6th Station – Authentically Me


Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You will need access to the internet to watch some short films and TED Talks, a paper and pencil for making notes, access to your social media accounts (yes, really) and, if you completed station 2, your Circle of Influence that you started at that station.


Have you heard the saying “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”?

With social media so much a part of our lives it is perhaps difficult to imagine a scenario in which no one is watching, but at the same time, social media can create the illusion of invincibility or distance what we consider to be our “virtual” actions from our actions “in real life”.

This blurring of lines perhaps makes it all the more important to ensure that the way in which we behave in our online communities is an authentic representation of our opinions, experiences, views and ideas and also – importantly – of our manners, honesty, respect for others, sense of right and wrong, kindness, courage and compassion.

One test that is often quoted in relation to social media is the Grandma test. Have you heard of this one? Before you click, you should consider whether you would be happy for your grandmother to read or see what you are about to post, and only if the answer is “yes” do you go ahead: A silly idea with a serious message. Another way is to consider whether you would be happy for a future potential employer or college admissions tutor to see your post… of course there is every likelihood that they will, and we all know that the internet rarely forgets.

Let’s take a look at some statistics. According to Datareportal’s Digital 2020 Global digital overview:

At no other time in history has it been possible to quickly broadcast an idea to, or share an opinion with, such a potentially massive audience.

To many people this is as terrifying as it is exciting… but mostly, perhaps, it is a bit of both. What do you think?

Warren Buffet once famously said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” In the context of social media we could probably take that down to 5 seconds, and we can all quote many horror-stories that illustrate the point.

But used carefully, and with authenticity and integrity, social media can arguably be the greatest tool for enlisting, organising and channelling people-power, and the perfect platform from which to launch a campaign for positive change.

Read and reflect:

So what does it mean to be authentic online? Browse through some of the articles below and then start two lists, one under each of the following: “My authentic online voice will always seek to…” and “My authentic online voice will aim never to…”

If you are working in an online group share your statements or points with other members of your group.

If you stopped off at the earlier stations in this challenge you will know that at station 1 we talked about rights and responsibilities that come with developing, and exercising, our Spirit of Democracy; at station 2 we started to map out our circle of influence and considered how to protect ourselves from fake news. At station 3 we talked about how to use our voices to the greatest effect and at station 4 we considered how to challenge norms through refusing to participate in something that we know to be wrong. And at station 5 we considered the many ways in which we can speak from the heart through creative expressions.

Put this all together and it starts to answer the question about what it means to be authentic online.

Being authentic online takes courage. Social media affords us the opportunity to present ourselves to the world a carefully curated way to give an impression of ourselves as we would like to be seen. So in order to be consistent in carrying through our beliefs and behaviours in real life through to our online presence – to create an authentic footprint – we have to ditch the filters and embrace (and show) ourselves as we truly are.

Of course this doesn’t mean sharing EVERYTHING online. Part of being authentic online vs in real life is remembering to only say and share online those things that you would feel safe and happy saying and sharing in public… on a stage… in front of millions of strangers… for the rest of your life…

Watch and learn:

Watch some of the four short films below and consider:

Nicola Osborne – What do your digital footprints say about you?

Digital education and social media expert Nicola Osborne encourages us to tread carefully on social media and consider what our digital footprint might reveal about us.

Michelle Sadrena Pledger – Digital footprints  

In this talk, 11th grade teacher Michelle Sadrena Pledger dives into the effects of our digital footprints, the impact they have on the user and the price we pay for global mapping, through a spoken word poem.

Teen Voices: Oversharing and Your Digital Footprint

In a world where “oversharing” might seem normal, it’s important to think about our digital footprints — the things we leave behind online. This video, presents different views about sharing on social media, and prompts us to think critically about the decisions we should make when we post online.

Katelin McClure – 5 Ways to Make a Positive Digital Footprint

Will the digital footprints we leave behind add up to a positive image from colleges, potential employers and future opportunities? In this short animated film Katelin McClure presents a simple summary of 5 steps to digital ethics.

If you are working in an online group with your classmates share some of your answers to the questions above. Do you all think the same? If not, in what ways did your ideas and opinions differ?

Consolidate your learning:

Have a look at the two lists you started above: “My authentic online voice will always seek to…” and “My authentic online voice will aim never to…” Add to your lists with any points you have taken from watching the digital footprint films.

If you visited station 2 and have been compiling your Circle of Influence take a look at it now and see if there is anything you want to add about social media and the things you can influence or control through your online habits, as well as those that are beyond your control and are therefore not things that you should be focusing your energy on.

Finally, choose a social media platform that you are regularly active on and go to your profile. Scroll back through your posts. Imagine that you were a stranger on the outside looking in; someone that doesn’t know you but has just been brought into your social circle. To what extent does your digital footprint on that platform represent who you are? Is it true to the real you? Is it an authentic version of you that you would want to show to the world? If not, what might you do differently in future?

Watch and learn:

As a final step before you embark on writing your speech for the ultimate Spirit of Democracy Challenge, browse these three talks that take different perspectives on whether social media is a threat or an enabler to democratic participation. As you watch, make notes of any points you might want to cover in your own way in your own speech. Consider the perspective from which each speaker is approaching the topic – their context and previous experiences; the ways in which their background might influence their position on the question – and think about how your own context, experiences and personal story might influence how you approach the final challenge.

Ray Marcano – How the 24-Hour Content Cycle and Social Media Threaten Democracy

Journalist Ray Marcano argues that the greatest threats to our democracy are the 24 hour content cycle and social media. Ray Marcano has more than thirty-five years of journalism experience as a reporter, executive, and leader at newspapers in New York, Oklahoma, and Dayton, Ohio.

Finding the Me in Social Media – Jana Webb

Jana Webb asks: How are you, and those around you, being affected by the digital world? By social media?

How social media creates a better world: Jan Rezab

As a child of the formerly communist Czech Republic, Jan Rezab has a unique appreciation for social media, which he works with everyday as the CEO of one of the world’s leading social media analysis firms. In this insightful talk, Jan discusses what he believes social media is and isn’t, and shares his vision for the future of this powerful tool.

The Challenge>