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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Dude! My Mom Joined Twitter!

By Peter DeWitt — June 06, 2014 4 min read
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Ok, so I don’t typically use the word “dude,” but I needed something to capture your attention. The truth is my mom did join Twitter this week. Always looking for a deep and reflective moment, I couldn’t help but call and ask her why she joined. She said my oldest brother asked her to.

She received two e-mails saying “Frank wants you to join Twitter.”

So...my mom...who asked me not to mention her age (Hint: I have siblings in their mid and late 50’s) did a Google search for Twitter and joined. All by herself! She only needed help uploading her picture. So, for those educators who think they are too old for Twitter or believe that they wouldn’t understand what it is all about, I think my mom is a good role model.

My mom is not technologically advanced, although she is really good with a microwave. Back in 2002 she constantly heard all of her children talking about e-mail, so she asked me to set her up with an account. I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced that she would use it, but I would pretty much do anything for my mom, and figured if she wanted an e-mail account that she may never use, I was willing to put in a little effort.

My dad passed away when I was eleven, so my mom is all I have had to play both parenting roles in my life. She has given much of her life to being a mom, and wants to be connected with her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. One of my brothers used to live in the Middle East. For years, it would cost about $4 a minute to talk by phone. E-mail was a way for her to stay connected with him, and the rest of us.

At first, I would talk her through it, and she could only reply to e-mails. She wasn’t sure how to start her own e-mail. And then one day I received a message from her that said, “Hi Pete and Doug. Just wanted to let you know I got on line by myself. Hope you have a good night. Pete I went and got paint. I will see you at 10. Have a good night. Love you both. Mom.” Yes, I have saved the message for 12 years.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a teacher, and also I love my mom, but I was proud to see her reach the goal of getting on-line by herself...and send an e-mail. Notice how she mentioned paint? I was going to her house to paint her living room, and she did not want me to forget.

Her journey did not stop there. A few years later she set her sights on Facebook.

Facebook: A New Way to Stalk Your Children

Facebook was something that eluded her, and probably most of us, when it first appeared. We all thought it was for younger people. College students were using it to connect, and then it went down to high school students. Even younger students were using it, even though the age guidelines were supposed to prevent them from doing so.

Teachers and school leaders were told to stay away from it, because we couldn’t have our private lives exposed on social media. Some people tried to scare the rest of us away, but over the years we could not avoid (or ignore) Facebook’s power. We could connect with high school and college friends, see what long lost relatives were doing, and it provided us with a way to share pictures and highlight the good times.

Sure, there were those people who used it to spew anger and negative comments. However, that isn’t Facebook’s fault. Those people were angry and negative long before Facebook came into our lives. And yes, there are people who use it to bully others, and we continue to look for ways to address that sad reality.

But there was a lot of good in it as well. Why shouldn’t my mom want to join? She heard us talking about it, and wanted a piece of the action. I helped her create an account, and now she has become a Facebook stalker. She knows where we have been. When friends tag us in pictures or check in and tag us at restaurants...she knows.

Over time, I have noticed that Facebook has helped my mom go deeper in her conversations. She talks about her nieces and nephews (my cousins), grandchildren, and her prized great grandchildren. When we post pictures of parties we are at with her, she likes that her friends and family post nice comments. It makes her feel that she is part of a larger community, which she is, and we are all thankful for that.

However, there have been other enormous benefits. My brother lived in Cairo a couple of years ago when the civil unrest broke out, and within the 10 minutes that he posted on Facebook that he had to flee to Italy, my mom knew he was safe. Back in the 90’s when he lived in the Middle East, it could have taken days or weeks to find out if he was safe or not.

In the End

So, my mom joined Twitter. I’m not sure what she will do with it, just like most people who sign up for Twitter aren’t sure what they will do with it. I do not expect her to get the same benefits that I have been getting from the social networking giant, but isn’t it great that at her age she still wants to take a chance and see what it is all about. I hope I continue to have that sense of wonder as I get older, because I clearly have a role model that keeps showing me that you are never too old to try something new.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.