Friday, May 15, 2020
May 15, 2020: Spring 2020 Tributes: Social Media Communities
[This would be the last week of classes, if the Spring 2020 semester had gone as scheduled. To say that it didn’t is just to scratch the surface of this chaotic, crazy, challenging spring, though. So for my usual semester recaps, this time I’ll focus on brief tributes to those folks who helped us make it through this incredibly tough time, leading up to a weekend post of my own reflections on teaching in this new world.]
On the communities and conversations that kept me going as everything came to a crashing halt.
On March 26th, I Tweeted out a video of me reading a brief passage from Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977). My friend and frequent collaborator Matthew Teutsch had tagged me in a project to read favorite literary passages, and I chose an excerpt from perhaps my single favorite such passage of all (which I managed to find even though that novel, like most of my books, has been quarantined in my FSU office since mid-March). It was very nice to be reminded of Silko’s moving words, to get to read them aloud on a quiet solo lockdown Thursday, and most of all to have the chance to share them with my many Twitter friends and colleagues near and far (and then to do so on Facebook as well, because it felt so good to do so on Twitter!).
That one moment, and the contexts in which it happened, embodies the overarching and absolutely crucial role that social media communities and conversations have played for me over the last few months. During the weeks I’ve had my sons with me, they have of course been my central focus, even more than they always would be as our home became the sole site of both education and socialization over this period. But during the alternating solo weeks (and even during most of the early mornings and late nights on our weeks together, since I generally hadn’t been able to see and certainly hadn’t interacted at length with another adult throughout those days either), it was in these online spaces that I found vital solidarity and support. From the photos and memes of Facebook and Instagram to the historical and social contextualizing of #twitterstorians and the commiserating across all three sites with faculty shifting their classes online, these social media communities have helped me feel significantly less alone in the most isolating moment of my life to date.
I’m drafting this post on an early morning in late March, with no idea whether the situation will be exactly the same, even worse, or slightly better by May 15th (my money is on pretty much exactly the same). But whenever we do manage to get back to a world in which we can interact with our fellow humans in person, I hope we can bottle up the feeling of these social media solidarities and carry them forward into our new world. Over the last few years, one of the most frustrating of the many, many many many, frustrating things I’ve felt has been the sense that we (as a society and a world) are so fully divided in so many ways. Certainly this virus has highlighted and in some ways amplified those debates and divisions, of course. But I’ve seen and felt as well a sense of unity and community that reminds me of the best of us, and it has been absolutely vital for me and I hope we can all remember it in the difficult months and years to come.
Special post this weekend,
PS. Reflections or tributes of your own on Spring 2020?