Things I learned from the #KOTESOL Facebook page

I am a member of KOTESOL. I am an…ahem… active Facebook user. I am not a member of the KOTESOL Facebook group. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that last year a friend and colleague asked something like, “What do we get for our membership fees?” and the responses were, to my view, contemptuous, silly and scornful. Credit should be given to Stafford Lumsden (Seoul Chapter President) who gave a kind and reasonable answer. There may have been others but my memory of the thread is far from fond or clear.

I couldn’t believe that people would be so rude to someone asking a simple question. I sort of just chalked it up to poor communication skills and a lack of manners. I thought maybe this sort of rude talk was endemic to conversations among teachers in Korea. I was of course proven wrong by the positive conversations among English teachers I have seen in other online locations (like #KELTchat).

Anyway, the conversation I mentioned  above primed me for negative feelings about the page. Then, suddenly it was election season in KOTESOL and the FB page was inundated with posts about who was running and why they were running. There was a series of posts about the election. I don’t want to get into the politics of it but the excessive posting was annoying, even if i agreed with those who were posting. I wrote, “Feel free to discuss topics related to education and teaching here” and my plea was ignored.  I think some people got what I was talking about (as I was quoting directly from the page’s information). The political posts kept coming and I finally left the group.

One friend told me the page  is like a car crash and you just can’t avoid looking. Another friend said it is useful because it makes him feel good about himself as a human.  I have to admit sometimes reading the page makes me feel bad about humanity. I don’t want to read it but sometimes I can’t resist. Although I am not a member of the group, Facebook tells me when my Facebook friends have left a comment there. Even though I try not to read it I have learned quite a bit from this page and below are some of the things I have learned. These are about life, teaching, writing, and human interactions.

  • Thou shalt not ask what your money gets you in KOTESOL.
    (It is only OK to ask what membership gets you if you are widely-known in the right circles.)
  • Moderators should be sure to be as vague as possible and expect members to read all moderator posts in order to understand.
  • Never, under any circumstances say with 20 words what could be said with 150.
  • Never send a private message when public humiliation is possible.
    (Tip: Post everything in public)
  • Feel free to correct others on their use of (what you deem as) politically incorrect language in the most direct and superior manner.
  • The more jargon the better. Obfuscation is the key.
  • You need to show how much smarter you are than the other people on the board.
  • Feel free to put someone down for typoes.
    (Tip: Look out for slips on your/you’re and their/there!!)
  • If anyone puts up a survey be sure to be critical about the design.
    (Again private messages are frowned upon)
  • Personal attacks with those you disagree with are encouraged.
  • Remember: show how smart you and how dumb everyone is! Proving your point and winning is more important than having a fruitful discussion.
  • The best place to buy shoes is surely an online forum for English teachers.
  • Instead of engaging in conversation be sure to write a snotty and sarcastic blog post about what you have seen. 

There have been recent conversations on the page about the type of posts that should be allowed (which I think is a useful conversation) but I think a more important issue is how people respond to each other and the type of interactions they have.

Notes: 

1)  I will not be able to respond to comments on this  for a week or so. Sorry. I am a bit too busy at the moment.
2) Thanks to the focus groups who offered thoughts on early drafts of this.
3) Special thanks to Unkle Paul for editing help.
4) Someone (quite rightly) told me this is a bit ranty and doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions. I think that is a very fair point. My hope is that people will consider their messages and how said messages might seem to others. Maybe people will decide that there is no problem in terms of communications on the KOTESOL Facebook group and will ignore sanctimonious bastards like me and that’s fine too. I am feeling better already after sharing my thoughts.
5) Since the word “rants” is part of this blog’s title I hope I will be forgiven for being a bit ranty.
6) A friend mentioned that the page seems pretty reasonable at the moment. Great.

More recent notes:

7) Some people on Facebook wondered if I was talking about same group and I will take this as a sign that maybe things have improved since I wrote this (which was early July). Perhaps I have been proven wrong and there is no longer any problem (if there ever was).
8) I assure you I was much more “cute” and gentle to the admin than I was with my initial thoughts.
(Just yesterday a member needed to interpret his message about potentially deleting a message because it was unclear)
9) I apologize if there was any confusion or hurt feelings. Perhaps the tone of the group was only a problem for me and not for others. Though, some people have expressed to me that this was something they were thinking about.
10) I am not quite sure what this means:
Facebook is the great magnifying glass for society. Who you are in real life is only magnified in the social network. If you can’t keep up, then you probably should drop off the group and write a blog post about it.
(
part of a comment on Facebook about this very post)
And I am pretty sure it was not really a matter of “keeping up” for me but more about being annoyed by certain posts and the general tone. As above maybe I am too late or maybe I am off target but I think this issue is specific to the KOTESOL Facebook page/group. I am a member of a number of FB groups related to teaching and I have no problem keeping up with them. The only group that gives me consistent cringes is the KOTESOL one (and as I said I am not even a member of it.)

7 comments

  1. Mr Nibanna

    “The more jargon the better. Obfuscation is the key.”

    Kind of goes without saying, eh? In what context is this not true?

    • mikecorea

      Hello Mr. Nibanna,
      Thanks for the comments.
      (I have just now realized your true identity)
      I think perhaps you were being a bit sarcastic with your question, but…
      I think the “more jargon the better” rule does not apply when we are actually interested in sharing ideas and communicating.
      If our purpose is to be truly understood then I believe that would call for less jargon.
      But, I don’t believe the purpose on the page I was talking about is to be understood.

  2. Heidi Nam

    I have been impressed with the generally respectful conversation in the KELTchat group, and I’ve often wondered what accounts for this. Despite the large number of members (160+), I think there is more of a sense of community the KELTchat group than in several of the other Facebook groups I subscribe to. One advantage is that most of the core posters seem to know each other through Twitter, mutual blog readership, or face to face interaction. They have a habit of plugging one another’s blogs, presentations, articles, etc. and publicly thanking each other publicly for services in the Twitter group and elsewhere. All of this positive interaction sets the tone for the group.
    The content of the group seems to grow of the blogs and Twitter interaction, which are reflective and teaching-focused. Since the group welcomes these sorts of topics and because of the positive tone, I feel comfortable posting personal classroom reflections there even though I am not core (having spent a grand total of only 20 minutes on Twitter.)
    I would feel less comfortable initiating a thread on personal classroom reflections in the KOTESOL group because I don’t really have a sense of who is reading. It would be difficult to create a sense of community in a group that so many (1700+) people join for so many different reasons.
    With so many contributors, it’s hard to pinpoint where the tone of the KOTESOL group comes from. There is more positive interaction in the KOTESOL group when it discusses things like publications and conferences, which are closely related to the core mission of the organization. Some of the disrespectful conversation might be a symptom of users not knowing each other well. The spam is probably a result of the high profile of the group.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks very much for the thoughtful comments, Heidi.
      (sorry for the delay in responding)
      It was very interesting for me to see that a few people on the page expressed their thoughts that there is not actually a problem or an issue on the KOTESOL page. This is especially interesting to me because numerous people previously mentioned to me that the page is a disaster. Perhaps it is a matter of perception. Anyway, I said what I wanted to say and if people don’t think there is a problem then they can continue on their merry way. Maybe some people will take a brief pause before posting potentially rude things and maybe not.

      I liked your thoughts regarding KOTESOL and KELTchat. I really didn’t want my post to turn into a compare and contrast piece on the two and decided to add a line about KELTchat in the final editing stage. Yet, the difference in postings and responses and general collegiality was to me at times striking. I think you touched on some of the major points about possible reasons for the generally positive and helpful tone on the KELTchat page.

      I am very interested in this idea of community and how it impacts things like tone on discussion boards/facebook pages. Interesting stuff. I’d like to think that on the KELTchat page there are models of “this is how we do it here” and folks tend to pick up on this (consciously or subconsciously). As you wrote, “They [keltchat members] have a habit of plugging one another’s blogs, presentations, articles, etc. and publicly thanking each other publicly for services in the Twitter group and elsewhere. All of this positive interaction sets the tone for the group. Maybe on the KOTESOL group it is much less wieldy and it is easy for the positive people to get crowded out? I think you made a great point about the size of groups having an impact as well.

      You wrote, “There is more positive interaction in the KOTESOL group when it discusses things like publications and conferences, which are closely related to the core mission of the organization.” I think that makes a lot of sense.

      Thanks again for the thoughtful comments and also thanks for the chance to for me to think a bit more deeply about things!

  3. Rob Dickey

    I just want to observe that a new KOTESOL *page* has been opened on facebook for the purpose of disseminating information from KOTESOL admin. The facebook group opened by KOTESOL has become quite a “thing” that no one is proud of. There has even been talk of closing it down (which is apparently difficult). Moderation has been very minimal (in both adj and v senses of the word “moderate”!!!).

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for the update! Much appreciated. I actually just now “liked” the page you have mentioned.

      Thanks, Mike

      ps- LOL at moderate/moderate 🙂

  4. Pingback: Abstract Art: Stories about denial and acceptance | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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