When Your PLN Goes Political...

What is a Personal Learning Network? This is Marc-André Lalande's take on the matter in less than two minutes.

Before you read this blog post, I want to let you know there are no answers - yet - to the questions I raise. This post is a reflection of the feelings I've had in the past few weeks...

A personal learning network is a network that consists of people who a learner views as resourses for learning. Many of us have already exist within our own personal learning networks (PLNs), but didn’t know it because we lacked the name and concept. But we’ve all relied on co-workers, family, and friends as resources for learning. We all know who to ask when we want to know how to sew a button, change the car’s oil, or write the perfect resume.

The advent of the internet has allowed us to extend out PLNs beyond those in our proximity. When we have questions about whatever topics we’re interested in, we can rely on internet resources and connect with experts online. Social media has allowed us to collect more people to refer to when we're curious.

I use Twitter as my online PLN. I follow various people in the learning technologies realm, like professors, old classmates, industry experts, organizations, instructional designers, teachers, etc. etc. with a few comedians and newspapers sprinkled in there. For the past three years or so, Twitter has been my conduit for tracking educational technology trends and issues. 

Based on a research project I conducted a couple years ago, I gained some insight into how everyone makes conscious decisions about how they present themselves on social media, specifically Twitter. Personally, I decided to present myself as an instructional technology professional, sharing ideas and insights, like many of the connections I made on the platform. Twitter has been a splendid arena for communication and collaboration.

But, recently, my Twitter PLN has had a political upheaval! Donald Trump’s election, inauguration, and consequential executive orders has ignited a cacophony of fury and protest among many of the people I follow. Likewise, I have expressed my own political angst, surely filling my followers’ Twitter feeds with my own version of annoyance and despair. This tumultuous time has me questioning my recent Twitter use and how I have approached the social media tool like a platform for venting my frustration.

I’m certain some of my Twitter audience may be Trump supporters. At least some may not share the same political ideals as me. Others, I’m sure, simply do not wish to hear about my political anguish and rage. So, I’m left with this conundrum of whether to continue my political shouting, or revert back to my previous professional appearance.

The easy answer is to cease my political shouting, lest I alienate people who trust me as a member in their PLN. However, I feel that my anger for the current injustices suffered in the United States is rational, and necessary. I believe the welfare of my countrymen is at stake, and the urge to speak out surpasses my feeling that I should put on a stoic façade.

The hypocrisy lies in that I do not voice my political opinions in my face-to-face PLNs as I do in my online one. I do not hint at my politics with co-workers, and remain silent when certain friends or family members express opposite views. Then why does it make it okay to yammer on Twitter? Why do I think social media is a justified outlet?

I’m uncertain of the answer. This is merely contemplation. Still, I think the United States is approaching a perilous period. I have felt on-fire with rage, and a hopeless claustrophobia. I am hesitant to apologize for my political outcries on Twitter. I’m not completely sure how to act from here onward. If you know how, or want to share your own thoughts on this matter, tweet to me @mitchellwoll.