Luke Woosley (left), a Carroll High School student, and Joshua Tigges (second from left), a Kuemper Catholic High School student, speak about how teens use social media differently than adults during a social media civility panel held June 19 at DMACC in Carroll. They’re pictured with other panelists (from left) Cindy Johnson, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church; Jen Schulte, DMACC instructor; Peter Leo, a Manning attorney; and Charlie Nixon, publisher of the Coon Rapids Enterprise. (Photos by Caitlin Yamada)
Luke Woosley (left), a Carroll High School student, and Joshua Tigges (second from left), a Kuemper Catholic High School student, speak about how teens use social media differently than adults during a social media civility panel held June 19 at DMACC in Carroll. They’re pictured with other panelists (from left) Cindy Johnson, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church; Jen Schulte, DMACC instructor; Peter Leo, a Manning attorney; and Charlie Nixon, publisher of the Coon Rapids Enterprise. (Photos by Caitlin Yamada)

July 1, 2019

In today’s digital era, people of all ages are constantly interacting on social media.

The rise of social media platforms brings about a lot of online discussion that sometimes can turn aggressive and uncivil.

The theme of civility was the main focus of an “Incivility of Social Media” panel, which was co-sponsored by CHARACTER COUNTS! and Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll. The event was hosted at Carroll’s DMACC campus on June 19.

Panel members included:

— Jen Schulte, DMACC instructor

— Peter Leo, Manning attorney

— Cindy Jonhson, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Carroll

— Charlie Nixon, publisher of the Coon Rapids Enterprise

— Luke Woosley, a Carroll High School student

— Joshua Tigges, a Kuemper Catholic High School student.

The discussion was moderated by Lisa Dreesman, a library-media specialist at DMACC.

In their introductions, the panelists also mentioned their preferred social media sites, with Instagram and Facebook being common answers among the group.

Dreesman started the panel by defining social media so the panelists and audience could have a baseline for the discussion.

She discussed the definition of social media platforms from authors Jonathan A. Obar and Steve Wildman from their paper, ‘Social Media Definition and the Governance Challenge: An introduction to the Special Issue.’

“Social media are interactive, computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information ideas, career interests and other forms of expressions via virtual communities and network,” Dreesman said.

She also explained the common themes that the authors say embody social media platforms: They are interactive, are based on user generated content, contain service-specific profiles maintained by the organization’s publisher and connect profiles to each other.

The panel began by addressing the question, “How has social media changed the way you accomplish your work?”

Schulte discussed from an instructor’s perspective how social media sites allow a different kind of learning in the classroom.

“In my classroom I really like to pull in YouTube videos to enhance the instruction that has been put together by myself knowing that during my prep, if I were to include a video in that prep, my students would be able to understand the information at a deeper level,” she said.

From a student perspective, Tigges agreed, saying that social media can make lessons interactive and help students understand topics more even when they are outside of the classroom.

“At home it makes the way we get schoolwork done a little different,” Tigges said. “Because if we don’t understand something, we have YouTube or Google to look up that stuff to get a better understanding or also to contact other students that are in the classroom with you. If they understand it, they can help you out too.”

Facebook also serves as a place for Nixon to get story ideas and learn about what issues he should pursue further for coverage in the Coon Rapids Enterprise, he said.

Johnson said that YouTube videos help summarize pieces of biblical texts save time during her sermons.

The main topic of the panel revolved around the question of whether social media platforms help or hurt when it comes to civility. Panelists discussed how to maneuver the sometimes-unruly situations and their personal experiences with social media.

A common theme throughout the panel was that people are more likely to say things over the Internet rather than face to face, which makes uncivil conversations more prone to happen online. Leo used his experience as an attorney to further explain the power of online anonymity.

“When someone is actually put under oath and forced to sit across the table from another person with whom they have a agreement, they will say things and do things and behave in a way … that are very different than what they will do behind closed doors (when they) don’t think anyone’s watching,” Leo said.

This can cause kids to turn to social media sites to bully others, even though they may not do the same thing in person, panel members said.

“People are not the same behind a screen as they would be face to face,” Woosley said.

Schulte said she is a more passive social media user. She said she was taught to not discuss hot topics if there is not the opportunity to have a lengthy and thorough discussion about it, and that social media is reducing the opportunity for those types of discussions.

Some users of social media purposefully search for views they don’t support and use that as an opportunity to voice their own, Woosley said.

“I see a lot of people who are following opposite sides and just ranting and ranting and ranting,” he said. “And at the end of the day, is it really doing anything? You have to ask yourself, because I don’t believe that it actually does.”

However, civility does not mean thinking alike.

“It’s not uncivil to have a different viewpoint,” Leo said.

With younger kids growing up with social media, the panel also echoed the importance of educating kids on proper social media usage and etiquette.

Do not trust who is on media unless you personally know them,” Rev. Johnson said parents should tell their kids. “Because it can really get out of hand.”