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- Burnout syndrome of the TEFL community July 31, 2017
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This blog post is a result (and a way) of catharsis. Over the past few days I’ve felt a strong desire to withdraw from all social media – especially from Facebook. I felt abused and humiliated. But I’m recovering from the effects of the Aristotelian tragedy and I’m drawing conclusions, shaping morals and making action plans instead of sulking and crying over the spilt milk.
Tragedy might seem a strong word here. Nothing tragic really happened; only my beliefs and confidence were shattered to pieces and remained so for a while. I realized how vulnerable and hopeless one can feel when they can’t do anything to prevent things from happening – when they can merely observe things rolling on without any power to stop or change them.
About six years ago my friend, a respected journalist, a music lover and a keen video maker, persuaded me to make an amateur cover version of one of my favourite songs. He also made a video of me singing the song in the beautiful countryside of Moravia, the Czech Republic. It was a retro version, with cool disco effects and me making serious (ridiculous) faces to express the pain. It was fun. The video was primarily made for my friends and relatives but my friend also published it on YouTube, which I had no objections against back then. It got a few hits but nothing huge, of course. I soon forgot about it.
A couple of weeks ago some of my young students discovered it by chance. They told me they played it over and over again and shared it with other friends. I think they genuinely loved the video (probably because they genuinely love their teacher). But the news spread quickly and soon an anonymous FB user got hold of the video and shared it (with an uncomplimentary comment) on a notorious Facebook page containing very unflattering content – mostly anonymous comments saying nasty (and perverse) things about my colleagues, students and the school where I teach.
When I saw the video on THIS particular page (my son had actually told me about it), I panicked. I was aware of the fact that it would only be a subject to mockery here. So as a precaution, I immediately asked my friend to delete the video or make it private. Unfortunately, as ‘luck’ would have it, I couldn’t reach my friend, who was in Australia at that time, in the middle of nowhere, without any internet access whatsoever. I was desperate. The video got more and more views and more and more likes on the FB page in question. I knew that the likes were backhanded. Either they might have referred to the negative comment accompanying the post or the content itself. I felt really uncomfortable but I finally gave up. My true friends and family supported me saying that there was nothing wrong about the video so I should stop worrying.
As a consequence of this unpleasant experience I pondered the value and pitfalls of social media. I even deleted a bunch of FB friends, those who I’d never interacted with or those who I realized I didn’t know at all. I changed the privacy settings on FB and I hid some posts from my timeline. From now on I’ll think thrice before I post something.
But then something positive happened. Around that time I had created a secret FB group exclusively for the students of my class. This was supposed to be a space where we would discuss stuff we didn’t have time for at school. And I discovered that the shiest, the most introverted and seemingly least confident students were suddenly the most active ones online; they asked, offered help, reacted to my questions and overall, they were very responsive.
This discovery finally helped me to get over my bitter disappointment. Facebook can be a good place after all. But the danger of Facebook is always imminent. I’m not really afraid of being hurt by complete strangers – I’m worried about the fact that the deepest wound can be caused by people you know; those you meet every day in the streets of your town or the corridors of your school; those you try to love and teach; those who smile at you and greet you merrily but then they secretly stab a virtual knife in your back. This is what hurts most…