“I misunderstood the technology, and the consequences are devastating for me personally”

WalkawayfrommeHere’s a quote for you:

… I’ve decided to hang up my blogging hat. I was a fool, and I didn’t anticipate how this kind of thing could happen. As many of our readers and my students know, I’m opinionated and willing to push boundaries. This is what I think is the role of a professor, and blogging allowed me to do it in an informal and diverse manner. But I misunderstood the technology, and the consequences are devastating for me personally.

Time to go, Todd Henderson, Professor of Law, University of Chicago

If a distinguished law professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world doesn’t understand “the technology,” that’s probably indicative that most others don’t either.

Yet another reason why we should be educating our students on how to do this social media stuff rather than just blocking it…

Image credit: Walk away from me…

11 Responses to ““I misunderstood the technology, and the consequences are devastating for me personally””

  1. I don’t quite follow…

    He misunderstood the power of the technology and got more attention than he thought – leading to an onslaught of personal attacks. Comments often get polarized quickly … just look at any local newspaper for reference, let alone personal blogs.

    Is it that we need to teach our students how to appropriately respond to contentious posts? I’ve read enough of your posts to know you aren’t saying that we should tell them to just ‘be social’.

    Teaching the correlation between actions and consequences is tough enough in real life (e.g. my 8 and 6 year old) without adding in the ‘removement’ caused by transactional distances online. (Removement: n. The condition of feeling less responsible towards human interactions that are remote, detached or impersonal)

  2. My point, which I didn’t explicate up above, is that this Internet / social media stuff is pretty complex. If adults – really smart adults – are struggling with it, that’s all the more reason to educate our kids regarding it rather than simply preaching that it’s “bad” and then blocking it out. As I said in an earlier post (http://bit.ly/bM3ZPG) we need to stop treating our children as if they’re digital Athenas…

    I agree: Removement is – and will be – an issue.

  3. Hi Scott,

    None of us truly understand the long term impact of our blogging and use of social networking technologies – for good or ill. They have not been around long enough to examine the impact on individuals’ careers or personal relationships. I agree with Henderson.

    For example, organizations, especially schools, are run by traditionalists who are reluctant to hire boat-rockers. If you portray yourself as a boat-rocker in your public communications, your chances of being hired by a traditionalist is reduced.


  4. Doug, that’s a depressing thought! I think I’ve got about 30 more years ahead of me of living in this space. And just when I felt like I was getting a handle on it, now you tell me I have no clue? Dang it. Now what am I supposed to do?!

    Well, good or ill, I think it’s important to exist in this space and to teach our kids – as best we can – to do the same given what we know so far. We don’t have perfect knowledge of the future, but neither we can hide from it.

  5. I agree with Doug. For a long time, I didn’t blog because I feared my employer’s or future employers reaction to it. But now I’m going with the “you have to take some risks and make some mistakes in order to make progress” approach, and am hoping for the best.

    Blogging is a great way to multidirectionally share ideas with other people who care about the same things. But new ideas also means some people won’t agree. There’s also the risk that we’ll express an idea suboptimally, and it gets interpreted in a way we don’t intend.

    My heart goes out to people that this happens to. We’re not flamers here! We’re just trying to help. I hope that others will be more understanding.

  6. Hi Scott,

    It’s disappointing to find out that you are clueless. All this time I thought you were being courageous 😉

    I find that most real boat-rockers tend to be tenured college professors and independent consultants/professional pundits.


    • Some of us are (or were) rabble-rousers even before tenure (and would be boat-rockers even if we didn’t have it).

      But that’s the point, isn’t it? Too many people playing it safe or waiting until it’s safe to then take risks? Guess what? It’ll never be “safe enough” to take risks. We just have to do it anyway.

  7. If no one tried new ideas, we’d still be living in caves.

  8. So, do you really want to work for a traditionalist?

    It’s true though. I have the feeling that there are a large number of people that are going to get hurt by their online past.

    Man am I glad I haven’t documented every little screw-up online. Watch your students and kids to help them make good decisions. A bad internet reputation is going to be harder to get rid of than a tattoo.

    I have been finding my experience has given me a valuable perspective and sharing it with people is the right thing to do. That sharing doesn’t always have to be online, but you do need to share. Otherwise, we don’t move forward.

    I always figure I was looking for a job when I found this one. I wasn’t hired for my looks. Why not let them know what you think?

  9. The technology is not complex; it is deceptively simple: You write something; the world reads it.

    What Todd Henderson didn’t understand was that his views, while generally accepted within his small circle of correspondents, would be viewed (correctly) as repugnant by the wider world.

  10. I had a similar circumstance. I’ll repost the text of my final blog entry here. It’s not that I failed to understand the tech. It’s the fact that PEOPLE, especially TEACHERS, have failed me and themselves in understanding their scholarly obligation to debate, defend, or even justify, their views on education.

    “I have never suffered fools gladly. I’ve always expected more from others and usually ended up receiving less as a result. That’s the story of my life. That’s the reason I am discontinuing this unfulfilled (as well as unfulfilling) adventure into Web 2.0 after one year. It’s a shame, because I’m among the few teachers who have dared to expose aspects of Web 2.0 for the pop culture-Madison Avenue driven sham that it is. I’ve become impatient with being assailed by people who instead of publicly refuting my points, chose to covertly interfere with my life and livelihood. I won’t divulge details but it’s rather bizarre how far people will go to quell dissent.

    I thought I was living in America, not Soviet Russia! It’s as if I have the secret police monitoring my ever word.

    I have little regard for people who enter the arena of opinions without the willingness to fearlessly defend their views. There have been a handful of people who have tried, but in the end, they just didn’t want to endure my unrelenting cross-examinations. They’d rather post to blogs where their views are more safely welcomed instead of critiqued. That’s fine, at least they made the attempt. I’m not for all tastes and I’m satisfied with that reality. I should note that one recently defrocked teacher from my area, peeved by my critique of non-certified teachers, peppered a few of their pithy retorts with these thoughts …

    “I hope your d— falls off”

    … or even

    “f—- off!”

    This “teacher” (I now use the term loosely) even asked me if I was “retarded.” That’s right, folks, read it again. They used a word that disparages the millions of people living with disabilities.

    What’s wrong with people like this? Why can’t they respond in a normal fashion and defend their views, instead of resorting to cowardly methods that make them seem like inarticulate and insensitive schmucks?

    I don’t follow. I never have. I prefer leading, because that’s what I’m good at. Astrological Leos are born leaders, by the way. Followers are generally uncomfortable with aggressive, take-charge types who won’t settle for less. They prefer the company of other followers. That’s the herd mentality for you. That’s why I despise 99% of pop culture and those who promote it. It’s all about conformity. Conformity to me is like death.

    Because I’m not a follower, because I’ve never used my blog to create a mutual admiration society (“You’re awesome!” “No, you’re MORE awesome!), I am the target of resentful and vindictive bloggers. I’ve read enough Ayn Rand to learn that “going along to get along” is the surest means to kill my self-actualization need. I have no problem admitting I am an egoist, which for the uninitiated, is much different from being an egotist. I’ve also never had the need to collect “friends” like kids collect sports trading cards. I can’t consider a stranger I contact through the web a “friend” anyway. To me, the internet is far too impersonal and abstract to forge meaningful relationships. That’s why I refuse to use Twitter or Facebook. I think this post-modern pursuit of random world-wide socialization is a little sick and twisted, quite frankly. It’s part of this equally sick and twisted consumerist mentality of “more equals better” and “I want it all now.” This is why I despise corporate America and its mass media adjuncts, which continue to fuel this sad need to fill lives with silly gadgets in the false belief that they will offer happiness and ensure success.

    It’s no wonder our American way of life is doomed to extinction. Generation X/Y, supposedly so intellectually and morally superior, with their computers, their internet, and their gadgets, still haven’t surpassed the accomplishments of the World War 2 generation and all those before them. That’s fact. I dare anyone to refute that point.

    Why many (but not all) of Generation X/Y fail as educators is because they aren’t traditional moralists. They tend to be timid and non-judgmental, brainwashed by left-wing professors in university and converted into useful idiot egalitarians, accepting or any or all things and not defining right from wrong (unless it derives from non-leftist origins). Again, this is what followers do. They open their minds and permit others to tell them what to think, not how to think.

    There’s a lot wrong with Web 2.0. Many of you out there need to wake up and realize it, for the sake of the children you purportedly care so much about.

    I will also refuse to alter my low opinion of pop culture hucksters like Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and Steve Jobs, aka “St Steven of Cupertino.” Sorry, you want to earn credibility with me, you don’t educate the public by appearing on stupid bobblehead TV shows like Oprah or Ellen.

    As for the technocrats (aka geeknerdorks) infesting the blogosphere, pushing Silicon Valley products and endlessly twiddling their thumbs over tiny keypads, I still consider you deserving targets of ridicule.

    For the rest of the blogosphere, go back to assuaging each other’s fragile egos with your faux collegial back-scratching. I refuse to further kowtow to your needs and your faulty post-modern philosophies.


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