By Susan Gianiodis
Initially I was resistant to social media. There were reports about how seeing others’ posts could make a person suffer depression because the lives of online friends and family seemed to be more fun and fulfilling than one’s own.
A new acronym was coined: FOMO, fear of missing out. People could witness parties they were not invited to, and events they didn’t attend. There were reports of people’s houses being burgled because they posted pictures and status updates indicating they were out of town. There were articles about the time wasted, which kept users from interacting with the people around them and spending their time on better pursuits. Who needed any of those problems, I wondered.
Slowly, though, it seemed that I was being compelled to join social media. There were discounts if you “checked in” when at certain places of business. People at work were using it to communicate, and finally there was a family reunion being planned through Facebook.
So I joined with the thought that as soon as the reunion was done, so was my social account. Soon, people were sending friend requests.
I was surprised, and delighted, to hear from former students. As a teacher, you become invested in these young people and it was hard to keep in touch once they graduated. I would find myself wondering from time to time, “I wonder what happened with so-and-so. Did she marry her high school sweetheart? Did he realize his dream of becoming an illustrator for Disney?”
Now I was seeing these former “kids” at college. I could see them graduate, get married, travel, buy homes and start their own families.
One former student is now a teacher herself, and will reach out for advice. Another student apologized for giving me a hard time, and said that once she joined the military, she realized she had a lot of growing up to do.
Sometimes, when I read what some former students post, I will wonder: “Did they learn nothing about the standard conventions of English?”
I only accept friend requests from students who have graduated, and I am always happy to hear, and see, where time has brought them.
One of the surprises has been how little I knew about my co-workers and even members of my own family.
I had no idea that my cousin was into astronomy, and loved to take pictures of celestial objects. I didn’t know that my sister was “friends” with my high school boyfriend, or that she drinks one bloody mary every Sunday at brunch. One cousin in Texas took a picture of a spider the size of a dinner plate on her door, and another cousin from California keeps us posted on the floods and fires near her house, which gives me ammunition when they talk about the snow in my posts.
I had no idea one of my colleagues had that many cats, or that it was even possible for a cat to give its owner a black eye.
I do experience some of the social media pitfalls. I won’t deny that I felt wistful when two different sets of cousins went to London and posted pictures of a proper English tea.
I can’t deny that I have wasted time watching silly animal videos, or been disgusted by some of the things my neighbor and siblings posted around the election. I am sure I have posted political opinions they objected to as well.
Despite these issues, I did not cancel my account after the reunion because it is such an easy way to keep in touch with people I care about.