blogspot.com

    Thanks for the great reflective post!

    1. Hi Molly! It was awesome meeting you today. Thanks so much for checking this out! I love your strategy…great ideas!

      For my list, I usually add folks that I interact with frequently. I check that before going to the timeline, just to see what everybody is up to.

      Nice! Thanks so much for the share! Looking forward to checking out your blog. Have a great one 🙂

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