Is Your Photo Avatar Making You Look OLD?

Meeting people who you network with online for the first time face to face is always an amazing moment because your mind has created a mental picture of them based on your interactions. Unfortunately the online identity you develop for yourself and how it appears to you may not match what your online friends expect when they meet you, f2f, in real life.

Take for example KerryJ (who I had the great pleasure of meeting this week for dinner with Kathyrn Greenhill). KerryJ and I’ve been networking online for awhile, both share a wicked (evil) sense of humour.

Let me say I’m glad KerryJ told me this (& thanks KerreJ for letting me tell the story) — but apparently my photo avatar is making me look OLD. She pictured me a a much older looking person compared to the person standing in front of her. Now with my birthday tomorrow there is no way I want to look my AGE. She said in person I looked in my 30’s (which many people take me for) but my photo avatar makes me look in my 40’s (which unfortunately I am).

So here’s the offending picture:

suewaterschoc.jpg

I liked it because to be honest there are not many photos of me because I’m one of those people whose photos turn out like crap. And at least the photo looked okay.

This was my previous photo which I liked but felt made me look too bland:

me2.jpg

Here’s what I looked like at dinner:

suema.jpg

Developing Your Online Identity

Developing our own unique identity is an important part of being online which we don’t always appreciate when we first start setting up our online accounts. Personal connection is really important for interacting online. The better others can visualize you as a real person the more likely they will be to want connect and network with you.

1. Branding

Having the one online identity across all your accounts makes it easier for others to connect and relate to you. When starting out we often feel nervous about using our own identity but there are many long term benefits. Read Vicki Davis’s advice to educators on the value of using their own identity (take the time to read the comments also).

It’s amazing how often I network with people using sites like twitter, and their username is so unusual that it can take me months to realise “Oh that’s really John from John’s Blog and I love reading his blog.”

2. Sharing Your Human Side

Giving people a glimpse of your human side, warts and all, is important — this makes you human as opposed to a machine. Show people that you have a sense of humour, that stuff upsets you, that something exciting has happened….. Help them connect with you.

Take for example my post Vacation Without Internet Access? What The? — those readers who network with me a lot, know how addicted I am, were laughing at the idea of me not coping well without Internet access and know in reality that a break would be healthy for me. Others could relate because they’ve faced similar situations themselves.

3. Build Your Identity Using Variety

Text can convey your feelings, emotions and to some extent your personality but won’t help others build the visual picture of what you look like. Your photos means others can visualise what you look like to some extent e.g. no sense of height (I’m 167 cm).

I find twitter gives others a much deeper insight into my personality than blog posts; because I tend express more sides of my emotions and my interactions with others can be synchronous.

A voice to go with a photo helps further to create the mental image. But video is even better as it adds an entirely different dimension again — it helps complete the image. Kate Foy showed me the power of this at the end of the 31 Days to Build A Better Blog — thanks Kate.

I’ve created a quick video of me talking so you can check it out. If you are reading this in your feed reader — you might prefer to watch it on my blog — just press the play on the Edublogs image.

sue-waters.mov

Check out Michele Martin’s post which has lots of great links to Tools and Resources for Managing Your Online Reputation.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So what do you think? Should I change my photo to the one from dinner? Perhaps I should mix them up to keep you guessing?

How do you create your online identity? Have you found mental images you have created been considerably different from the real person when you’ve meet?

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Educational Networking and Staying Out of My Face

36924662_5f7ea8ef37_m.jpgAllison Miller posts on Facebook and Social Networking (To Unblock Facebook or To Not Unblock Facebook? and Should Facebook be banned from Educational Institutes) and Michael Coghlan’s podcast on Should TAFE be Using Facebook has evoked really strong emotions. Photo by Bunch of Pants.

Lets Separate The Debate

My strongest belief is we must separate the debate on the educational use of social networking totally from whether Facebook should be used in an educational context. These are two totally separate issues.

Facebook is just one form of social networking; the educational benefits of social networking shouldn’t be devalued because managers and educators base their views on social networking solely on their own personal limited knowledge and/or experience of sites like Facebook and MySpace.

It’s about Educational Networking NOT Social Networking

I totally agree with Vicki Davis — It is about Educational Networking NOT Social Networking. There is huge difference between social networking and how we use these social platforms in an educational context; educational networking is a far more appropriate term for educators to use than social networking. Read Vicki’s excellent post for a better understanding of the difference!

The Personal Nature of Social Networks

We each have varying levels of personal connection to different social networking sites, and spaces that we want to keep private and personal, and this needs to be taken into account when considering the use of sites for educational networking. I’ve no personal connection to my own Facebook account; and happily connect to anyone, including my students, within Facebook. Yet my twitter network is extremely personal to me; it’s my personal space, I don’t want to interact with family or students in twitter.

My personal belief is that Facebook should be used only as a personal network; where educators and students can choose if they do/don’t connect with one another, and if learning occurs it is a result of informal networking and support. If we want to encourage educational networking then we should be using social platforms such as Ning community; where we can make the distinction between personal and education networks.

Banning of Web Sites

I believe it is far better to educate appropriate use than ban or block web sites. As educators, we should be treated as professional, and not have to justify reasons why we want to use a web application.

The shame of the Facebook debate in the TAFE sector actually has more to concerns that adminstration staff will waste time inappropriately; then concerns of how we might use it with students.

FINAL THOUGHT

Allison Miller has asked the following questions to ponder from this discussion which I’m unable to respond back to in this post; however we would love it if you added your thoughts to the conversation.

  • What are the POSITIVES of Social Networking? and what are the NEGATIVES of Social Networking?
  • Why do Educational Institutes ‘shy away’ from embracing ‘Social Networking Sites’ – and ‘block’ them?
  • How do we entice Educational Institutes to ‘value’ Social Networking?
  • Do Educational Institutes have an ethical responsibility to be ‘guiding’ their students through ‘how to operate’ in SNS?
  • How do we ‘measure’ and ‘demonstrate’ the educational value of SNSs?
  • How can we gather the data to show the ‘ROI in terms of relationships’ and ‘ROI in terms of information and learning’?

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Four Lessons Learned: Social Media and NonProfits Meme

Beth Kanter has tagged me with the meme Four Lessons Learned: Social Media and Nonprofits which was really cool because as Katya points out “Beth is THE maestro on nonprofits and social media (and she could probably accompany Yo-Yo Ma on flute)”. MMMMmmmm shame a minor matter of me being an educator, not involved with non-profit, makes the meme just that bit harder — but not impossible. Fortunately I network with nonprofit bloggers/twitterers which helps.

For Beth’s meme I have to consider:

  • What if I could start all my social media and nonprofits work over from scratch?
  • What would I do differently?
  • What 4 lessons have I learned that will stick with me for 2008?

The most important lesson I learnt in 2007 was that when you are struck, if you have invested the time and effort into building strong social networks, one of your networks will help you out. After a few hours of trying to write this post I realised that help was urgently needed and luckily my twitter network came to the rescue. Thanks for rescuing me Corrie Bergeron, VeletSarah, Catherine Eibner and especially Judy O’Connell (whose words of wisdom were “Beth Kanter will have all the answers you could possibly want I think”)

Yes, I cheated on my meme, because it is a collective effort as opposed to my own personal lessons, but Social Media is not about working harder but working more effectively; using the power of social networking to connect, collaborate and innovate at a greater rate than working on your own.

So here is four five lessons from us:

#1. Use what works

Most of us don’t have the budget to be on the bleeding edge; focus on using social media that you know will work e.g. blog to advise of news/events and provide feedback on recent events or information, wikis for community resources.

#2. Have a *reason* to use it – it’s just a tool

Think very carefully about what you are trying to achieve and then choose the right tool for the job. Don’t just use a tool for the sake of it.

#3. Be fearless in learning

Really investigate the options out there – there are many free or very low cost ways to introduce social media into the business but take the time to learn about them first!

The biggest mistake I ever made was using blogging with others before I had a good understanding of what blogging was about myself. Always start by using a new Web 2.0 tool for your own personal learning. Explore your options; lurk a while and get a feel for the site you’re in, what its community is like etc. As you become effective with using the tool you will soon understand how you can use it for your work and are more likely to be successfully with implementing it.

#4. (which should really be #1) keep your mission in mind. Why are you here?

Check out Deborah’s post on the importance of the mission!

#5. Work Smarter not harder!

With so many new Web 2.0 tools appearing on a daily basis, you can waste a lot of time testing new tools. Instead sit back and listen to noises from your social networks to work out which ones are worth investigating. If enough people whose opinion I value are promoting a particular tool I take notice.

FINAL THOUGHT

Any poor explanations of the lessons are entirely my fault, and are no reflection of the input of my network. They worked extremely hard, thanks everyone, under difficult circumstances (me not being able to express myself).

What advice would you give to either nonprofits or other educators – what are 4 lessons, relating to social media, that you have learned that will stick with you for 2008?

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