Social Media Trick or Treat


Halloween is just around the corner. The leaves are begrudgingly turning into a more autumn-like color palette. There is even more of a seasonal chill in the air. It appears Fall is here at last.

Halloween was always a fun holiday for me when I was a child. I distinctly dressing as a red devil one year back when I lived in Spartanburg. I guess it was a foreshadowing of our move to Clinton.  It is all the more memorable since I convinced my mom to let me walk from house to house “trick or treating” with a large barbeque grill fork (How I talked her into letting me do that I do not know!) since the accoutrements now commonly associated with Halloween were far more scarce in the early 60’s. 

The purpose of this month’s article is not really about Halloween or trick or treating; however, I find social media, primarily The Facebook, now the 24/7, “365-days-per-year-and-366-in-a-leap-year” Halloween gremlin…a perpetual “trick or treat” communication channel. Now before everyone rises in righteous indignation of their blessed The Facebook, let me explain.

Last Friday, Clinton Middle and Clinton High School had a lockout drill. The multi-talented drug dogs came to our schools for their unannounced “visits.” These dogs are amazingly trained and well mannered; however, just to be safe, when our canine visitors come, we lock exterior doors and keep students in their respective classrooms. For the most part it works well. Granted with this being our first secret search, there was a great deal of uncertainty by faculty and students alike. Why were we on lockdown?

Then, The Facebook lit up like the night sky on the Fourth of July. Parents blissfully uninformed decided Halloween had indeed come early…it was full-scale tricks with no hint of treats. Nary a one.

The Facebook fodder included all sorts of rumor, falsehoods, and half-truths. 

“Three guns found in a bathroom ceiling at the high school!” Nope! Not at all! Nary a one.

“Students were outside the building for an hour and a half!” No. About half that. Longer than expected but first drills are usually longer.

“K-9 units searched the student parking lot!” Yep. That’s true. When cars come on the premises, they are subject to inspection, especially when the drug dogs come on campus.

“Parents were not notified of the lockdown.” True. Parents were not called. The justification for this is simple, students cannot leave classrooms during a lockdown drill. Again, we as a district can work on improving communication after the fact.

We live in a world with a very simple, yet horribly backwards mantra, “Fire! Aim! Ready!” As E.O. Wilson, noted scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner, said, “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in the instant ability of people to become e-journalists and e-specialists. Once at an earlier, likely more innocent time the phone was the purveyor of communication…and a wide swath of gossip. But the phone was a one-to-one communication device.

Now with social media and the benefit of instant access to hundreds, even thousands of contacts, unverified messages--however distorted--ride like the wind (All due credit to that particular phrase goes to famed 70’s pop star Christopher Cross).

The Facebook (the original name for what became shortened to Facebook) is not the cause of society’s ills. It is merely a means to an end. A very unsatisfying “trick” during this season of Halloween. Rather than wait to corroborate and confirm, all messages have equal veracity…and second only to alacrity. 

E.O. Wilson did not end his quote where I chose to stop it. He continued by saying, “The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”

During this time of “trick or treating” I challenge us to assume the mantle of responsible leadership. Think before you tweet, post, or text! It is so easy to want to “get the scoop” and be totally misinformed.

We work diligently in L56 to teach our students to be “synthesizers” who weigh information in time and grapple with said information in order to make informed, important choices.

The choice is ours!


(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.)



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