Social Media and the Concept of Truth

28 February 2018

I recently spoke to the secondary students at both colleges on the concept of ‘truth’ and how one person’s ‘truth’ can indeed be quite different to the next person’s. I wanted to share some of this discussion with you as it raised some very pertinent points regarding the difference between ‘the truth’ and ‘our own truth’. The discussion was relevant given the recent heightened focus on the effects of bullying, specifically cyber-bullying.

Oprah Winfrey actually started this debate at this years’ Golden Globe Awards where she delivered a rousing speech that gained massive media attention around the world. Her speech was primarily relating to the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements, but one statement she made as part of this address set the Twitterverse alight, instigating massive debate. The statement in question was ‘speaking your truth is the most powerful truth we all have.’

An intense debate followed with many people arguing that Oprah was wrong and that this statement was not valid because, according to these people ‘there is no such thing as YOUR truth, there is only THE truth and your opinion.’ While the debate was largely around semantics, it did raise a very interesting topic, worthy of raising with our students.

I discussed with the students how ‘their truth’ is indeed their story and personal experience. However, this might be quite different to the ‘actual truth’ which is factual, not malleable and devoid of emotion. Based on this definition, it is clear that there is indeed only ONE truth. This definition is reflected in the Bible, John 8:32 where it says, ‘the truth sets you free.’ It does not say ‘your truth sets you free.’

As I scrolled through the twitter feed, one user had quoted former US Senator Daniel Moynihan. This quote really summed up the matter for me; ‘You are entitled to your opinion BUT you are not entitled to your facts.’ I really laboured this distinction with the students as it is critical that they understand that as a college, we will not allow students to create their own truths to excuse poor behaviour or lack of judgement.

The key takeaway from my discussions with students was that while I encourage them to know their truth, I want them to be able to separate their truth from the truth and understand that it is never ok to hide behind their version of the truth.

I spoke of this directly in relation to the world of social media and specifically their digital relationships. We all very well aware that the digital landscape provides a platform where it is all too easy to hide behind a screen and trade insults based on one-sided views and opinions. I asked the students to consider if what they are seeing and what they are posting on social media platforms is a truthful reflection of reality.

As parents, we are all too aware that that the impact of cyber-bullying is very real. Recent tragic events have only highlighted the need for us as parents to ensure our children are as protected as possible in the digital space. As a college, we are continually focussed on providing a safe learning environment for our students when it comes to social media and use of technology. It is when the students leave the college grounds that it’s up to us as parents to ensure they remain as protected as possible.

In my home, we have implemented a set of ‘family rules’ around social media activity and technology in general. My top three rules for my children are:

1. They are not to connect with anyone they don’t know in person

2. There are no devices in bedrooms after bedtime

3. No devices are to be used at mealtimes

There is much to be read on this topic, and I encourage you to talk to your children and develop a simple set of rules for home around their social media activity and device usage.

I implore parents of Primary age students to review the research which clearly tells us that children under the age of 12 should not be using social media. I am aware that many of our younger students are in fact active on social media and this concerns me greatly.

The social media issue is an excellent example of how we – the college and home, are stronger together when navigating a difficult and challenging topic.

James Sloman
Executive Principal

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