Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 8 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Twitter Profiles


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 8 seconds

So here’s a question to all you pedagogues who ask your students to create twitter accounts (and this was triggered by discussions with Christina Hendricks and Andrea Rehn via twitter and google doc):

How much personal info do you suggest they divulge on their twitter profile?

On the one hand, we often recommend students have  a professional looking email account, so use their name rather than nicknames. However, many professionals on twitter have fun names (@writingasjoe @jessifer @slamteacher @allistelling @cogdog @dogtrax @nomadwarmachine- to name just a few people I’ve been tweeting to a lot lately) – and the fun names sometimes prompt conversation about where the name comes from (e.g. I had never heard of slam poetry until I asked Sean what that name was about; the “dog” names made me ask what the fuss about dog names was about, and I got two interesting blogposts from Alan and Kevin about that).

On the other hand, some of my other favorite people are like me and use their full names or surnames: @davecormier, @bonstewart, @koutropoulos @rjhogue) – and most of them use their own photo for the profile… Some people write really funny stuff, some people write really straightforward stuff, some people do a mix of both.

The discussion of the profile pic

Would you encourage undergrads to use their own photo, or something else? Most people who use their full names, have relatively serious profiles and their own photos; people with interesting names up there sometimes have photos of something other than themselves (a cartoon for @dogtrax, a dog for @cogdog, some weird thing for @allistelling) but others have more serious pics (e.g. @writingasjoe and @jessifer). There are people like @jimgroom who uses his name in full but has a cartoon for a photo. I’m thinking each one of us is being thoughtful in their choice of photo.

For my gravatar and my disqus profiles, I use a black-n-white photo of  half of my face intentionally because I want to appear human enough, but I also don’t want to give too much of myself away because I’m posting all over the place like on the Chronicle and I don’t know if I want people to see me completely (I also think it’s a classy photo, which I was lucky to get done for free once). @koutropoulos often has photos of himself that don’t really show what he looks like, covering parts of his face.

Then there is the whole Alec Couros thing, where people used his photos from online to take on his identity.

And don’t get me into my facebook profile pic which is currently of me as a child kissing my dad. My mom won’t let me change that photo (I’ve had it on since my dad passed away, and when I changed it once, she seriously smsed me to please change it back; I tried ). That’s what you get for having your mom as a facebook friend 😉


I’m not sure exactly why my twitter photo is the one that’s most obviously me, front face and all. It just made sense to me for that medium. For how I wanted to present myself in that medium. It’s an old photo, though. I need to put a new one up.

So what would do you advise your students to do? Or do we just make sure they know anyone in the world can see it and let them judge? They’re 17/18 but they’re not totally clueless, so…?

Then again, it’s a creativity course, and it might be cool for them to experiment with doing a creative photo, maybe one that’s of themselves but played around with? Like the one I use in this article (it uses an app called “my sketch”, and I used it because the editor wanted a real photo but my husband has a thing of not liking to post photos of our child online, so I took a middle way). But in any case, there is loads of room for creativity with the background photo 🙂 I use the same one on my blog (which is a photo I took that shows reflection on the water – pretty but also suitable for my blog’s title “reflecting allowed” – and using it the same on twitter makes me recognizable across platforms, I guess).


Posting location – is that a controversial thing? I’ll need it later for the twitter game we’re hoping to play in November, because we might do activities that require people to team up across countries/cities. Is there an ethical issue I should be keeping in mind here?


I have a feeling I am missing out on something that’s supposed to help me help students be cautious. I’m still reading Net Smart, so if there’s a chapter there I need to look at, help me find it quicker (I am not reading it linearly, just picking parts at the moment) or any other links, I’d appreciate that.



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