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Keyboard Warriors and Social Media Muscles in Schools

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NEWSFLASH: There are people on the Internet that don't like each other. There are people that don't like each other in person too, but today's pitfall of technology has enabled a myriad of people to partake in voicing their opinions in a whole new* way (*new, being about 20 years at this point). Recently, a childhood friend of mine was sharing his thoughts on a recent experience he had while in the store and came across someone who talked a lot of trash online. He referred to them as "Keyboard Warriors" and "flexing their Facebook muscles". I literally laughed out loud. What a phrase. It's not new -- where was I not to hear this? Especially me... someone who is loved and loathed as a leader.

If you have followed my career or me online, you are well aware that people who don't care for me express their dismay, often frequently. 9 out of 10 instances, it's done so by a phony name. That's OK -- that's your First Amendment right to do so (as long as you're in the parameters of not threatening or causing any type of harm). What's different from the past 20? It went from the Letter to the Editor in the paper, to message boards, to social media. With a mere click, you can like, retweet, heart, share, snap, and comment on anything and everything. Fake names is nothing new; from Mrs. Silence Dogood to Deep Throat, false names have been used out of fear or breaking the law. History has depicted that these individuals were timing, calculated, and put great thought into their hiding. Today, it can be done in a matter of clicks.

Some keyboard warriors are entertaining, others are gadflies. Some have good intentions, other just try to stir the pot or throw gas onto a fire that they think exists. Other keyboard warriors are just obsessed, addicted, and will do anything to try to make someone else's life miserable. The epitome of cyber bullying and cyber harassment, the folks you find today doing such petty acts are often also classified as trolls.

Back to my keyboard warriors, while I think no act of harassment and bullying is acceptable to anyone of any age, mine are former or current educators. Licensed professionals from the state who are charged with protecting your children. Retirees who currently collecting a pension and receiving health benefits. How disgusting and pathetic is it that people who are / were responsible for 'educating' your children (and you're paying for them with your tax dollars) have such a sadistic side? Thankfully, such behaviors in New Jersey can be stopped under the auspices of the law. Under the criminal code in NJ, proving a displayed pattern of harassment can result in a loss of pension, benefits, and even could come with jail time.

There are some positives about keyboard warriors and those who flex their social media muscles. Takeaways include: no credibility due to no real name; a showing of obsession by cyber-stalking an individual, showing lack of credibility (and showing mental illness), and that you're effective at what you do. If you have people following your every click online, chances are you're doing something effective and meaningful. I am somewhat old-fashioned; I do prefer people say something to my face, and not their keyboard. These people won't - they are too scared to do so.

I remember an Open House where a former employee and disgruntled parent was in the audience talking smack during my entire presentation. Immediately following, I made a B-line right to her and her friend, asking her what she thought of my presentation, how she was doing after her loss, if she enjoyed the food I sent to her house, and if I could do anything for her. She went from barking and pointing to staring at the floor and being real, real quiet. The entire room saw her, the entire room saw me make a B-line, and the entire room was impressed that not only did I address it, but that I ceased it from continuing. Again, you're welcome to display your displeasure all you want, but when it begins to effect other's well-being, you are crossing a line.

Superintendents are charged with leading the District. Some will like the decisions, some won't. Seldom will praise, but several will attempt to flex their social media muscles and try to shock the system. Thankfully (and, sadly enough) such foolishness is becoming a part of our daily lives, resulting in it just being another factor of life we all face.

Keyboard warriors and those who flex their muscles on social media do just that; flex what they think they have. You can only be hurt by such if you let them hurt you. Quite honestly, if you're still reading this post, you're either being effected by one or you are one. If you are being effected, don't let this bother you - - the problem is not you, the problem is the person / people who are burning their energy on you instead of doing something positive. If you are a keyboard warrior, why don't you invest your time & talent into something positive and productive in society. We need it today, and we need you -- yes, you, to help all of us as a productive society.

Onward.

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Jay Eitner is a proud product of the New Jersey public schools. A graduate from Union High School in 1997, Jay attended The American University in Washington DC with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. He began his teaching career in Roselle, NJ teaching a variety of subjects including social studies, computers, and digital literacy. Known for being ‘outside of the box’ and for strong technology infusion, Eitner strived to make a learning environment that was student centered, data driven, and technology infused. Jay received his Masters Degree from Kean University in 2004 and was hired to teach 8th grade social studies in the nationally recognized East Brunswick Public Schools. During his time in East Brunswick, Eitner has written & received over $140,000 in grants for his students. Grants ranged from podcasting equipment to creating a fully-interactive gold-rush experience, where students dug for gold during their westward expansion unit. Jay obtained his supervisor, principal, and school administrator certificates from the NJPSA NJ-EXCEL program in 2009. Administratively, Eitner has served as a middle school Assistant Principal in the Washington Township Schools , a K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, and a Superintendent of the Lower Alloways Creek School District. Jay currently serves as a Superintendent of Schools for the Waterford Township School District. He has presented a series of workshops on digital leadership, technology infusion, and student achievement. Recent awards include the 2015 national Educators Voice Award in the category of Superintendent, the White House MakerSpace distinction, and named to the national Academy of Arts & Sciences as a 2016 Educator To Watch.

Jay currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey and is a proud Dad of twin girls and his puppy Lola.

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Guest Thursday, 13 December 2018