Social Media Sabbatical

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Last week I chose to disconnect from social media for 48 hours. While I do not have many social media accounts, the accounts I do have I check often including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest . I wanted to see how disconnecting from social media completely would affect me. Instagram and Pinterest are the accounts I check the most. I would estimate I check Instagram once every half hour and Pinterest once every hour.

At first taking this break made me feel anxious. I had to consciously think about not checking my accounts until I finally decided to uninstall the apps on my phone. Uninstalling the apps made it easier because I couldn’t see the icons when using other apps on my phone, such as Google calendar. The hardest part was not checking my accounts when I was waiting for something. I had a couple of appointments during these two days and instead of scrolling through Instagram while waiting I listened to music or read articles on my phone instead. After the first half of day one without connecting to social media in any way I found it extremely satisfying and surprisingly empowering not checking-in. I never realized how much control social media had over me. Another observation I made while disconnecting was that I paid more attention to my surroundings. It is so easy to get lost in an online world that sometimes we forget to notice the world around us. My overall experience from a social media sabbatical was extremely freeing. I am going to try to disconnect for a longer amount of time and see how that makes me feel.

Social Media Literacy Today

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While reading the article Attention, and Other 21st Century Social Media Literacies written by Howard Rheingold, I found the following quote very accurate: “Access to many media empowers only those who know how to use them.” (2010, pg. 14) If people do not know how to use social media it can limit their access to a great variety of information. Like Rheingold, I feel that all five social media literacies are equally important. Attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption are all intertwined in developing a child’s social media literacy. I also agree that children need to learn how to develop mindfulness about where they put their attention, but I do not think this should be forced. It was a little shocking to me that Harvard Business School and the University of Chicago Law School banned web access in classrooms. I understand that they want students to pay attention to what they are learning, but many times during a class I have used my laptop to look something up I didn’t understand while a professor was lecturing. Just because students are using their laptops during a class does not necessarily mean they are not paying attention to what is going on in the class. I also would have an issue with other students taking notes for me because they could miss something or write in a way that is not clear to me. 

I think that this quote really sums up why people should participate online via social media: “When you participate, you become an active citizen rather than simply a passive consumer of what is sold to you, what is taught to you, and what your government wants you to believe.” (2010, pg. 18) Even though this article was written in 2010, I feel that it is still very accurate today. The only thing I would add would be something about social media etiquette and digital tattoos. Overall, this was a very interesting article to read and I would recommend that anyone, especially those educating children, read it. 

CIPA/COPPA & Children’s Online Privacy

Before taking this course I had never heard of CIPA or COPPA before so in my opinion, these acts are not taken seriously enough, or at least not taken seriously enough for the general public to know about them. While I think it is important that some laws are in place to protect children, I do not think CIPA/COPPA does enough to protect them. As a parent, it was scary to discover that 30% of teens admitted to talking about meeting with strangers in-person. While I think connecting with other children around the world is helpful in teaching American children about differences in culture and privilege, it is hard to know whether the people they are communicating with are actually children. 

COPPA was developed in 1998 (when I was still a child!). It is hard to believe not a lot has changed since then, even with all the advances in technology. In 2013 “the FTC updated the definition of personal information to incorporate geolocation information along with photos, videos and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice.” (Schaffhauser, 2020). This seems like a step in the right direction. While reading the article What to Expect on Student Privacy for 2020  it was a little discouraging to read in the first sentence “we probably shouldn’t expect any changes to it in 2020”. There are over 66,000 public comments that need to be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) before any changes to COPPA can be made. One thing I am curious about is how was the age of thirteen was determined to be the age to target. I do agree with Danah Boyd’s comment because as a child I remember lying myself to access a website or software that required you to be older. After reading multiple articles I do not have an easy solution to this dilemma, but I am hopeful that some changes can be made to help keep children’s online privacy and information safer.

Digital Tattoos

I decided to check the privacy of my social media accounts. I followed the privacy steps included in this article from the University of Texas at Austin, but I noticed that they were not up-to-date. I figured out how to check the privacy settings of my Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts and made a few adjustments, basically to make my accounts more private than they already were. While reading this statement really stood out to me “Even with these privacy settings in place, it is important to understand that nothing on the Internet is truly private.” This is something most of us know, but can easily forget. I completely forgot that Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, so technically Facebook owns the content you post on Instagram. While adding photos to Instagram the default is set to share your location. For safety and privacy reasons it is recommended that a user does not share this information with the general public. 

Turning your activity broadcasts “on” in Linkedin will alert your connections to any changes in your profile, such as updates to a resume. Linkedin warns, “You may want to turn this option off if you’re looking for a job and don’t want your present employer to see that you’re updating your profile.” It is nice that LinkedIn tells you this information. To prevent search engines from revealing your Pinterest profile, a user can switch “Search Privacy” from “No” to “Yes”. I did not even realize this setting was turned on. One thing I noticed about a lot of social media sites is that there are a lot of hidden features turned “on” until you turn them “off”. In my opinion, this should be reversed. These actions relate to digital tattoos because your online presence is not temporary. Using a digital archive of the world wide web many posts and photos can be found even if a user has deleted them.

Image via personal Pinterest account
Image via personal LinkedIn account

Acceptable Use Policy at a Public Library

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I currently work at a library system, not a library, but I have worked at multiple public libraries in the past. I chose to research and explore the Joliet Public Library’s (JPL) Computer and Internet Use Policy. I previously worked at the JPL for over ten years. I noticed their website has recently been updated and includes an easy place to find all of the library’s policies, which I think is very important. The Computer and Internet Use Policy at JPL was recently adopted on March 21, 2019. When I was employed there I worked in the Computer Lab and I do remember parents/legal guardians having to sign an internet use policy before their child under the age of eighteen could access the computers. Language from the updated policy states: “Guardians of children under 18 may give consent for their children to use computers and check out Wi-Fi hotspots with unfiltered Internet access.” After reading the entire policy I do not think anything needs to be added or changed.

I think this particular policy would be considered a “responsible use” policy because it focuses on what library patrons and/or those who are responsible for them should do while using the library’s internet. The Youth Services Computer Lab does have filtered internet access but the other computers throughout the building including the Wi-Fi contain access to unfiltered internet. Anytime an individual has access to the internet security of that person’s information can always become an issue. I read an article about phishing scams that gave helpful information about how to prevent becoming a victim of these types of scams. This statement stood out the most to me “Multiple mistakes by individual staff members can be considered grounds for corrective action. Consider revising employee technology use policies and include resources that support cyber security best practices in staff handbooks.” Having open lines of communication for all employees at a public library can help prevent cybersecurity attacks from becoming successful.

Ethics & Privacy in Today’s Online World

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I chose to explore privacy in the online world today. I read a very interesting article called The Real Danger of Alexa Listening to Our Convos about what and how much Alexa (made by Amazon) listens to conversations made near the device, even if the device is not in use. Amazon can then use this information to market certain products that apply to a person’s personal preference and can even determine when you would be likely to shop online and market to you during that time. One of the scariest issues with this type of data collection is that you do not know what else the information might be used for. Could it eventually be used against you in a court of law? Where is the line drawn? 

Another article I read, titled That smart TV you just bought may be spying on you, FBI warns, is about internet privacy and involves smart TVs and their internal cameras and microphones that can potentially be hacked. The FBI suggests that owners of smart TVs “educate themselves on their device’s security settings (available from a simple Google search), change default network passwords set by manufacturers, and understand how to enable and disable microphones and cameras.” Although, even with these security measures it does not guarantee that a device cannot be hacked. After reading these articles it makes me more aware of privacy issues in general. I already knew that smart devices could record audio at any time, but what can be done about it is my question. Yes, you can take the precautionary steps but that does not guarantee 100% security. I think the biggest takeaway and how it relates to the library field is that it is vital to stay up-to-date on security measures. This would be the best defense against a patron’s library account or other personal information becoming exposed. For example, if I were a library Director I would make sure that the library’s computers, Wi-Fi, integrated library system (ILS), etc. had frequent updates completed and that library staff responsible for those systems understood the importance of privacy to library patrons and the public.

Professional Learning Networks

I identify with affective growth the most out of the four areas because in my professional career I find it vital to connect and learn with others. As a consulting and continuing education specialist for librarians and other library staff, it is very important for me to find new ways to disseminate information to information professionals. Soliciting feedback from information professionals is also vital to my job because I need to know if the learning opportunities I have presented to them are of value.    

While exploring more social media websites I decided to join LinkedIn. I have thought about creating a LinkedIn account for a while but I never took the initiative because I feel like people do not discuss using it that often. When setting up my account I added a professional photo (the same one I used for my intro blog post) and followed some hashtags that correlated to the library field (see screenshot below) such as #library, #librarian, etc. The first person I followed was my husband so I could get a better sense of how LinkedIn worked. Then I began to add coworkers to my network. One thing I found interesting was that if you click on someone’s profile they receive a notification that you have done so, but this isn’t necessarily stated anywhere. The only reason I knew this was because my husband told me about it. After being on LinkedIn for a couple of days I received some notifications that people had viewed my profile. This feature can be a positive and a negative for obvious reasons. While this type of professional learning network can help you meet new people in a specific field some of the negatives I discovered included a lot of advertisements and a lot of notifications by telemarketer companies. 

Screenshot taken from LinkedIn setup screen
Screenshot taken from LinkedIn homepage

Get to Know Me

Hi! My name is Margae Schmidt (pronounced Mar-ghee) and I am currently completing my second to last semester in the MLIS program at Dominican University. I am a full-time working mom, which is both very rewarding and challenging at times. I have a two-year-old daughter named Ena and I’m about to become a mom of two soon! My baby boy is due February 9th, but I have a feeling he will be making an early appearance. I work full-time as a Consulting and Continuing Education Specialist at a library system in Illinois and I love my job. One of my favorite things about my position is finding presenters and experts to conduct workshops to meet our library member’s needs. In my free time, I like to practice and teach yoga. I am a certified Hatha Yoga Instructor and I find it very relaxing and energizing at the same time. I’m also a huge animal lover. I have a dog and two cats that were adopted from my local animal shelter. 

Like most people, I have mixed feelings about social media. I currently only have Instagram and Pinterest accounts. I never post on Pinterest (I only save posts) and I rarely post on Instagram. The picture you see comes from my Instagram profile. Both of my accounts are set to private. I used to have Facebook and Twitter accounts but I deleted them over five years ago now because I grew tired of seeing so many ads. They were also a huge distraction and time-waster for me. I mainly use social media for informational purposes. I use Pinterest the most out of the two in order to find recipes or get inspiration for various social activities. I want to learn more about social media from a professional point of view. The only way I can help or teach others is to first obtain the knowledge myself.