When I joined the ELT community online some years ago, I was extremely happy as I didn’t have a real staffroom experience. I was mostly on my won working as a freelance teacher. The community, particularly the Webheads, and then, the developing Twitter community have given me a lot. I learned heaps about educational technology, for instance.
Then, I removed myself a bit from it all…
One reason was having overdone it. For some time, all my work was online. I was also very active in the community, designed and moderated online courses, some alone some with online colleagues, and I used Twitter excessively.
Another reason, as mentioned previously, was my being busy with MA coursework and reading,, working full-time, and having neglected my personal life.
But yet another reason was the that I started to feel like the community was “suffocating” me a bit. I don’t believe this has much to do with the people I interacted with; they are all lovely, generous, kind souls. I rather think that it was becoming a bit like how a young person might feel about their family, who they love but who they also feel they need to escape from for some time to see the world, to meet people outside the familiar circles, to have different experiences not filtered through the family culture, etc. I needed to break out of it all for a bit. Socialising is a good thing including in one’s professional life but it was becoming too much. I have an introverted side, too, and need to be alone with myself occasionally. More importantly, it seemed that suddenly discord started to break out in the community here and there over what someone had said or hadn’t said on their blog or elsewhere… and I was certainly not interested in any of that.
At the same time, I have to admit, I was also a bit tired of everything and everybody being so awesome, incredible, brilliant, marvelous all the time. And then there were the “thanks for followings”, “thanks for retweetings”, “thanks for ffs”…. Not that any of this is bad. To the contrary, it shows what generous, kind souls educators and others online are.
Also, the flood of information on Twitter and elsewhere is fantastic (there you go, another of those superlatives), and when I started with Twitter and blogging, I hadn’t started with my MA yet, so I had the time and the will, interest, and energy to follow up conversations and links to resources and articles. Later, I didn’t. Also, I didn’t have much need for random information streaming into my view from Twitter. I had more than enough to read for my MA courses and to interact in the course fora.
Over the past two years, I reduced my online activities drastically to the essential bit. It was lovely to be friends on Facebook with many of my online colleagues, but even here, I had my phases of inactivity.
I think I’m mainly writing this for myself but I also know that this kind of experience with social media and online communities is very typical. It makes me smile when new members join the community and dive into social media enthusiastically and can’t stop praising all the benefits. It’s true; it’s a blessing. But there are pitfalls, which are not always mentioned in teacher training courses on social media. One lesson I have learned is: It’s important to occasionally allow myself to remove myself from the community, take “creative” breaks and look elsewhere for inspiration and ideas, and then, go back to the community with perhaps a different outlook on and approach to things.