My New Year’s Resolution? Comment More and “Like” Less.

So here we are, 2017.  Pretty glad to see you, if you want to know the truth.  2016 was a year full of more turmoil and tragedy than I care to remember.  

I bet you are buried in promises today, right?  Doesn’t EVERYONE wake up on January 1st ready to make new commitments about how they are going to choose to live during your 365 days?  My guess is that you probably roll your eyes every time that someone casts their promises towards the heavens, knowing full well that most of those promises will be abandoned by the end of your first month.  Don’t believe me?  Go ask 2016.  He’s BOUND to tell you that promises made in the first minutes of a new year aren’t worth a hill of beans.

But I AM going to make a promise to you whether you like it or not:  I promise to spend more of my time behind screens reading and commenting on blogs and less time liking and retweeting the content that I consume.

Now I know what you are thinking:  “Nice promise, Bill.  Really ambitious.  So thankful that you are committed to making our world a better place by commenting more than liking.  You are a real Mother Teresa, aren’t you?!  Sheesh, these people.  So selfish with their resolutions.  Can’t SOMEBODY come up with a promise that matters?”

Here’s the thing, 2017.  I REALLY believe that commenting more and liking less WILL make the world a better place.  It’s NOT a selfish act.  

Here’s why:  No matter what people say, social spaces are decidedly antisocial nowadays.  Most of our interactions in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest are shallow on a good day.  We think mashing the like button or sharing someone’s post out in our own social streams is some kind of meaningful endorsement of the people we are learning from, but those acts require nothing of us — and show nothing to the creators who are sharing content in our streams.

I’m not trying to be all judgy here.  I know why we like and pin and share instead of comment.  We do it because it is fast and easy.

But make no mistake about it:  “Fast and easy” acknowledgement cheapens the value of the very spaces that we’ve embraced.  

Content creators stop seeing their audiences as people they are connected to and start seeing their audiences as people they are trying to sell their ideas to.  And audiences stop seeing the content creators that they follow as actual people who are reflecting transparently and pushing conversations forward.  Instead, content creators are just another brand in the marketplace shouting for attention.  What was supposed to be “networked learning” has become “a network for buying and selling ideas about learning.”  Each Tweet or Pin or Post or Favorite or Share is a transaction instead of a contribution.

Need a different way to think about it?  Likes and pins and retweets are nothing more than the digital equivalent of the Gingerbread soap you gave your grandmother for the holidays because you just so happened to be in the Bath and Body Works the week before Christmas.

Sure, Gingerbread soap is a gift.  No argument there.  But it’s not a thoughtful gift that you put time and energy into.  It was the easiest step you could take to fill your part of the gift-giving bargain and everyone — grandma included — knows it.  While you may not realize it at first, that bar of Gingerbread soap fundamentally changes your relationship with grandma because it is a sign of just how little you really want to think about her.  You’ll do it because you are supposed to — it IS a social expectation, after all — but not out of any real sense of gratitude for Grandma.

Am I making any sense, 2017?  

I guess what I’m saying is that I am making a commitment to LEARNING WITH rather than LEARNING FROM people this year.  I’m going to read and react to the ideas being shared by others.  I’m going to ask questions instead of look for answers.  I’m going to start conversations instead of share content.  I’m going to show people that I’m really listening — and that I’m grateful enough for their efforts and ideas to spend time wrestling with and responding to those ideas in their comment sections.

My bet is that every comment will strengthen the connections that I have with people.  Instead of seeing me as just another icon in their feeds, they’ll see me as a person with a voice who cares enough about them to react to what they’ve written.  Our relationships will be strengthened — something that can only happen one thoughtful interaction at a time — and stronger relationships matter.

Sure, it means that I’ll end up following fewer people.  I can’t magically double the amount of time that I have for interacting in social spaces.  But those fewer people will mean more to me — and hopefully, I will mean more to them.

So there’s my promise, 2017.  I’m going to be a better learning partner to people this year — and while it won’t solve global poverty or keep the Russians from taking over the rest of the world, it WILL encourage and empower more of my peers.  

That has to have some value, doesn’t it?

Respectfully,

Bill Ferriter

——————–

Related Radical Reads:

I’m Going #toplessin215!  Who’s In?

In One Word, I Will Challenge.

 

35 comments

  1. Kyle Hamstra

    First, I tweeted your post. Then, I realized the irony. Now, I come back to comment. I really appreciate this reflection. Less showcasing and more authentic learning. When reading your post, I was hearing a theme from the book: What Connected Educators Do Differently. The authors depicted a broad picture where connected educators benefit from reciprocal investments with their professional learning network (p. 2). Educators should give as much [or more] as we take. Great post!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Kyle,

      That term “reciprocal investments” is a great one, isn’t it? That’s one of the points that I’m making here. Our participation in PLNs HAS to be reciprocal if those spaces are going to remain healthy and vibrant.

      Sadly, I don’t think likes and favorites and retweets count as a “reciprocal investment” simply because they mean so little.

      Thanks for the comment. The thinking is still challenging me and I dig it.

      Rock right on,
      Bill

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  3. ctuttell

    Bill,
    This post really hits home – learning WITH rather than learning FROM strengthens all of us! Strengthening my PLN relationships with more thoughtful interactions is definitely a goal of mine.

    Reminds me of a favorite quote by Cory Booker,
    “Give more than is expected, love more than seems wise, serve more than seems necessary, and help more than is asked.”
    I think if we all thought more about deepening connections we’d all be better off.

    I think Melanie also brings up great points about F2F connections within our buildings. This week I started “Kudos Kookies” (homemade cookies with a handwritten note) to recognize amazing things I see around our building – like Melanie, I want to be more intentional with all my relationships. This simple act is helping me focus on the positive things I see in the building and bringing smiles.

    Your encouragement to our #wonderwake nation to blog and read others has truly transformed my thinking since Convergence. I am grateful for you and your words!

    Keep spreading JOY!
    Chris Tuttell

    • Bill Ferriter

      Chris wrote:

      “Give more than is expected, love more than seems wise, serve more than seems necessary, and help more than is asked.”

      —————–

      Oh I love this, Chris!

      It perfectly describes the role we need to play in all of our networks — both digital and face to face — if we are going to ensure that our worlds are vibrant and healthy.

      Thanks for the share — and I’m stealing your Kudos Cookies idea! I think I might start using it with my students.

      Rock on,
      Bill

  4. Anne Schaefer-Salinas

    Bill,
    Your thoughts really hit home for me. I, have been grappling with how to best be “present” in the digital world and how to not “take”, but contribute. I like the way you put it as liking less and commenting more. Thank you for crystalizing that process for me so succinctly! Here’s to a great 2017!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Gland you dug that, Anne!

      You said something super important: We have to contribute as much as we take from our social spaces if we want them to remain vibrant and strong! I think that’s changed for the worse over the last several years. I think we’ve gotten so durn comfortable with the notion that there is great information available anytime and to anyone that we forget that there are real people creating and sharing that information. If we don’t show gratitude to those people in the form of making our own contributions, why the heck would they ever continue writing and sharing?

      We don’t need everyone to create content — but we should expect everyone to contribute in some way to the health of our social spaces.

      Rock right on,
      Bill

  5. Lyn Hilt

    Happy new year, Bill! Thanks for sharing this! In 2017 I am going to commit myself to posting more, sharing more, and commenting more. One way I’m going to try to keep up with it all is by participating in the Edublogs Club monthly challenges… working on my first post right now. Your name makes an appearance, of course 🙂 In telling my blog story, I remember fondly the days of comment threads 5-20 comments long where educators pushed each other’s thinking and supported each other along the way. #goodolddays Have the best 2017 ever!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Pal,

      I miss those good old days, too! Commenting — and community around those comments — really was the norm rather than the exception to the rule in the early days of our blogging worlds. I guess I’m just trying to remind people of the value that those comment threads. I keep pushing that conversation, but without any sign of significant change. Sometimes I feel like I should just quit hoping for something better out of our social spaces.

      Anyway — I miss connecting with you! Sure wish I’d see you at Educon one of these years! Treat Yo’ Self with a trip one of these years!

      Rock on,
      Bill

  6. Adam

    Hi Bill-
    Makes total sense. I don’t mind people building a brand if it helps promote positive learning interactions. Don’t care for a “brand” for “brand” sake and to go out and do presentations that feel good and pay well, but don’t push people to think differently about traditional learning.

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  8. Mike West

    Love this post, pal. I need to do better with commenting on blogs myself. So many quotables in here, but I particularly like the sentiment behind “learning with” rather than”learning from”.

    Thank you for your voice in this work! You always push my thinking!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Thanks, MPW!

      I really am trying to commit to the notion of learning with people this year. There’s a definite difference — and I think commenting is probably the easiest first step towards pulling that off.

      Here’s to hoping there is a Denny’s run in our future.

      Rock on,
      Bill

  9. Philip Cummings

    Hey, Bill, I like this a lot. 😉

    Seriously though, I’m in. I’m adding this to my small list of changes I’m implementing for this new year. I didn’t do much blog commenting in 2016 (I didn’t do as much blog reading either). I’m trying to get back out here so I’m going to make commenting more of a priority. I’m not making any public “promises” that I cannot keep, but I have set a couple of goals for sharing and commenting. I’m sure we’ll talk more about it when we are face-to-face in a few weeks because I’d appreciate some accountability to you in this regard. Happy 2017, my friend!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Philip!

      Super jazzed to see you here — but even more jazzed to see you in a few weeks!

      Can’t wait to reconnect in a meaningful way.

      Looking forward,
      Bill

  10. Amy Nichols

    Bill, I think that your thoughts on this are spot on! The like button is the equivalent of the smiley face on a student’s paper. Commenting is the specific feedback, letting the writer know your thoughts on their hard work. Helps both grow, commenter as they really think and digest and blogger as they see how others respond and answer questions. Thank you!!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Oh Amy,

      I LOVE the Smiley Face analogy. It’s perfect, right?

      For most students, those are throwaways. They don’t even consider it meaningful in any real way. And if you overuse them, students know full well that you are mailing it in.

      Thanks for the connection. It’s making me think.

      Rock on,
      Bill

  11. Melanie

    Bill,
    As usual you have sparked my brain to work in a different way when thinking about purposeful PLN interaction and “people” interaction. As I will continue to “like” and “retweet” because for me simple interactions are still thoughtful and meaningful, I will also keep in mind what it means to me to be a “better learning partner”. Your blog made me really think about relationships in general. I mean how well do I really know the people I see F2F every day. How far do I go beyond saying I “liked” your lesson? I’m going to take your idea and not only have purposeful interactions behind the curtain but I’m also going do a better job interacting with the people I see and respect everyday in the work place. Instead of telling teachers how awesome they are, I’m going to tell them “WHY” I think they are so awesome. Or why I liked their lesson. Making meaningful connections will make the world and work place better for our students… and isn’t that our goal?

    I appreciate your thoughts and sharing them with me.

    HNY- Melanie

    • Bill Ferriter

      Melanie wrote:

      Your blog made me really think about relationships in general. I mean how well do I really know the people I see F2F every day. How far do I go beyond saying I “liked” your lesson?

      ——–

      This is brilliant, Melanie. The truth is that the number of deep interactions that we have with people that we know in real life is often as disappointingly small as the number of deep interactions that we have with people that we know online. And that’s making it harder and harder to find meaning and purpose in the work that we do together.

      The good news is that deeper interaction is easy to pull off. And it automatically feels better when you do it. Our growing relationship is an example. Every time that I leave a comment for you or you leave one for me, I feel more connected to you. That’s cool times ten — and it didn’t require much from either of us!

      Looking forward to getting to know you better over the next year!

      Rock on,
      Bill

  12. Matt Townsley

    Hey, Bill. I’m with you, re: commenting more and “liking” less. One of the things I appreciate about you the most is you strive to ‘walk the talk.’ I know that I can count on you to consistently share, reflect, and act upon new ideas. Me…well, I haven’t done as good of a job as I’d like to in the area of public reflection lately. Your blog is still in my RSS feed and I continue to click through each time, to read, digest and learn from your thinking. My next step is to share a reflection of my own to your writing…and perhaps share a few more lengthy reflection in my own space, too. Keep reflecting. Keep writing. Keep pushing us all. I look forward to joining you in 2017. See you in the comments!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Pal,

      What’s the reason for your struggles with public reflection?

      I have some hunches, but I don’t want to shape your response!

      Rock on,
      Bill

    • Bill Ferriter

      It’s important, right Mike? There’s a huge difference in actions from people who take a “learn with” rather than “learn from” approach to life. If we start to model that in our own spaces, wouldn’t we be better prepared to create those kinds of experiences for the kids in our classrooms?

      Good thinking with you,
      Bill

  13. Robert Schuetz

    I’m with you on this Bill!
    I typically “like” or “retweet” for social-bookmarking purposes with my PLN. I subscribe to more than 100 blogs, I make it a point to comment on at least one post each day. Commenting invites and models civil discourse, shows appreciation for the writer, and creates opportunities for deeper understanding, broader perspective, or both. The people who’s blogs I subscribe to deserve more than 140 characters. A thoughtful, interesting post merits thoughtful, thorough responses; that’s how effective social learning networks thrive and prosper. Happy New Year!
    Bob

    • aarondavis1

      I must admit Bob, you have inspired me of late to comment more. I wonder if we need a #365comments for inspiration. Then again, maybe that is just more gingerbread? The thing that I am left wondering is whether writing a post as a response constitutes a comment? For example, I wrote a post in response to George Couros which was really a ‘comment’. It gets Trackbacked I assume. Is that gingerbread or something else?

      • aarondavis1

        Can I also add a slight bugbear, there are some bloggers who never reply. Do comments need to be commented on to complete the circuit? Sorry if that is more gingerbread and stuff.

        • Bill Ferriter

          Hey Aaron,

          I think the lack of comment responses is really an extension of the “like” culture that we live in! I’d bet that some of those authors don’t see their blogs as places for conversations because conversations are so rare in today’s social spaces. Instead, they see their blogs as places to peddle ideas and hope someone “buys” them for events. If that’s how you see “social spaces,” you’re less likely to see replying to comments as something worth spending time on.

          Another reason I think that comments aren’t replied to is simply because they are so infrequent that authors aren’t regularly checking to see if anyone has even stopped by! That’s the case for me, anyway. I probably get comments on 10% of my posts — which means I forget to look for comments when I’m working with my blog.

          The only way any of this changes, I think, is if we make commenting a priority again — and I’m not sure that will ever happen simply because the “like first, think together later” norm is so entrenched in our social spaces.

          Any of this make sense?
          Bill

          • Lyn Hilt

            That is a pet peeve of mine as well, Aaron… no matter what kind of “big name” you think you are, every comment deserves acknowledgement. Commenting requires a time commitment and a willingness to engage. That being said, if it takes me over a week to reply to your always-appreciated comments on my blog, don’t be discouraged! 🙂

          • Bill Ferriter

            This is a super interesting thread to me, guys.

            I still think the lack of replies to comments is a function of what our spaces have become. Writers don’t see a need to reply to comments simply because they didn’t expect to get those comments to begin with. There’s just no expectation for a two-way conversation simply because those two-way conversations are the exception to the rule in every space we inhabit.

            Does this make any sense?
            Bill

    • Bill Ferriter

      Bob wrote:

      The people who’s blogs I subscribe to deserve more than 140 characters. A thoughtful, interesting post merits thoughtful, thorough responses; that’s how effective social learning networks thrive and prosper.

      —————

      This is brilliance, Bob.

      And you are right: Social learning networks only thrive and prosper when we commit to nurturing them — and commenting is one way to nurture continued learning.

      I worry, though, that there’s little hope for seeing a return to a “comment often” culture simply because the norm in our spaces has become fast and easy interactions.

      Anyway — maybe if we keep talking about it, we can drive some kind of small change for the better!

      Grateful for you,
      Bill

  14. agarry22

    Hey Bill-
    At first I was going to “Like” this post and then I was going to grab the link and tweet it out, but instead I decided to leave you a comment. I really like what you are doing here because I find that the concept of “building your brand” as a person is nothing more than shallow interactions to raise your Klout score or make your bio look good because you can say you have 30k followers. In the end, I think the best thing you can be doing for people this year is for you to ask the tough questions, share your wealth of knowledge from being a classroom teacher, and above all be honest with people. The only way our profession is going to grow is if we start to build relationships that allow us to challenge each other to be better at what we do. In the end, all those new interactions will hopefully lead to information that will help us be better at what we do and that is to support students in the learning process. Amen to your promise! I will keep you honest.

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Adam,

      But here’s the thing about the “brand builders” in our spaces: I’m not sure I can blame them.

      Isn’t that approach an honest response to the fact that relationships don’t matter much anymore in our social spaces?

      In the past, folks wrote for one another because we saw value in the partnerships we were building with likeminded thinkers. Those partnerships were strengthened by regular comments and responses from folks who were more than just an “audience” to them.

      In fact, that word “audience” is troubling to me. It implies a transactional relationship. Audiences buy performances — which turns bloggers into “work for hire” performers. Until that attitude changes, I’m not sure we’ll ever have healthy social interactions any more.

      Does any of this make sense?
      Bill

  15. Bill Ivey

    Totally with you on the importance of building relationships through conversation. I find I comment on blogs for three main reasons – to support friends, to challenge ideas with which I strongly disagree, and to seek nuance and push the conversation forward. In all cases, I try not to comment unless I have something genuinely meaningful to say.

    Actaully, I find comment-retweeting to serve the same purpose, granted with somewhat less depth. If I can find a pull quote to highlight, or place the link in context, or add my opinion (again, in a meaningful way), I will. I also find spontaneous and planned chats on Twitter another great way to learn with rather than just from.

    In the end, I think that learn with vs. learn from distinction is the key. There’s a time and place for each – and it can help to focus on achieving the right balance.

    And that said… Happy new year, my friend!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Pal,

      You are the best example that I have of a guy who reads with gratitude. The comments that you add to my writing are always thoughtful — and they always feel like a gift to me. I love reading them and love seeing that you have stopped by. And they strengthen our relationship: I know I can count on you and I hope you know you can count on me.

      That’s interesting, right? After all, we’ve only met in person once. But we have a relationship built through genuine interaction in social spaces. I wish other people would realize that’s possible!

      Grateful for you,
      Bill