Do We Value People, or Just the Content they Share?

Blogger’s Note:  This post was prompted by the personal struggles of John Wink — a curriculum director in Texas who gives far more than he takes in social spaces and who needs our help.  His daughter was recently in an accident that left her body broken and her family facing a mountain of medical bills.  

Check out John’s blog and his Twitterstream — and if you think the content and ideas that he is sharing are making the world a better place, think about donating $5 to help cover the cost of his daughter’s care on Go Fund Me here or leaving him an uplifting message on Facebook here.


One of the big ideas that I’ve spent the better part of the past few months wrestling with is whether or not teachers who live and learn in social spaces really value the people that they follow.

Here’s why:  Digital places that once bubbled with the kind of social exchanges that build genuine relationships — arguments, celebrations, good-natured jibes, inside jokes — seem to have transitioned to information streams built on nothing more than simple transactions between creators and consumers:  I’ll find good stuff for you as long as you retweet everything that I share.

Sure, those transactions have value.  Creators who are curating and filtering content for others gain a digital reputation that they can leverage to advance their own work beyond social spaces and consumers get ready-access to quality information.

But I can’t help but mourn the loss of who we once were together.  

Early on, the folks that used social spaces for networking seemed genuinely interested in learning WITH each other.  Now, it seems like people are only interested in learning FROM each other.  The result:  Our social spaces have become static — giant broadcast channels full of the very sages on the stages that we are working so hard to replace in our classrooms.  Worse yet, we seem all-too-happy to sit-and-get without thinking twice about the contributions that we could be making to the spaces where we turn to learn.

And I can’t help but worry about the future of personal learning networks because healthy learning spaces depend on something more than one-way communication.  

Personal learning networks can’t be selfish little learning bubbles where we see others as nothing more than digital resources to draw from.  There’s a person behind every avatar who deserves to be valued and recognized and appreciated and challenged.  PLNs thrive only when we recognize the humanity in our networks and when we are willing to be open and personal with each other.

What does all this mean for you?  Go find a way to give back to your network RIGHT NOW.

Thank folks for the resources that they’ve shared.  Share a resource of your own.  Leave a comment on a blog.  Ask a good question.  Push a conversation forward.  Let someone know that you are thinking of them.  Show people who you are and what you care about.  Give twice as much as you take.  Take a minute to be human.

And then do it again tomorrow.

Together is built one interaction at a time, y’all — and together is a lot more meaningful than the lonely places that our social spaces have become.



Related Radical Reads:

Random Acts of Patriotism

Random Acts of Reverse Patriotism

This is Who I Am

Knowing Someone in Social Spaces is Complicated

The Need to Connect Remains the Same

8 thoughts on “Do We Value People, or Just the Content they Share?

  1. Pingback: The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls. | The Tempered Radical

  2. Jasper Fox Sr.

    Awesome post, so thought provoking! Your points are within a larger framework of digital citizenship, in which we need to challenge the “like for like” culture that permeates social media spaces. Part of the situation, in my opinion, is that online networks are being built as we go with no set rules or guidelines. This is tremendously powerful and can lead to unimaginable growth, but also means these networks are at the whim of the majority users. What that means is that thoughtful, vocal and insightful users like yourself (and others!) must not “cave in” or give up and continue to converse, share and above all be human.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Jasper wrote:

      What that means is that thoughtful, vocal and insightful users like yourself (and others!) must not “cave in” or give up and continue to converse, share and above all be human.


      Thanks, Jasper — and I think it’s up to all of us to be a little more human, right? If everyone spent twice as much time commenting as they did sharing/creating/lurking/consuming, our social spaces might actually be social again!


    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Thanks, Josh!

      And I haven’t forgotten about your questions — It’s Reece’s birthday today and school starts Monday – so I am falling behind.

      I’ll get there, though….

  3. Greg Curran

    An important post Bill. I was saying to my Pre-service Teachers last week – it’s important to share ideas and strategies with the teaching communities online – not just take. Be an active part of communities – acknowledge, value, and give back. That’s when the magic happens.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Kelly,

      Those Ariely thoughts are spot on. I’ve read that work too. Dan makes a great argument in one of his books about late fees at day care centers. The minute that you charge a late fee, you change the relationship between the teacher and the parent to one of customer and business — and while parents may feel obligated to get their child on time when the relationship is built on social norms (teacher/parent), they feel no obligation when the relationship is built on market norms (customer/business).

      Our social spaces are starting to mirror that research.

      Thanks for the comment,

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