Social Media Literacy – willfull misunderstanding and malicious editing

A video of a student advisor has recently gone viral.  It shows her threatening to call security because a student is waiting to see a student advisor.  There is also posting of an email exchange which supposedly backs up the claim that this person is unreasonable.  People (with no real stake in the issue) are in a froth and as a result someone’s career is at stake.

toys pram CC BY-SA 3.0

Now this person may be at fault, but there is no actual valid evidence presented to back this up.

As someone who has had an office near an academic standards manager who regularly dealt with students who expected the world to conform to their requirements regardless of the rules and regulations (which they had chosen to ignore), I would like to know a bit more before I get out my flaming torch and pitchfork.

Judging from the comments, people have chosen a side based on their world view.  While social media provides the opportunity to widen our perceptions and understandings, in reality what often happens is it provides greater opportunities to find people who are just as ideologically hamstrung as ourselves.

“Confirmation biases impact how people gather information, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes.”

Having said that, I think it’s worth at least looking for ‘good’ evidence that backs our position rather than just saying “hell yeah” to any crap bouncing around our echo chamber.

A couple of things about the video

1. There is no evidence that this is a fair representation of what actually occurred.  A few things to note.   The person pushing the record button has the option of:

  • using their calmest, most reasonable voice.
  • choosing which part of the recording best suits their position.
  • selecting the footage that shows at their target at their most unreasonable.

If I see a video showing an adult throwing all their toys out of the pram, I’ll want to see the lead up before I make a judgement.

2. Don’t try this at home.  Australian universities are government owned, and are not public spaces.

While no one gets too fussed about students taking photos of their friends around campus, if you take an image of a staff member and maliciously post it online, the university is fully entitled to take a legal swat at you and you don’t have a leg to stand on.

At Monash we have this statement in our privacy documentation.


No. You must first obtain consent from staff to use their photos for a webpage or staff notice board. Consent can be obtained at the time of taking the photo. It is important to be aware that staff may revoke consent in the future and if they do, the photo must be removed from the webpage or staff notice board.

About the email evidence.  Again it is a small (and selectively chosen?) exchange.  On it’s own it could easily be an exasperated response from a person dealing with a student who doesn’t like the answer they are getting.  Again pick you own bias.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  School curriculums  in Australia already deal with clear thinking and media analysis, but I think it needs to extend to the creation of digital media, and to the issues related to comments and re-posting.

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