The first ever Tweet was sent on March 21st, 2006. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. This concept was the beginning of a communication revolution and an adventure into the Twittersphere which subsequently beamed a spotlight onto public opinion on everything and indeed anything.
In 2011, during a fortunate summit window, explorer Kenton Cool successfully sent what was reported to be the first tweet from the summit of Mount Everest. This was his 9th successful summit. Despite having the ability to tweet at an altitude of 29,000ft, however, it is not suggested that this form of communication is beneficial for climber safety.
On the contrary, it may be that the distraction of having access to social media will undoubtedly make the descending journey all the more treacherous. However, although most of us prefer to send our tweets from lower altitudes, precautions should still be taken.
We are all fortunate enough to have the licence to create content and share this with others. What we choose to say can be read by millions or by no-one at all. Freedom of speech is an important part of the Human Rights Act, this does not automatically give us the right to say what we want without censorship. It is a right to be earned and used respectfully. Connectivity even in some of the most remote places on earth allows us to influence the views of others, be instrumental in shaping how we are perceived by those who follow us and be influenced in return.
“A tweet sent in a moment of frustration or high emotion can leave an unwanted black mark on your digital footprint.”
The small act of sending a tweet can have positive impacts as well as devastating consequences for the sender and its audience. A tweet sent in a moment of frustration or high emotion and leave an unwanted black mark on your digital footprint. It is for these reasons that we have to reflect on the message we are portraying before we press send. Even though James Cameron was certainly feeling the pressure when he was seven miles deep on the sea bed at the Mariana Trench in 2012, he will have undoubtedly given the record-breaking tweet he sent careful consideration before formulating it.
Like the first explorers to place their feet on the moon, whose footprints are firmly and perhaps forever embedded in its surface, our own digital footprints are timeless; allowing friends, family, employers and the public community to make judgements; accurately or not.
It is essential, even more than ever before, that children are taught to respect the power that social media brings and to protect their own digital footprint by carefully selecting the content they decide to share. Through this Covid landscape, where children have spent more time than ever within the digital world, time needs to be dedicated to giving them the skills to self-regulate. This also needs to begin earlier, with children now being able to access the internet much younger and often unfiltered while away from school, a level of self-regulation must be encouraged.
“We must encourage a level of self-regulation around internet and social media use.”
Even though pupils in the younger years should not have their own accounts, tweets and posts appear on a whole range of websites and platforms that they may regularly use. Therefore, it is imperative that parents and teachers provide a safe environment that will enable pupils to have the confidence to decide what content they place their trust in, to have the skills to spot fake news and to ensure their own beliefs and understandings are influenced by real life adventures as opposed to purely digital ones.
Overall, the impact of social media does not always improve our outlook. Additionally, in this modern era, we are becoming acutely aware that we are never truly alone when online.
In 1912, whilst on an expedition in Antarctica, Aspley Cherry-Gerrard described polar exploration as the most isolated way of having a bad time. Perhaps if Twitter had been accessible to Cherry-Gerrard, he may have found his hopes lifted after discovering those in the digital world who were seemingly having a far worst time of it. Consequentially, maybe our access to the Twittersphere does have its benefits.
Adam Anstey is head of school at Broomfield House School.