Although there are many who think I was an actual witness to the event, I was not there when Achilles’ mother, Thetis, tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the river Styx. In holding him by the heel she failed to make him totally immortal. The term Achilles Heel has come to mean a place where something or someone is vulnerable to attack of serious consequence.
Moving from the mythological world to the digital world of the 21st Century, we may be able to link the two in regard to Twitter. Educators familiar with Twitter and who use it as a means of sources and collaboration may have personally experienced a similar act, as I cite this example to support my point.
For those of you less familiar with Twitter, it is a place where educators may make statements or pass on information in the form of short URL links to other educators. This is probably an oversimplified explanation, but it should establish an understanding. If a person Tweets out a thought (limited to 140 Characters) it travels out to anyone who is following that person. If a follower finds value in that tweet, they may pass it on to their followers in the form of a Re-Tweet (RT).
The RT credits the original sender for the idea or link. The person who RT’s the Tweet may need to abbreviate the original if it exceeds 140 characters. It is understood however, that the intent of the original idea is to be kept intact. Many tweeters comment on an RT, but it is usually clear that the comment is separated from the original tweet or idea. Usually, it is an acknowledgement of agreement to the idea. If there is strong disagreement then the tweeter will usually put out a new, original tweet expressing a different point of view. This has always been my understanding of the process and it is how I explain it to others when I am in the position to do so.
In that context I now offer my experience on Twitter yesterday. As I looked over my TweetDeck column of all of the tweets that mention me, I came across a tweet resembling one of mine that was RTed. It credited me with an idea that I supposedly tweeted. The problem that I had with it, and the thing that brought about a 20 second tirade of screen-screaming, was that I never tweeted what this person said I did. This person was rewording my original tweet with his/her viewpoint and crediting me as saying it. When I pointed out to this tweeter that I never said what he/she was crediting me with, I received a few replies. I was told that everyone comments on Tweets in RT’s and that there are no Rules on Twitter. I would imagine some other educators on Twitter may have had similar experiences.
It is true that there are no rules on Twitter. It is true that comments are made on RT’s. It is also true that people do not bastardize other’s tweets for their own purpose, or to serve their agenda. There are however, certain rules of civilized society that should govern conversation or discourse on Twitter. We have to assume that Twitter participants are people of integrity who do not distort the truth. We need to assume that we are respectful of others and their ideas, even if we disagree. We need to believe that people make every effort to be accurate in their attempt to share information. We need to believe that our passions for a topic or idea will not allow us to disrespect others with opposing points of view. Those same opposing points of view are what force our reflections to strengthen or change our views on that same subject.
If we are to expose ourselves as educators to the world on Social Media, we need to remember we are professionals dealing with ideas and learning. We need to model our respect for these things. Even in the passion of discourse, we cannot stoop to name-calling or petty bickering. We need to be truthful and honest. We can be passionate about the subject and still have integrity and show respect for others even in disagreement.
Yes it is true, Twitter has no rules. We, as educators however, have guidelines which we need to live by in order to model for others. I am sure that this person who distorted my tweet believed he/she had every right to do so, because Twitter has no rules. We must rise above that thinking however, if we are to trust others in what we have developed as our Personal Learning Network. Like the students who we teach, we need a safe and comfortable learning environment that we can trust. Let us not allow anyone’s lack of ethics be our Twitter Achilles Heel.