Making Mistakes

July 24th, 2015

So my post today isn’t going to provide solutions – just letting you know that up front. What I am going to do is pose a question:

Is it possible to recover from making a mistake online?

I truly don’t know the answer, so I’m asking you. Many of us engage online for a variety of reasons, but one of these reasons – at least in my case – is to learn. And one of the most effective ways of learning can be to make mistakes. But if our digital footprint is out there forever, can we really afford to make mistakes online? Or are we stuck with that mistake for the rest of our online and/or professional life?

Or perhaps there is a way to recover from making a mistake. Can we apologize, learn from our errors, and move on? Is it possible that we can be viewed as a whole instead of just the parts of our whole? By a collection of tweets instead of just one tweet?

And maybe that is my bigger question – if we can’t be viewed as a whole but instead by just the mistake we have made, is it time to stop learning online?

I truly hope that is not the case, but I have to wonder, do we give second chances online? Or do we vilify those who speak in error without regard for an apology or an attempt to learn? And not just student affairs professionals, but students who are recorded doing and saying things while they are still so obviously in the learning process, or even others. Think about how we treat someone who says something we deem as stupid – are they ever able to live it down? Or do we splash that quote/tweet/video across social media and mock them for it? Is any apology after the matter void because the mistake is writ large across the internet?

I want to believe that our space online is a place for learning, for making mistakes and becoming a better person because of them – not in spite of them. I want to believe that we have made room for failure and the learning process that comes from it, for being challenged and changing our minds because of it. But I think we need to question these beliefs – and I think any person trying to be responsible about their learning and their digital reputation must question these, too. Not because we shouldn’t learn online, but because we need to be part of the solution to make it a place to do so.

As I said at the beginning of this post – I have no solution – only questions for you. How can we work to view our online entities as whole people instead of the snippets we tend to┬ábecome?

  • Mallory Bower

    This post is still banging around in my head… because I am guilty.

    Guilty of making a pretty sizeable online mistake as a graduate student. Guilty of several smaller ones along the way. Guilty for possibly shaming others for making the same (or even smaller) mistakes. How do we give each other the space to learn from errors – Just like I had to pay for, but grew in spite of?