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.
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.)