Social media source of snow-related fun, trickery
Two different school districts experienced snow-related social media issues, one being filled with mostly good-natured frivolity but the second was more problematic.
The Fayetteville Public Schools’ Facebook page became popular Sunday night as a large number of students used the site to beg officials to cancel school and to complain that a decision was not made until the early Monday morning hours when school was in fact canceled. Slick back roads early Monday morning led to the closing, according to a school official.
“I think the students posting last night were a mix of kids, with a few of them being sincerely concerned about their safety and the safety of others, while the rest were just teenagers doing the typical sarcastic thing teenagers do,” said student Zachary Stolz, who joined in the fun throughout Sunday night. “I’d say 90 percent of it was just good fun (and let’s face it, we never have our homework done so a snow day is always a blessing).”
The use of social media to make announcements, share information and unite communities is being embraced by a growing number of organizations, including school districts.
“The social networking aspect of it all is interesting. I think the reason this page was hit so much more was because it became a sort of public forum in which we were able to joke with other students we’ve never met before about the snow day. People would find posts in their news feed and get on to read the rest. The FPS page is a great source for information for students, and now it gives us a place where we believe we can comment and be seen.
“Hopefully they won’t take everything we said too seriously,” Stolz concluded.
Alan Wilbourn, chief information officer for Fayetteville schools, said the district new most comments were all in fun. Some posts that contained profanity were removed but the rest of the posters were left to their fun.
“It’s all part of social media,” he said. “Everyone is a reporter/columnist. It’s amazing how lightning fast the information gets out on Facebook.”
For another Northwest Arkansas school district, word from social media spreading rapidly was not a good thing. Someone created a spoof Rogers Public Schools Twitter account, adding a simple underscore to the name and using the same photo and description information as the real account. The fake account was used to “announce” that school was canceled for Monday when in fact classes were held. The real account is @RogersSchools and the fake account was @rogers_Schools.
“It began circulating around Twitter and people from the schools and around the city started noticing,” said Ashley Kelley Siwiec, communications director for the district. “It’s unfortunate that someone would use a look-a-like account to spread misinformation. We’ve received several calls a the district by people who were confused by it.”
The school district filed a complaint with Twitter to have the fake account removed. By Monday night, the account had been deleted but it was unclear if it was done by the user or by the Twitter company.
Both Siwiec and Wilbourn said that while their district’s social media sites are updated, the most accurate information for schools closings will be on their school districts’ websites or on local media.
“Always double check what you hear,” Siwiec said.
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