I had a short talk with a local politician who lamented the effect social media was having on the willingness to run for office in Grandview. Conversations with residents about the possibility of running for the school board or for city council often ended with the person expressing fear of social media. In the past, a candidate just had to undergo scrutiny by the local traditional news media, which is generally cursory and relies heavily on self-reported information. The new media has complicated the decision to run.
Social media have none of the restraints of the traditional media. When someone is running for a public office, they have opened themselves to public comment. There is some defense possible from outright lying, facts still matter. But when you express “my opinion about this guy running for office” you can say just about anything that comes into your mind. Think he is a creep, a liar and a cheater? Post away, there is nothing stopping you. And there should not be any laws that restrict the ability to post opinions in public, this is what makes a free society.
The quantity of those opinions has exploded with the rise in social media. People have Facebook accounts, twitter, blogs, mailing lists, if you are willing to see the depths people can sink to, there are comment sections on newspapers. It’s all out there, and can be retrieved with the right queries of the search engines, today and long into the future.
You can live in fear of the social media, and try to limit all mention of your name by shunning the online world. Or you can be proactive and create your own media profile.
We have two new principals for our schools who have demonstrated the best way to deal with social media.
Angela Ullum is a unique name
The super has announced that Angela Ullum will be recommended for elementary school principal, filling in for soon to depart Brian Bowser. Ullum currently serves as assistant principal at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington.
Tracking her online profile is simplified by the fact she has a very unique name. The “Bob Smiths” of the world can hide in the avalanche of returns that name produces, and almost any other name has multiple users in a metro area the size of Columbus. There doesn’t appear to be any other Angela Ullum, anywhere at all.
Mrs. Ullum has a cursory facebook page with very little publicly accessible information, just a few family pictures. Her Pinterist page, however, is absolutely jam-packed full of “Pins”, links to other information on the web she has organized into 18 boards. There is nothing unusual here, just the standard home organizing, shopping, and fashion links. There are lots of links to educational material, all of it seems to be mainstream professional links. There are no political pins or hints that identify her political beliefs. Possibly she is has no interest in politics, but I’m guessing that she has intentionally done that.
Kenny C sings country
The school board has approved Ken Chaffin as Grandview HS new principal. He most recently worked as an assistant principal at Worthington McCord Middle School.
After you filter out the results for the poet and fiction author with the same name, you find he has a twitter account, used to tweet about Worthington McCord school info and link to professional educational material. While reading a wordpress blog put up by an asst. super at the school I found a post about Chaffin’s performance at a school function, singing a country song about bullying. I know the school board was looking for someone who would take bullying at the school in a serious way. I’m not sure if singing about it will help, but it indicates he is willing to go outside of the normal channels to deal with bullying.
This is more about Trent Bowers, the asst. super at Worthington who has the extensive wordpress blog, but I am very impressed with the blogging going on in that school system (there is a small WP blog by Chaffin). Can you imagine a superintendent at Grandview who had a blog and updated it regularly?
(Later) Chaffin has sent an email out in which he introduces himself to the community, and says that he intends to blog regularly on that same wordpress blog. His first post as Grandview principal is here.
After reading his post (and some of his older stuff) I’m not so sure he understands what he is getting into here in this community. He is on this kick where he talks about “First Class” (something he got from listening to an Urban Meyer speech), which I kind of get because it is a “do your best” sort of football coach rah-rah tag line. An he did coach for a while. But Grandview is not a big sports school. If he thinks that running a school is like being a high school coach, I see bad things ahead.
Blog or be blogged
The social media world is not going away. Your relationship with it is mandatory, the only question is, will you engage with it and create your own online persona, or will you be a passive participant and allow other to define you?