Well, folks. We have almost made it to the end of this never-seen-before type of semester. (I am not going to use the “u” word.) As I sit at home awaiting COVID test results* and continuing to hold WebEx sessions for my remote students, the bright moments of satisfaction and success of the semester perch here and there in the vast fuzz of my exhausted mind and heart. I know countless teachers whose spirits are battered at this point. In those evening moments when we seek distraction from the Canvas “to do” list or solace in the shared challenges and triumphs of teaching through a pandemic, the easiest answer is often to hop onto a Facebook group or check our Twitter or Instagram feed. What are the newest metrics? Who was that teacher who had that one great strategy? Which districts have gone virtual? What’s the tea from other schools in our districts? So much information just a few clicks down the rabbit hole.
I certainly rely on Facebook and Twitter during these moments. It’s an easy fix, and calorie-free. But II should probably consider taking a break, and here are my reasons why.
Reason Number 1: It Is What It Is
Knowing today’s COVID-19 numbers or any of the other minutiae of the pandemic or the policy decisions happening around me isn’t going to change anything at the moment. I have already spent the last nine months advocating and trying to organize around the issue of school safety amid the pandemic, and we’re a week away from vacation. Nothing is going to change my decisions or behavior between now and next Friday, and it most likely won’t change any of the decisions of leadership at any level. I am fairly sure that everyone is aware of the facts, the perspectives involved, and has made their decisions. Reading Facebook won’t change that.
Reason Number 2: It Doesn’t Make Me Feel Better
I am distressed on a number of levels, and, as one of my colleagues said so well the other day, no matter what I do I feel like I am letting somebody down. Another leader expressed that each day she feels that she is choosing the best of all the possible bad options. Though I seek collegial connections and solace on social media, that is only a portion of what I actually find. Mostly I find news, experiences and opinions that echo or increase my own concerns and anxieties. If I am honest with myself, I have to recognize that I don’t get off Facebook feeling refreshed, but rather wrung-out. I should probably find a way to funnel those mental energies into something more creative for the moment.
Reason Number 3: Toxic Times Out There
The abusive messages and actions toward educators and leaders alike right now should concern everyone. There is nothing more I can do at the moment to stop the community groups who have seemingly declared figurative guerilla warfare on teachers, district administrators, board members and anyone who has advocated for students to be in a remote learning situation. At this point, I see few opportunities to change anyone’s mind about any of this, and I feel like I understand the positions of these people pretty well. The bullying needs to stop. Or I can take a break from witnessing it.
My husband and I finally sat with our teenage kids and watched the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I recommend it. The thesis is basically that social media is not a neutral tool that we use for our own purposes, but that it is a dynamic and powerful system that the developers use to make a profit. By its very design, it manipulates us in ways that even the creators do not always control. The machine intelligence that is constantly refining algorithms and driving us to stay in that feedback loop has no care for our minds, our hearts or our relationships with others.
I am sure that I won’t completely ditch social media leading up to the holidays. I look forward to those family photos, memories, hilarious memes, and messages of love and caring. However, I will probably make myself a bit more scarce and try to fill my bucket in other ways. What is one thing you will do to hearten yourself and find peace in the next few weeks?
*I have had very mild symptoms, so no worries, I’m okay.