It looks as if it was all over; we seem to be in the twilight of the shiny happy TEFL PLNing era. It’s a bit like looking at the famous painting of The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up. We watch the end with nostalgia; we reflect on how great it once felt to be connected. But there’s this bitterness …
Recently some strange things happened in the online TEFL sphere. A couple of fellow TEFLers disappeared without a trace from a particular social medium and some folks I know are considering the option too. The reason behind this exodus is that people can no longer take the hostility they witness and/or experience in the online interaction. But what’s more disturbing, some people are suspiciously quiet these days. And then there are the loud and proud ones – those who were quiet up till recently but decided to speak up against all the injustices. By doing so, they opened the imaginary Pandora’s box and since then many angry voices have joined the crowd.
It seems that all the good has been said and so some feel the need to counterbalance this fake niceness and complacency. Their response is brutal honesty. Needless to say, it’s a shock!
But some changes are almost imperceptible. For example, I’ve noticed that people quit starting their comments with the obligatory ‘thanks a lot for stopping by and dropping a line‘. They go straight to the point. Mind you, I don’t think it’s downright rude or something. After all, why should we lavish niceties when our time is so precious?
I’ve also got used to the fact that some don’t even bother to say ‘Hi!’ in the comment box or address the person by a name (not necessarily here on my blog). I’m fine with that provided I know who the person is talking to. Comments do sometimes start with ‘Dear X‘ but this way of addressing has now taken on two distinct connotations: dear = beloved or dear = idiot. It depends on who is replying and to whom. The reader will usually be able to discern the difference after a few lines.
I’ve also noticed that one of my favorite bloggers recently removed the like button from his blog. Was it an attempt to get rid of a widget so overused in the online communication. It seems to me that some people are so hurt and disappointed that they want to strip emotionality from all the online interaction – negative or positive.
Finally, I witness that like in every dispute, the onlookers tend to favor one side at the expense of the other. For example, they say that if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. I agree. Except that I’m not always sure who the oppressor is or if there is one at all. I’d appreciate more well-balanced views, I guess.
I’m writing this to say that although the online TEFL community seems to be on its last legs, I’m more alive and kicking than ever before. I want to connect, share ideas, and read about other people’s experience. But do people still care? I can’t help the feeling that blog posts offering practical advice and teaching resources have gone out of fashion. It’s rants, like this one, that are in these days. I know it’s summer and teachers are on vacation, but given the fact I follow about 80 blogs and sometimes not a single post pops up in my WP Reader for days is telling. All quiet on the western front. Are people resting or fed up?
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised by the latter scenario. It’s a well-known fact that teachers can suffer from the burn-out syndrome. But I wonder whether an online community as a whole can face the same problem. We used to be so engaged, so enthusiastic. Have we become frustrated by the lack of appreciation on all fronts? Those who were here to support us unconditionally (or PLN) have either left or become silent. Suddenly, we’re standing here, all alone. Or, given the omnipresent threat of sharp criticism, do we just feel too endangered to stick our heads out?
Anyway, I’ll wrap up on an optimistic note. Let’s hope it’s just chrysalis time – the time when one chapter of our lives has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being yet. As Tara Mohr puts it:
This is the stage of old things giving way, the stage of goopy mess, of being neither caterpillar nor butterfly. It is the time of being something in an undefined, transitional, un-presentable state.