Barry Coulter photo Jesse Miller

Has the need for social connection gotten bigger than the need for self?

Jesse Miller, authority on internet safety and social media awareness, gives Cranbrook presentations

  • Jan. 13, 2017 11:00 a.m.

Barry Coulter

Has the need for social connection bigger than the need for self?

This question — and answers to it — were the subject of a series of presentations Thursday in Cranbrook and Kimberley by Jesse Miller, a national speaker and authority on internet safety, social media awareness and behaviour and online content, especially as concerns youth.

Miller gave a presentation for youth at Laurie Middle School and in Kimberley, then later Thursday presented for parents at the Key City Theatre.

“Since 1995, the technology has consistently changed the way humans behave,” Miller told the students of Laurie and Jaffray School (at the presentation which the Townsman attended).

Miller said middle-school-aged youth were by and large born into a world where these technologies exist — they are the exact same age as the technology. So it is a part of their life experience in ways that are not for any previous generation.

Miller said the technology — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, etc — has more benefits that negatives. The important point is to get the kids to think about the media world they live in — who’s making money off (generally free) technology, who is your audience when you’re using it and why, and most importantly, understanding the value of your content — what you yourself are posting — and finding your audience.

“These are great tools, with great power and great potential,” Miller said. “They allow us to tell our story.”

He reiterated that one’s social media presence and behaviour is always there — available to anyone wants to see it, including law enforcement.

There are a lot of people collecting information, just to see what they can do with it, when they can.

“Look at all the people following you on your instagram account and ask why they are following you?”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing — Miller told of a student in Richmond, with 350,000 followers on Instagram — but he makes running shoes, and sells them online. Or a Grade 5 student who had a role in an Oscar-nominated film (and whose father is a police officer), also with thousands of followers. It’s part of being a celebrity.

“But if you have hundreds of thousands of followers, that is not an audience of friends,” Miller said. “They are less likely to be respectful, to be concerned with your privacy.”

Miller discussed with his audience how information travels. For example, what happens when that thing you posted, that you thought was so funny at the time, doesn’t seem so funny anymore?

“No matter who you are or what you’re going to be, at least one time in your life you’re going have to present your story, your brand, to someone who will be making a decision about you,” Miller said.

“One of the things you have that is really valuable is your future opportunities. [But social media now] affects how you get opportunities, how you get a job, how someone chooses to spend time with you — getting a date.

“But that one photo you once posted keeps popping up.”

Miller told his audience that everyone has the ability to make things better for themselves. It starts with learning the value of your online content as a commodity — the information you’re sharing — and questioning whether your content is the commodity.

Miller reiterated that the technology was a great and powerful tool, that could be used well.

“If you’re doing something awesome online, share it,” he said. “Use it as part of your success.”

Some questions Miller asked resulted in interesting answers (show of hands from the audience).

• Who thinks Facebook is for old people? (many);

• Who has an Instagram account? (almost everyone);

• Who’s spent time with a friend, who’s spent more time on a phone than interacting with you? (many);

• Who’s felt unsafe in a care, because the driver was on a device? (many);

• Who’s had some random person that you don’t know “like” your picture? (many);

• Who knows about a fake social media account that may have caused some trouble? (a few).

Afterwards Miller spoke to the Townsman, about this first generation to be growing up with the technology.

“You’ve got a kid who was born in 2008, that kid has been around since the start of the iPhone. They’ve been living a life where their parents have been holding devices over their faces, sharing in real time …  so all these ways of sharing are normative for them.

“We can’t parent this conversation the same way parents of yesteryear, pre-2000, would parent — the psychology of the television, ‘you can’t play that video game,’  ‘we’re not going to the rental store to rent that …’

“The technology has changed so drastically that the boundaries that parents have put in place are totally askew. So now what it comes down to is the usage of it; making the kids more aware of how the tech works, knowing the value of the information they’re sharing, the impacts of how a different generation might look at it. That’s the priority as opposed to ‘be careful of what you post.’”

“The kids are aware. They’ve heard the negative stories. But a lot of youth are still empowered in their bubble. There’s the idea that it’s fine for this group, it’s okay for this group, but when it becomes an issue, there is still that very surprised aspect of it when they find themselves in the principal’s office, or when the RCMP are here talking to them.

“So more and more parents have to have dialogue that reflects the reality of sharing information. And it starts before the child gets a device, and the younger you can do it the better.”

School Districts 5, 6, and 8; the East Kootenay RCMP; the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice; Doctors of BC; and Shared Care Child & Youth Mental Health & Substance Use Collaborative partnered to present Jesse Miller.

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