Chapter 6: Be Real

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
– William Shakespeare


Digital_Citizenship_Resource_GuideDid you know that nearly half of employers surveyed by Career Builder reported googling candidates before interviewing them? Or did you know that 31% of 381 college admissions offices that responded to a Kaplan telephone survey indicated that they now visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page to learn more about them. Who we are online is a part of how people define us. It is part of our personality, our integrity, and our character.

This chapter is a balance between avoiding behaving poorly because no one knows it’s me and encouraging each of us to reflect our true selves online.

Leaving footprints

Let’s start with the easy stuff… to quote Dr. Cowlishaw and Dwight Shrute, “Don’t be an idiot”. Students need to be coached to pause before posting to consider what do they want from this action.

They need to ask themselves…

 When our students post their work online, tweet, blog, upload images to facebook, comment on news stories, they are contributing to their digital footprint and with more and more colleges and employers looking to research candidates online, it is important that we help students make good choices about what they share. In fact, it is important that our students careful cultivate and intentional contribute to their digital footprint. While it is clearly worse to content posted that reflects negatively about a student, it seems as though we are coming to a point where students not having a digital footprint could also be problematic. Athletes should be encouraged to share highlights and chronicle their work toward becoming a top athlete. Artists can share their portfolio and their inspirations. Students can curate online opportunities to share their passions, their projects, and their academic prowess so that their digital footprint reflects their true selves.

Another piece of solid advice for our students is to avoid anonymity. Being anonymous often allows people to behave in ways inconsistent with how they would behave in person. Psychologist John Suler coined the term “online disinhibition effect” to describe the disconnect between our online and offline behaviors. Anonymous behavior is also inconsistent with our school’s mission and value statements. It is imperative that we caution our students that hiding behind fake profiles or anonymous postings can allow us to behave poorly without accountability.

Additional Reading

The Trouble with Anonymous Social Media

Ginny Soskey is the Section Editor for HubSpot’s Marketing Blog and writes about new apps with anonymity.

Take Action

Will the real you please stand up?

Everyone knows that humans are social creatures that at some level need to belong to a group or community. This can cause us to be overly sensitive to what the group thinks of us. It seems the trick is staying true to yourself while staying connected to the group. Online interactions are no different and are often guided by our need to feel connected and belong. Remember to help students find ways to be true to themselves. Help them be the real version of themselves online and off.

Personality Surveys

Below are several personality tests. Ask your students to take one and discuss it they think it is accurate. Next ask them to consider how they different personality types might interact using Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

16 Personalities



In the News

Below are several news stories about online interactions and reputations. Discuss the news story with the students. Have them reflect on the situation. Who was involved? Who’s was hurt? Who’s reputation was hurt? Was what happened fair?

Doctor Attacked on Social Media

A Pittsburgh doctor is being attacked on social media for being a hunter.

Auschwitz Selfie Girl Defends Actions

Alabama teen takes smiling selfie at the Auschwitz Concentration camp.

Instagrams from Auschwitz

Another perspective on why people take pictures or selfies at Auschwitz.

Charlotte Catholic Football Star Flushes Recruiting Letter on Vine

Elijah Hood chose a public way to indicate his college choice. It is worth noting that he changed his mind about where he wanted to go to school later.

How do you take action? Share your ideas here. 

Lesson plan, resources, & more

Grades 3-5:  The Power of Words

Students consider that they may get online messages from other kids that can make them feel angry, hurt, sad, or fearful. Students identify actions that will make them Upstanders in the face of cyberbullying.

Grades 3-5: Picture Perfect

Students learn how photos can be altered digitally. They will consider the creative upsides of photo alteration, as well as its power to distort our perceptions of beauty and health.

Grades 6-8: Which Me Should I Be?

Students learn that presenting themselves in different ways online carries both benefits and risks.

Grades 6-8: Gender Stereotypes Online

Students analyze a “Dress Up Your Avatar” feature of a virtual world for kids for evidence of stereotypes about boys and girls.

Grades 9-12: Who Are You Online?

Students explore how they and others represent themselves online, and the relationship between online and offline selves.

Grades 9-12: Feeling On Display

Students reflect on the different pressures teens face when it comes to editing, posting, and commenting on photos online.

Grades 9-12: Turn Down the Dial on Cyberbullying and Online Cruelty

Students learn that cruelty can escalate quickly online because people are often anonymous and posts spread quickly.

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