Miley, Sinead and Amanda: a lesson plan on the good, the bad and the ugly of social media interaction

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I have been following the whole Miley Cyrus v.s Sinead O’connor discussion with interest. At first it was because it is an interesting and salient discussion about gender and the media and who is in control. Is Miley Cyrus the drive between her slightly pornographic, mostly absurd wrecking ball video? (I am not going to link to it- you can go see it for yourselves if you are so inclined). Or is she, as Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley states, simply a pawn being manipulated by the men in suits who see her as a pretty, money-making thing and who will throw her out like a used kleenex the moment she starts to sag?

But then I realised it was also a great case to discuss with students, as per the suggestion in last week’s article I posted giving 3 tips for building Digital Citizenship:

Another way to promote these conversations is to openly talk about celebrities and other high profile figures that have gotten themselves into trouble using social media. In her article, “What do ClimateGate, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps have in Common?” Beth Holland highlights the role that social media played in the very public scandals of these prominent and respected celebrities. The news media is rife with examples: Anthony Weiner, Amanda Bynes, and Charlie Sheen are constantly in the news for their missteps online. These are great ways to get students talking about how social media blunders can lead to some serious consequences.-edudemic

I would argue that the Miley vs. Sinead (and then add in a little Amanda Palmer) goes further than showing how celebrities get themselves in trouble- it also shows how there can be meaningful dialogue online.

If you haven’t been following this case here is a brief summary:

1. Miley Cyrus (formerly the artist known as Hannah Montana) is trying to change her image from wholesome Hannah to Sexy Miley. She makes a video called Wrecking Ball where she parades around in her undies and then swings naked on a wrecking ball. She cites Sinead O’Connor’s iconic “Nothing Compares 2 U” as an inspiration.

2. Sinead O’Connor takes exception (as she so often does, bless her soul). She writes this open letter to Miley. The letter makes some good points, but is respectful to Miley. The conversation has started!

3. Miley Cyrus responds by posting a screenshot of Sinead O’Connor’s tweets two years ago when Sinead was going through an episode brought on by her bipolar disorder:

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And then the conversation degenerates with Sinead writing a furious second open letter and then some more tweets from Miley, trying to make nice and Sinead declining the olive branch and then, out of left field, Amanda Palmer raises the dialogue with an open letter to Sinead O’Connor where she respectfully disagrees with her self-proclaimed hero.

I know, right? So much fodder for discussion!

I was thinking about this yesterday and felt like it would be a perfect exercise for a real-time collaborative exercise:

1.As homework, ask your students to read the open letters and Mileys’ tweets.

2. In class, set up a syncspace (if you want to get fancy and make it a whiteboard) or even just a simple google doc. Get the students to identify the positive and the negative sides of this discussion.

3. Identify the places where they got in trouble (Sinead’s posts from two years ago, the screenshot, Miley’s brash and stupid response).

4.Talk about the positive uses-the way that you can use social media to discuss different points of view (Sinead’s letter, Amanda’s letter- which was done with the utmost respect even if she disagreed with Sinead).

5. Ask your students what they think? have they ever had a conversation that got out of control like this one? Have they ever rashly posted something when they were angry? Have their legitimate posts or ideas have ever been met with a personal attack?

I think this is a great example of the potential and pitfalls of the online platform-It would get the students talking andI’m sure what they have to say would be worth hearing.



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