Bikini pictures are not OK. Teachers’ self-representation and interaction on social media: opinions and experiences of students

Andra Siibak, Marleen Otsus

The interaction between teachers and students has changed in the age of social media and has raised many new legal, ethical and professional questions (Russo, Squelch, Varnham 2010). Because of the social convergence dominant in social media (boyd 2008) teachers and students have become each other’s nightmare readers (Marwick, boyd 2010) who unexpectedly have access to intimate information about each other. The blurring of professional and personal identity that accompanies social media interaction may in turn influence interaction in the classroom and thereby create problems for both teachers and students (Woodley, Silvestri 2014), damaging their reputations and credibility (Mazer et al 2007; Asterhan et al 2013).

The article aims to introduce students’ opinions about teacher-student social media interaction and about teachers’ self-representation on social media. The results are derived from focus group interviews (N=8) conducted in the spring of 2018 with students of Estonian lower- secondary (N=23) and upper-secondary students (N=20). Based on the experiences of students who interact with their teachers on social media we analyse interaction and self-representation practices characteristic of teachers on social media and the role of social media friendship in the teacher-student relationship in the school environment.

Qualitative content analysis of the interviews demonstrates that checking out teachers’ social media profiles has become a regular practice among students to find more information about the teacher’s person (including interests, hobbies, values, private life). Students who participating in the study had a very clear sense of teacher-student social media etiquette and practices teachers should not engage in.