Why I might protect my tweets

Although this is primarily a post about Twitter, it has implications in a whole range of online communication tools.

There has been a sudden rush of teachers protecting their tweets for a number of reasons, and it’s worthy of considerable thought before making a decision.

Advantages of protecting tweets:

Only people I approve can read what I am saying.

Recently two pupils from school have followed me, and I have blocked them both. One of those pupils is clearly still reading my tweets (presumably from the website – twitter.com/mwclarkson) and keeps dropping hints to that effect. I have had discussions with the pupil about why I have blocked them and about whether it is appropriate for them to be reading my tweets. I have to accept, though, that there is nothing I can do to stop him.

People who do use the website to follow me only ever see my half of the conversation, with absolutely no context whatsoever. If tweets are protected it limits that very one-sided view.

I don’t know who’s watching. If readers have to be followers then there is some accountability. It’s not impossible for someone to use a false name, but creating a persona, gathering followers and making a ‘real’ account is a hell of a leap for someone who just wants to see what I’m up to.

I don’t have to worry quite so much about what I say. I’ll still be posting in a technically open forum – my posts can be retweeted and some of my exisiting followers may be some of those I am trying to isolate myself from by protecting tweets.

Advantages of an open system:

Anyone can read my tweets. As a point of principle, I like that. I’m not ashamed of what I have to say and hope that a wide range of people would find it useful.

When I get followed, I like to look at that person’s tweets before making a decision to follow or not. This means that I might lose out on potentially valuable additions to my network.

As I said at the start, a number of teachers have protected their tweets recently. And I confess that I thought this was largely a knee-jerk reaction to a certain Scottish news story. I dislike knee-jerk reactions, often do the polar opposite indefiance and left mine open as a statement of “Look, it’s fine. I’m confident that what I am doing is right”. Now the knee-jerk reaction has died down I’m haveing a serious think.

I haven’t made a decision as yet, but it is a serious concern. Where will stand if I do end up in front of the governors? I don’t think I’ve done/said anything wrong but will those that don’t understand Twitter agree with me? Will my union back me up?

The same argument applies with my blog and my TES postings. Hopefully my blog is more carefully considered than my tweets (as that’s the point of it). I initially started both under a pseudonym that has been repeatedly worn away to the point that I swapped out the ‘HH’ references for ‘mwclarkson’ in the About page, above.

So if my tweets do become protected, at least you know why – and that I’ve considered it carefully.


3 thoughts on “Why I might protect my tweets

  1. A thought provoking post Mark – I use Twitter with a pseudo-name and continue to maintain that anonymity in my blog. When I first started to Tweet it was a case of ‘suck it and see’, this trial period soon showed me the potential of this social medium and I now have a network of, predominantly, educators whose tweets, links and thoughts have been an education to me. I can turn on the computer day or night and find a link to a blogpost, news article or software review that has some potential for me in the classroom.
    If I had protected my status from day one would I have realised the same number of followers? Possibly, I like to think that professionals are discerning enough to read status reports and profiles and make informed decisions about whom they have dialogue with, neverthless as the phenomenon that Twitter has become grows, then so my inane ramblings are diluted in a sea of Tweets whereby a protected account is less likely to get picked up (possibly being Psycho is not the most alluring thing either).
    So the answer… Who knows, I am not a knee-jerker and am confident in my own professional ability to manage my content effectively, I am sure the Luddites will try to have their say at some point, and I am also confident that I can defend my ‘social’ life whether virtual or not. I have opened a second account with the possibility of using that in an educational setting (not sure how yet) and have protected that account. I (psycho) will continue to interact openly and at the same time further my professional development. I am also hoping that through my other account I can provide a platfrom through which students can experience the positive side of Twitter. Whether or not it works remains to be seen.

  2. Kerry Turner says:


    I’m not too sure that this point was strongly represented in your post: protecting tweets allows one to stop the inordinate number of totally unsuitable triple x and various other *artistes* from following. These, and other marketing spammers, are a good enough reason for me to protect my tweets. When they were unprotected, I was not always able to keep a check on the amount of dross which followed me. Now I can.

    I dislike protecting my tweets for a couple of reasons; I believe that being able to share with a like minded community, and to be able to follow *conversations* is vital for PD and teaching and learning. There is also no point in saying a ‘hello’ to people at conferences or meetings, as the tweets are not publicly displayed – a pity – because its always good to be able to show others how powerful the twitter community really is.

    I also, like yourself, do not wish my students to follow me, nor do I want to find myself in hot water over something which I’ve tweeted.

  3. Mark,

    Like you I’ve recently had students following me, since I started using Twitter in my lessons. My situation is a little different to most in that I teach ESOL to adults and I’m a freelancer rather than a school-based teacher so I’m less likely to have something I tweet coming back to haunt me; though that isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes think twice before posting stuff that I think might stir up a hornet’s nest or two!

    I’ve dealt with the situation so far pretty much in the same way you propose to, by setting up a separate Twitter ID with protected tweets for my learners to follow me on, instead of following my personal account. Whether this works in the longer term remains to be seen but I don’t see myself going down the protecting updates route, somehow.

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