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Although I use Twitter every day for a steady stream of information, articles, advice, and positive communication, I see many students using Twitter as a form of instant messaging system, constantly sharing impulses, ideas, and complaints, usually without filtering very much.

I have a hunch that most students don’t realize how public their tweets really are. Tweets are very easy to see. Tweets are even visible to those who don’t have a Twitter account!

Try this: Go to your favorite search engine. Type in your Twitter name, beginning with the @ sign. You will see some of your tweets pop up. Depending on which algorithm the search engine is using, you may be seeing your most popular tweets, or your most recent tweets, but they are your tweets. Click on one of them, and it’s an easy hop to find all of your tweets.

But what if a searcher doesn’t know your Twitter name? Your tweets are still public. Again, go to a search engine and type in any hashtag you have ever used along with the word twitter. Do the results look familiar? Maybe, maybe not, but anyone who chases down that hashtag will eventually see your contributions.

Yes, you can lock your Twitter account and make your tweets private. That makes them less public, but it still doesn’t guarantee privacy. Your privacy is only as private as other users allow it to be. If you tweet something, and someone takes a screen shot of it and tweets it out with your Twitter name in the message, your private tweet just became public.

Recently I was looking at the additions to a school-based hashtag that I created. Because I didn’t know one of the contributors, I clicked on his Twitter id. That showed me his list of most recent tweets. One of them caught my eye. It was a screen shot of a Facebook private message sent by another student, someone I know. The private message was pretty ugly, definitely not the kind of thing he wanted to be seen in public, but it became very public when another student captured and tweeted it. Not cool, I know, but it happened. When I showed the student a tweet containing his ugly private Facebook message that was now public on Twitter, he turned instantly ashen and said, “It’s just a joke.” My response: “If it’s a joke, how come neither of us is laughing?”

When I talk to classes about this, I sometimes hear, “Don’t teachers and administrators have anything better to do than sit around looking at our Twitters?” The answer is obviously Yes. We have a lot of better things to do. But sometimes our Twitter paths cross because we’re in the same school environment. A quick Twitter search of our school name reveals all kinds of activity, some of it from teachers, some from students, and some from parents. (It also reveals a lot of tweets from Germany, where our school name translates as strange or alien. Yep, that’s us!) Anyone who searches Twitter for information about our school will see all of that. Twitter users may be looking for positive information about something completely different and wind up seeing the worst thing you ever tweeted.

So, to sum things up, all of your tweets (and other online postings) are public or potentially public. They can be seen by anyone. They are relative easy to find. Even if someone isn’t specifically looking for your tweets, they might stumble across them, especially if you share some institutional or community relationship with another Twitter user.

Keep tweeting, but please, please, please be mindful of what you post. It might just matter. Better yet, be nice to each other.

Views: 381

Comment by Mark Guo on December 12, 2013 at 6:59pm
It isn't just Twitter, but also other social media sites sites like Facebook and now possibly Instagram.

Not only does it matter for college, but it also matters for your future careers, whether for a high ranking job at a law firm or just a salesperson for Walmart. This is especially true if you become famous or you run for political office, because one little comment now on social media that should not have been said might damage your further career and reputation.
Comment by Karen Rumps on December 12, 2013 at 9:43pm

I agree with Mark. Just like all social media sites, they can potentially ruin your chances of getting jobs. Even if your account is private, there are still so many ways for people to see things you posted. This explains why many young adults, once out of college, will delete most of these accounts for a better chance to get hired. 

Comment by Vincent Sorrentino on December 12, 2013 at 9:55pm

This is a really big issue. I also know someone who had problems on Twitter and it wasn't pretty. Also, I didn't know about the search engine thing, that's really good to know. I think this blog will really open up some eyes. Good job!

Comment by Daniel Classon on December 12, 2013 at 10:31pm

This is truly scary, and next generation's parents will have an entire new field of safety to teach their kids. The internet is a big interesting place, but maybe not the ideal medium for personal issues? I've scanned my "liked" pages on Facebook numerous times in order to trim down on college application disaster material.

Comment by Lauren Gregory on December 13, 2013 at 12:40pm
I think it's so unfair that people judge us about what we did 3 or 4 years ago, yet I understand. I am thoroughly embarrassed by everything that is on my Facebook from when I was in seventh grade, yet I am in some ways a completely different person than I was that long ago. It's weird that almost your whole life has been documented on the internet, most of which you aren't aware of.
Comment by Carlee Svec on December 13, 2013 at 6:37pm

My Mom was telling me about her socialization as a teenager.  She only had a telephone.  Now a days we have all sorts of social media to communicate with our friends.  With all this social media, it makes me a little weary of  all my information in public for everyone to have access to.

Comment by Tim Steininger on December 14, 2013 at 1:15am
I never thought this was a big deal. If people are putting stuff on Twitter, they should be aware that it is public. If that material is sensitive, so be it. People are responsible for their own actions, which is partly why I don't think it is okay for teachers to intervene. I think social lives and school lives should be separated and what student do outside of school is their business.
Comment by Zoe C on December 15, 2013 at 4:55pm

Twitter is actually very easy to manipulate, even for me. So i wonder what someone who is very technologically skilled would be able to do. I actually have a twitter that is on private and i don't use it. And thought i don't use it, it is still very easy for me to get in on the latest " news" and such. I don't let anyone follow me or anything but once you are on someone's feed it's very easy to get on someone else's. This makes me more aware about the dangers of social media. 

Comment by Ashwin Joseph on December 15, 2013 at 5:21pm

With twitter being such a huge trend among students today, the stupidity of some is almost a good thing at times. Most students with common sense have the self-control to filter their posts on twitter to reflect things only in their best interest. Having twitter is a privilege, and therein students should be self regulated in their approach to twitter. With the increase in school shootings, and all sorts of fatal misdemeanors, twitter and other social media have almost become a broadcasting for law enforcement of those "bad eggs". Those in danger of perhaps harming themselves or others, in their obviously damaged states, may or may not reveal their intent on social media. While the stream of useless trash talk will continue to flow, maybe some disasters may be averted with the use of social media.

Comment by Samiksha Gupta on December 15, 2013 at 6:53pm

I feel like students can often get carried away with some of their tweets. I know that for the short amount of time I had a twitter, I found myself saying things that I usually wouldn't be saying on my facebook. Most of my family members are friends on facebook, which is why I have to watch what I say, twitter was comprised mostly of teenagers, and I thought it would be perfectly fine to tweet some of the things I normally would never say in real life. My decision to delete my twitter was mostly because of the ruse things I would see other students tweet, and the rude things that I myself have tweeted. Regardless of this, I do not believe that the school should be involved in the personal lives of students, unless its a matter of life and death. Students already have half of their day taken up with school related activities, so I think administrators should ease up and lets us be in control of our social media postings. 

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