Technological Anonymity: Does it Exist?

Doan, Gaylord, Harding, Herr, Krook, Lenz

Social media usage is a vast topic to cover as technology is continuously changing and opportunities to utilize it seem endless. From online learning, connecting with possible employers, and sharing videos, music, pictures, and graphics, anything seems to be accessible in the palm of one’s hand. While social media is frequently used during one’s free time for pleasure, it’s also rapidly becoming a vital tool used in the workplace. Many, if not all, Omaha schools use social media to alert students, faculty and parents of vital information which ranges from weather to the possibility of intruders.

The data found in this research project was collected through various sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and school websites. We used Twitter to see real life examples of how students and schools post information concerning snow days. Through Twitter, we each went investigated separate school accounts and collected screenshots of comments provided by the schools superintendent, parents, as well as the students’ reactions and replies. We wrote an orienting memo on the data that we collected. We then took the orientating memos and put them together to come up with our knowledge learned. We were quite surprised by the types of information we gathered throughout our research. Sociologically, we assumed that students would react negatively to the news of “go-days” while they would react positively to the news of snow days. The information we found proved our hypothesis false in many cases. The majority of negative comments we came across were from parents rather than from students. In our Sociology book it is explained that many people “…are too overwhelmed with media input to really care about the issue, so their involvement becomes defined by awareness instead of by action”. This was clearly demonstrated in our findings. Many people were frustrated by the choice of go-day versus snow day but all they did was complain about the issue. Nothing was done to change the options or to make them more appealing to students, parents and staff. Confrontation through social media is much more prevalent than in our daily lives. People believe anonymity online is present when in fact there is hardly anything anonymous anymore.

            Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for a variety of purposes. For Omaha schools it has become a useful tool for inclement weather. One of main uses of social media is alerting students and parents of cancellation days. Many school superintendents have found themselves waking up in the morning and alerting the student and parent population that inclement weather will prevent school from happening. This sounds straightforward and simple, however, social media provides a platform for people to say whatever they want with minimal consequences. When school is canceled, some districts are going to E-Learning days where homework is done in an online environment. There are many tweets coming from students complaining about these E-Learning days stating that “they are three times the work” (3/7/19 @max_tsed). An advantage of having an online platform for learning is that students may voice their concerns but not much is done to change the issues. In higher education there are far fewer tweets calling out the head of the university but at the high school level, students call for changes almost daily. For the universities that have a larger student base and more resources, people might not know what is open and what has been closed due to inclement weather. Our research has found tweets asking universities whether their libraries or other facilities were open (3/7/19 @jckjm6parker).

Educational institutions have been using technology to expand their reach to students around the world. The use of technology and social sites is a critical factor of spreading education to areas with fewer resources. However it is also an important to recognize that the internet’s importance for symbolizing modernization. (Rye, 2009) Other than using technology to extend the universities reach, they are also using social media as a tool within the classroom. One study by the University of Vigo in Spain looked at the viability of Twitter being used in the class environment. (Ricoy, Feliz, 2016) Their study had three distinct stages throughout its entirety. These three stages were the research phase, central phase and the final phase. The research phase was where the students were learning and understanding the technology. After this initial stage the study found that the use of twitter enhanced collaboration as well as integrating a larger number of resources into the class. Twitter was able to increase collaboration between students and teachers in this case. Throughout the study the students posted in a professional manner. Taking these examples from other schools we can now look at our local area to see how social media is being used.

In the past, employers were unable to heavily research potential candidates applying for their companies. Beside reviewing criminal records, employers were not exposed to the intricate lives of their candidates – until now. With a simple search, social media now reveals a candidate’s life through posts and photographs. While some social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, can benefit a candidate by showing off their proudest work, others may damage one’s reputation. It’s not uncommon to hear about someone you know not receiving a job due to inappropriate photos they innocently posted, or perhaps making a post in the past that used racist, sexist, or homophobic rhetoric.

Beside the exposure of social media of candidates, employers can also have a new perception on customer service. Social media is now used as an outlet to express opinions towards a certain product or business. For example, most businesses set up verified Twitter accounts to monitor tweets they are seeing about their company and to encourage customers to give feedback. This paper focused on how students and parents of educational institutions expressed their opinion on snow days through Twitter. Using social media to consult customers is also extremely efficient in the world of public relations – where one tweet or Instagram post can become an overnight sensation. Many businesses take to social media to address the public with potential concerns or updates on the company.

While school is a big portion of everyone’s lives, chances are you looked forward to is a snow day when you were young. Not long ago kids watched the news like hawks looking for their school name to scroll across the screen indicating classes were canceled. Information is now given directly to the student body through technologies such as Twitter, text alerts and Facebook. This includes superintendents posting on social media about events, cancelling school days, and much more to keep students informed. An example is the MPS superintendent tweeting out to families and students when the weather starts getting bad.  When classes are cancelled, students typically respond with positive tweets, gifs and pictures thanking the school district for cancelling. Some of these comments are a little more personal than they need to be, but nonetheless, they are a sign of positivity.

A lot of  kids end up walking to school when the weather is bad but classes are not cancelled. This can become a health issue, but many parents are unable to drive their students and don’t want their child missing school. Many parents follow the school accounts so they can stay up to date on the chances of school being cancelled. “Are you going to notify the parents the usual way too?” (3/7/19 user @jckjm6parker) states a Twitter user. There are a good amount of parents that appreciate the superintendent cancelling days that could endanger their children, so they respond with praise, and appreciation, such as the tweet from (3/17/19 user @BrennenStearns) “I respect and appreciate your decision”.

Many kids that say some wild things knowing that their fake username will protect their identity, but there are a handful of students that take an opportunity to get on the superintendents good side. These students respond in a very positive regard and thank the teachers and superintendents for the decisions they are making. On Twitter user stated, “dude, you are a great part of the dad crew” (3/6/19 user @SamRieke). The students show that they will always support their superintendents opinion. Another positive to social media is that  teachers have the ability to facilitate E-Learning days on-line. There will no longer be “snow days” as technology has made it possible to learn from the comfort and safety of your own home.

As we all know social media can be a excellent way of making friends, growing connections with each other, and being able to connect with others all over the world. When it comes to social media, it has transformed the way that people all over the world communicate with one another.  This is not limited to just Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but also stretches to learning and employment opportunities. According to Shelley Boulianne’s findings, she found that out of the 1500+ participants she had in her study, nearly 98 percent of participants had a positive look on social media (Boulianne). The reason that this number is of great value is due to the fact that as we age into more and more social media usage, people are experiencing more positive outcomes rather than negative ones. Within the group of participants she used for her study, Shelley found that nearly 77 percent of students were having positive experiences and/or outcomes with social media (Boulianne).

Many people just hear about the negative aspects of social media everyday, but as most people know our perspectives of social media can be altered to only look at the negative sides of things, such as fake news or other distorted information, talked about later in the findings. But, on a lighter note, some of the more positive aspects of social media that aren’t talked about much are how it has been able to connect everyone together in ways that were never thought about before. Social media can help everyone send encouragement to others all around the world that have been placed into unthinkable situations, i.e. flooding, blizzards, etc. It can also help out in times of crisis by providing people a chance to let loved ones know when they are safe. In all social media has a lot more positive aspects to itself than negative aspects due in part to the helping during crisis situations that can arise at any moment.

The use of Social Media has always been beneficial. However, every positive thing must also have a negative side. Social Media comes with a lot of anonymity, kids and even adults, hiding behind a screen pretending to be someone else. This gateway to hide behind a screen has caused numerous problems. Social Media has allowed people to be rude and judgemental while also keeping their own true identity private. This has allowed kids/teens to comment bashful things towards their friends, teachers, or even their school superintendents while remaining anonymous. Parents have even taken advantage of social media in a negative way. Certain posts can outrage parents enough to where they comment aggressive things towards higher ups if they don’t agree with what was being said. These comments often turn into arguments between multiple users causing an even larger problem. Social Media can truly be a great thing, however, it definitely has its bad side. Everyone seems to find their rage and they tend to unleash it through social media, not caring who it may hurt. In this paper we go on to discuss how kids in the Omaha area have found it okay to make secret accounts and attack their superintendent with extremely disrespectful words. All because these kids don’t get a snow day, they create such a fuss. Students aren’t the only one guilty of this though, there are parents that make comments towards the superintendent as well. After going through the data we collected, we had found aggressive comments coming from parents and students. Parents hiding behind a screen, complaining because they feel as though the schools are being too soft in today’s society. These parents are supposed to be setting a good example for the students but instead they are encouraging students to respond in the same negative way. Omaha specifically has a few serious issues when it comes to Social Media. One of the biggest arguments throughout social media in Omaha is when a snow day isn’t called and kids have to go to school. This sounds like such a simple thing, yet, these kids and parents in Omaha get extremely upset.

The data that we found that connects Omaha together truly showed us just how bad it can get. Kids get extremely upset if a snow day isn’t given. Instead of spending their day doing productive stuff, they instead decide to fire rude comments at their school superintendent. We get it, you’re upset but that does not mean you can hide behind a screen and attack someone because you didn’t do your homework. One comment made by user @kyrakyrakyrap on 3/6/2019  is “roses are red, your name is sutfin, when you say go day, i die inside please don’t let there be school tomorrow i really need this jim please.” This was tweeted because Superintendent Jim Sutfin tweeted out that he was gonna wake up @4 am to check weather conditions and then make his decision on whether that day would be a go day or a snow day. They go as far as to comment rude things about the superintendent and hide behind a fake account. The comments can range anywhere from “come on man, why are you doing this” to something as bad as “Cmon hippo I need that Fortnite kind it’s more than my life and school not in my days” (3/16/2019, user @anonomusbird). Even though these are students that actually attend these schools, they still hide behind a screen to throw negative, harassing tweets to their superintendent. These kids get away with it because Social Media allows them to hide and pretend. Social Media can be a positive thing but it can also be a really negative thing. Omaha faces a little bit of both.

An example of a parent getting upset is a tweet that was posted by @gienger_s on 3/7/2019 saying “Great lesson you are teaching our kids. When life is tough…. stay home in bed. How did kids before bussing get to school in the winter? Wait they prepared and walked.” On a tweet that Millard Schools Superintendent Jim Sutfin had tweeted notifying that school was not canceled, a mom had a little something to say about it. “This seems incredibly inconsiderate. Not everyone has the proper winter gear for withstanding that cold of temps. There are kids who will be walking to school and standing at bus stops waiting that would be put at risk of frostbite. Additionally, many schools have portables too!” (3/2/2019, user @AuntLinnyl…). Even this parent was upset but she expressed her opinion in a much better way then the students usually do.

However, everything has its own bright side and dark side, and social media is not an exception. The excessive use of social media can cause some serious negative effects on society and individual lives. One of the potential problems about social media use is the impact it has on mental and physical health (Florence et al., 2018). The constant distraction of social media can contribute to shortened attention spans, causing poor concentration and reducing performance (Florence et al., 2018). For instance, most of teenagers have social media accounts nowadays. While going to schools and practicing tasks that require high concentration such as taking notes from the lecture, they simultaneously interact on social media with friends. This constant interruption actually makes less attention to the lecture, and students might miss important details that the teacher may mention that will be on the exam. Heavy use of social media also causes symptoms of stress and anxiety (Florence et al., 2018). Spending too much time on social networking sites, reading some unpleasant posts, or arguing over various topics from politics to sports online could adversely affect the consumer’s mood and build high levels of stress. Anxiety starts to grow too in situations when, for example, a less popular teenager compares herself to a more popular kid at school, who gets more likes on a picture than her on Facebook, or when she worries why she is not invited to a party she sees on Instagram. She then begins to doubt herself and isolates herself from the social life. Just like the girl in this case, many other people as well believe social media is what connects them to others, when, in fact, it keeps them away from the present moment and their actual lives. Increasingly engaging on social media day after day, online consumers can become addicted and face negative physical health problems such as eye strain, fatigue, and lack of outdoor exercises. These side effects can lower their productivities and sap their energies away from offline activities and relationships.

The second most concerned problem about social media also arrives when some individuals abuse the free, convenient, and accessible mechanisms of social media to spread misinformation and fake news for their own advantages (Florence et al., 2018). With billions of online users worldwide, social media has become a revolution in the way people communicate with one another. While thousands of news are delivered to the public everyday, hundreds of those online contents are reported as false, misleading, or confusing, causing chaos and fatal accidents. One of the most recent incidents is the viral social media challenge that was spread on Facebook called Momo Challenge. According to Vox, Momo Challenge is a game shared on messaging services like WhatsApp with the image of a demonic bird-lady and her creepy commands to goad young teens into extreme violence or even suicide. Several tragic deaths were actually reported as parents found their kids hanged themselves in their rooms with their phones full of messages from the sick Momo suicidal game. Momo challenge was then banned and blocked from all social networking sites in order to protect the safety of the children, raising awareness about what content was spread online.

Social media creates opportunities for people to make friends, share their thoughts, and spread love, but it is also a home of hate speech, bullying, and harassment. Last but not least, a huge negative effect of social media is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when an individual humiliates, taunts, and threatens another individual using digital devices such as cell phones, computers, or tablets. From students at schools to officers in companies, anyone would be the target of cyberbullying. Typical acts of cyberbullying include defamatory public comments, inappropriate private messages, and posting manipulated photos/memes of the victim online (Rowe, 2014). Cyberbullying leaves big emotional scars on the victims and places them at the great risks of extreme depression and low self-esteem, for it can follow the victims everywhere even in their homes, where they feel safest. The excuses the bullies make to treat somebody with contempt can be really disturbing such as racism, body shame, or they just basically do not like the target’s existence. One of the most unexpected excuses of the bullies that has happened recently is when students of a high school cyberbullied and spread distorted information about their superintendent each time he releases a news or an announcement on the official school-run Twitter. Not only students, but their parents also found his posts intolerable and fired back with negative comments, derogatory pictures and memes. This cyberbullying case takes place at a high school located in Omaha, Nebraska with the official school-run Twitter as the material evidence of the matter. Several comments that students have made about their superintendent on Twitter include “stop being a krinklepuss” or “ you better give us a f***ing snow day you autistic hippo.“ (3/6/19, user @buddy64287154).

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