Two sides of the same coin

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… 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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14 Responses to Two sides of the same coin

  1. When one is exposed to Social Media these are the risks, Hana, we are not ready for such cruelty, an innocent and pure heart like you does not deserve this type of agression, actually nobody does.

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  2. Chewie6577 says:

    I'm sorry to hear that. Social Media has done some good things, but it has done plenty of sad and childish things like what you've been through. Some people just don't grow up and take pleasure in criticizing others.

    The “silver lining,” you might say, is the your FB group for students. At least there's that good thing. I've had a similar experience with messaging programs. Some of the most shy students will send messages and ask questions. It's a wonderful thing.

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  3. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks, Fabiana. Your words mean a lot to me. Well, let's accept the fact that things like this happen, and just because I would never do this to anybody doesn't means others are the same.

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  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your comment. It really helps to hear from people who try to cheer me up a bit.
    I think I can cope with criticism but anonymous users in any social media are simply invincible. I mean, I can't even draw many conclusions to get better if I don't know who criticizes and why actually. Personally, I would ban anonymity completely. The fact that remaining anonymous in this case was malicious rather than childish makes me feel bad. But it's over – let's start anew 🙂 Some day the person who did it will taste the consequences of their imprudence, in one way or another. Online traces only appear invisible but in fact they are not. And young people don’t seem to realize it nowadays.

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  5. Zhenya says:

    Dear Hana

    I just wanted to tell you that you are my role model in using social media, and in reflection on what is happening in your class and in your life. Even though I have never met you in person, I feel as if you I have. The way you are writing about this shows me how one can hold one's head up high with dignity and remain human, and humane. Thank you for sharing. I am learning so much from you (and the only way to continue this communication and sharing is to stay online!)

    Warm regards,
    Zhenya

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  6. I can't believe anyone could say something really bad about you, especially as you can see how your students respect you and look up to you. I never would have had the chance to get to know you without social media, and that would have been such a shame! Keep up the good work and don't leave us!

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  7. Hana, this is really sad to read – I wish I had known earlier to be there to support you through this. I have gone through some similar things over the last year or so and feel for you. But the people who care about you and value you as an important member of the ELT community and the wonderful PLN which has meant so much to me in the last few years greatly outweigh those who showed such disrespect to a colleague, professional and most of all wonderful human being. Perhaps these are the people who didn't express themselves as the others always seem to have the bullhorns in their hands. But we are here for you. Please don't leave us, we need you!

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  8. Hana Tichá says:

    Thank you very much, Zhenya. This is really fantastic; the huge amount of support I'm getting from people I truly admire and respect. Thanks for being here for me – in the moments of joy as well as the moments of sadness. You've definitely lifted my mood for today 🙂

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  9. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for sharing the post and for your comment, Naomi. I truly appreciate it. I think this incident was a valuable experience in the end – I think it helped me become less self-conscious. One needs to be thick-skinned if they want to go and share stuff publicly – one simply needs to be prepared for negativism like this. There's no other way. But the fact that there are great people like you out there in the virtual sphere makes me feel stronger. Thanks.

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  10. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks Marjorie. I think you're right; I should realize that the positive outweighs the negative. I really like this quote I saw earlier today on Facebook: “We don't lose friends; we just learn who the real ones are”. This is so true! And believe it or not, this incident did help me learn something about my friends. But it also helped me learn something about myself. I’m happy to be part of the fantastic ELT community, which is so positive and supportive. I think this may be one of the reasons why any negative experience is so hurtful. You’re simply spoiling me 🙂

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  11. Dear Hana,
    My heart really goes out. I can only imagine how confusing and angering this must be. You bring such magical energy to this cyber space, and now this space has turned into a space that you can't fully trust. This is devastating indeed.

    I'm grateful that enough magic remained so you were able to write this. I say this because what you wrote describes one of my greatest fears. I always say that I'm grateful social networks didn't exist in my younger days because I'm not sure I could have handled the bullying that occurs online. I wasn't the most reserved person back then. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my past caught up with me. What I see from this post and your colleagues' responses is that I would probably get a lot of support.

    Thank you for your courage Hana. I am behind you all the way. If you need a break, I completely understand. Healing is important and you know yourself best. Do what you need to do, and we'll be here.

    If I had to guess, the person who posted that is suffering deep inside. There is no other answer. It's really sad that this is the strategy they had to take to feel a sense of love or acceptance. I hope they are able to find a healthier way to satisfy those needs.

    With great gratitude and respect,
    Josette

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  12. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Josette,

    I’m amazed by the power of your words, and I’m particularly in awe of your ability to heal wounds – your own wounds as well as other people's ones. I’m convinced that you’re the one who’ll understand what I mean when I say that this post is ancient history for me, though I wrote it just a week ago. It even sounds a little silly now- exaggerated. I felt a strong urge to delete it when I‘d got over the pain but then I changed my mind – it’s part of my journey after all. I’m a different person today – different from what I was back then when I wrote it up but I want to know what it once felt like. I’ll keep it as a memento which I might well be able to laugh about some day.

    Yes, the genuine support I get from the ELT people is the best part, and I’m grateful for it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your heartfelt words. You’ve made my day.

    Hana

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  13. Roseli Serra says:

    Hana, dear,

    It's exactly what you entitled your post: Two sides of the same coin. For many times I had similar feelings, but when I think of all the people in PLN and the gains I have from it, I think twice, try to be even more careful and keep only what's good. I try treat about FB the same way I do with my TV. I keep only what's good. As for what bothers me, I block I exclude or I report abuse. I simply cannot think missing the amazing support and share from all of those I care and respect regarding the ELT world. It's the best reason to keep it active.
    count on me , dear! And please keep posting and blogging. You are pure inspiration!

    Love,
    Roseli

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  14. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for reading and leaving these cordial words, dear Roseli. I'll definitely try to keep what's good and ignore the bad stuff, and I promise I'll blog again as soon as I get some inspiration. Thanks for being here for me when I need it.

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