March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

What’s Your Online Persona?

For librarians, the Internet used to be the Wild West. Now that it’s ubiquitous, we’ve ceased to be explorers and are homesteaders. There are lots of personalities involved. Who you are and what you’ve built online comprises your Participatory Online Persona—otherwise known as your “POP.”

Are you an Adventurer, Lurker, Provocateur, or something else? Read on, and find out. Tell us in the accompanying poll—and SLJ will reveal the POP breakdown of our readers in an upcoming post.

Take SLJs POP Poll here!


Emoticons_adventurer_140It’s lonely at the front, but the Adventurer is there. Adventurers are always at the edge of the digital frontier, trying the latest and greatest and moving on just as everyone else catches up—early adopters with itchy fingers always seeking the next swipe. We all want to know an Adventurer, because someone needs to blaze those trails. Most of us will hop on just as the Adventurer is moving off.

Pros: Trailblazing is great for professional development (PD), and trendsetting builds reputation.
It’s hard for the Adventurer to build a brand or much of a Personal Learning Network (PLN), and moving quickly means risking missing out on the good stuff once a network is truly established. Common online haunts: hard to say, since we probably haven’t heard of it yet!


Emoticons_amplifier_140In school, Amplifiers always got an A-plus when it came to sharing. Amplifiers love to retweet, “like,” and link to. They tear through Tumblrs and peruse Pinterest to send just the right information down the Internet pipeline. Amplifiers are the ones who fill your inbox with all those “interesting” articles—and they are interesting! You wonder where they find all this time to hunt and gather. The answer may be that they’re not growing anything themselves.

Pros: Amplifiers build the most boss PLNs around, and they always know where to find the good stuff. Cons: Amplifiers are so busy, well, amplifying, that they don’t have time to create content or fully participate in the outstanding online community they have created. Most commonly spotted on: Twitter, Twitter and Twitter.


Emoticons_charmer_140Oh, Charmers. These warm online personalities use funny and/or sweet anecdotes and pictures to connect with their PLN and are constantly sending supportive shout-outs to colleagues. They post those hilarious “Overheard in the Library” tweets or pictures of cool student artwork. Charmers are eager to send out the equivalent of a brass band in thanks, but slow to chime in on any controversial issue. Though it might benefit their PLN to voice a thoughtful, professional opinion, Charmers tend to stay silent about the tricky stuff because they’re worried about seeming unpleasant.

Pros: Charmers can hide behind a crafted personality, allowing them to seem personal while actually maintaining privacy. Folks feel attached to Charmers and want to share resources and connections with them.
Cons: It’s hard to be lovely all the time, and dropping the charm can be a brand-buster. As quick as people are to bask in the Charmer’s sun, they will un-friend a Charmer if sour starts to show through the sweet. Common haunts: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.


Emoticons_creative_140Trumpets sound, and retweets abound when Creators post new content. After all, they’re the leaders in their fields. Creators not only participate in the online world but take risks pushing out original studies and work. Creators generally are sharers but thankfully not of the TMI variety. Their presentations, slides, and articles go online to enhance their own resumes and the profession at large. Their sites, feeds, and blogs get visited the most, and people outside the profession look to them for insight.

Pros: Creators don’t just take part in professional conversations; they lead them. Putting creation online can lead to speaking engagements, panel spots, and even book deals. They have name recognition inside and outside of their field.
Cons: Creators may not get credit for their original work. They also may bear the brunt of those in the profession who disagree with their work/views. Common haunts: any platform that gets the message across, often the mainstream media (hello, New York Times), and blogs and Tumblrs enhanced by Twitter, with thousands of followers.


Emoticons_curator_140We think we know the Curator, but do we really? Curators are invested—but cautious. They know how they want the world to see them; they choose their retweets and links and create content, to reflect the exactl online persona they want others to see. Curators are savvy to the fact that that their online presence is part of a professional path and understand the benefits of growing PLNs. They may also drift into the realm of Charmers. The content they share reinforces their beliefs, but unlike Amplifiers, they add to the original material. Curators often seed personal tidbits into their otherwise professional streams.

Pros: If Curators are consistent and positive, others will feel a kinship.
Cons: If Curators are not consistent, observers may wonder about their point of view. Too many personal anecdotes may create a sense of TMI. Common haunts: Twitter (especially #chats), Pinterest, and comments sections.


Emoticons_dabbler_140You can’t miss them: Dabblers are the ones with a finger in every pie. Dabblers are friends with everyone, everywhere, pinning here, tweeting there, neglecting their blog, queueing up their Tumblr once a month because they never remember to log in, Facebooking, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and occasionally popping into Google+. The Dabbler roams the web, leaving a trail of logins but not much content—never settling, for fear that the other network is better. The Dabbler knows all the other networks.

Pros: Dabblers are aware of all the outlets and have useful opinions when it comes to comparing them. Regarding teen engagement, the Dabbler knows enough to sound knowledgeable about all the online hot spots. A true Dabbler even has a Reddit account and has penned a Buzzfeed list or two.
Cons: All that flitting around means never getting to know any channel deeply, so the Dabbler probably is missing out. Common haunts: everywhere!

Digitally DISCREET

Emoticons_discrete_140Ever cautious, DDs may have some doubts about what they are getting into (What about privacy? Will it eat up time? Do I want to interface people I might never know?). Because of personal requirement or professional obligation, DDs commits to the online world in small, consistent ways. DDs may feel like they’re losing personal touch with people who just don’t pick up the phone any more, or when their boss says “you’re going to be the face of the company blog,” or when they have some information they are compelled to disseminate electronically. DDs become comfortable with a few online tools and learn to balance the creative and social potential with their own hesitant nature.

Pros: With a regular commitment of just an hour or so a week, the DD might virtually meet hundreds of people who are pleasant, helpful, and excited to interact.
Cons: Some privacy is lost; networking does eat up a lot of time; and the DDers do have to interact with hundreds of people they don’t know IRL (and they’ll need to learn acronyms such as “IRL”). Most commonly spotted on: Blogger, Facebook, and wherever the boss says.


Emoticons_immersive_140These are the serial monogamists of the ed tech world. After much consideration of a task, they carefully research which device or platform would be the best one to address their ed tech need and then proceed to master it fully before moving on to the next. In an educational world that moves at the speed of Google, the Immersive takes the time to stop and smell the cookies. They’re not concerned with early adopting—unless they’re at the point of choosing their Next Big Thing. If they are currently immersed in a platform, good luck getting their attention with anything new and sparkly.

Pros: Immersives are great resources when it comes to researching ed tech.
Cons: During submergence state, they have no idea what the latest trends are. Common haunts: whatever habitat is their current passion.


Emoticons_lurker_140Lurkers are often new to the world of online communication outside of email, although career Lurkers exist. The lurker reads lots of blogs but never comments, follows hundreds of people on Twitter but rarely tweets, observes in Google+ but doesn’t participate. Lurking may sound creepy, but it makes sense for those who want to be conversant in trends but have no interest in joining the conversation.

Pros: lurkers can get their feet wet before deciding to jump into using a platform.
How can you grow your PLN when nobody knows who you are? Common haunts: Umm…good luck spotting the Lurker.



Ah, the Provocateur, sometimes also known as the troublemaker or the activist. Champions of causes with strongly held opinions, Provocateurs don’t care whom they might offend. The Provocateur often tweets brief, tantalizing statements that cause followers to hunting for context or reply pleading for deets. Provocateurs have a lot to say and tend to do so with passion and style. Sometimes shouty.

Note: The proactive provocateur is someone everyone looks to in order to know what’s important. The reactive provocateur is the one we seek when we’re looking for righteous indignation.

Pros: Often a voice for change, equality, action, and a better world. The alluring Provocateur talks about all the hard, interesting topics.
Always fighting for something can mean that some important topics get lost in the (occasionally negative) noise. The most effective Provocateur is also a Charmer—a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Common haunts: Twitter, blogs (posting and commenting), Facebook. See also: Creator.


Emoticons_self_promoter_140Self-Promoters have a mission. They resemble Creators or Curators —but everything they share generally contains the words “I,” “me,” or “my.” Self-Promoters follow back everyone who follows them and connect with organizations as often as individuals. They are knowledgeable, carefully branded, and always on message: no funny anecdotes here. Self-Promoter who do great things are valuable to follow and often leaders.

Pros: Every social media post from a Self-Promoter builds a great portfolio of original content.
Too much “I” can be a turn off, especially when it’s all broadcast and no reception, which also leads to missing out on great work from others. Common haunts: Like the Creator, a blog—likely with a custom domain—rebroadcast via Twitter and linked to a photo sharing site.

What’s the Big Deal?

Emoticons_WTBD_140“Life was fine before I had it, so why should I sell my heart my soul and my brain to all this stuff?” asks the WtBDer. From lack of investigation or interest, the WtBDer doesn’t know what a PLN is, why one should have one, or why anyone should care. Nor does the WtBDer get why there’s no “e” in Tumblr or Flickr.

Pros: More time and focus; a rarified perspective on humanity’s techno- and socio-cultural evolution. Cons: Limiting of social and (possibly) intellectual expansion, as well as professional horizons; smaller sense of the world; annoying. Common haunts: default Internet browser, email (both occasionally), newspaper, landline.

Reading through these personas, you probably found more than one reflection of your online self. Most of us mix a few into something uniquely our own. As you consider your place on the Internet, think about where you plan on moving next.

How do you want to set up shop online? Are you looking to promote your organization? Build or grow your own blog or portfolio? Land a book deal or speak at a conference? Maybe it’s just about the journey. Who wouldn’t want to be a member of the most amazing librarian/educational technology PLN in the world? Whatever your social network, make sure your presence POPs. Now, on to the poll. Tell us who you are!

Take SLJs POP Poll here!

About the authors:

Stacy Dillon is the Lower School Librarian at Little Red Schoolhouse & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI). She can be found at @mytweendom and Welcome to My Tweendom.

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the Middle School Librarian & Library Department Chair at LREI. She can be found at @ReadingRants and Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists.

Jesse Karp is the Early Childhood Librarian at LREI. He can be found online at Beyond Where You Stand.

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian & Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI. She can be found online @InfoWitch and at the SLJ blog Someday My Printz Will Come.

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