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Why I Facebook–and Why I Am Taking a Break

July 16, 2010

I announced in my Facebook status today that I’m taking a week break.  Already my phone is beeping with messages from people asking where I am going. I am going nowhere. I am staying home and trying to do more productive activities with the short time that remains before I start back to school.  Carol Jago, NCTE president, recommended the book The Shallows: This Is Your Brain Online by Nicholas Carr. Click the link there if you want to hear about it from an NPR segment.  I once shared an office with a gentleman who pointed out that both of us showed signs of Adult ADD.  He realized it when he was working and turned to his computer in the middle of a task to Google “Adult ADD.”

That’s enough about why I’m taking a break, but I also want to explain to those  who still don’t “get” Facebook why I am attracted to it.  First, I am a social creature.  I still keep up with people I haven’t seen in decades.  I still write letters. The kind with stamps that end up the someone’s mailbox.  I still love receiving them too, but I realized long ago that if I wanted to keep up with friends that way, it would never be a fifty-fifty proposition.  Some people have stayed friends because I kept writing, even when I didn’t hear back.

I have also found how useful Facebook is when organizing an event.  Last weekend I participated in a reunion of the former Northwood Hills Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama, a church where my father preached in the late sixties and early seventies, a pivotal time in my life (junior high/high school) when my friends, as well as the adults in our lives, had such a profound effect on me.  We started plans for the reunion–you guessed it–on Facebook. The group grew and last weekend we had over 200 assembled and so many more out of town or state who couldn’t make it but kept in touch.  As soon as the weekend was over, pictures were posted–on Facebook.

Since I’ve taught for about 20 years now, many of my Facebook friends are former students.  I don’t have to seek them out usually. They send the requests.  The greatest thing about teaching high school seniors for so many years is that I could see them quickly turning into adults, interesting people.  Selfishly, what I have valued so much is the feedback they give.  In the past two weeks, I’ve received one  email from a former student finishing her PhD and thanking me for teaching her a process for writing research papers that she still uses.  Another sent a link to a blog she read and thought, “Mrs. Posey would love this.”  Another, now a teacher, posted a message, telling me he had visited the Globe Theatre in London with a student group and had thought of me.  He recalled the role he played when I had the class get out of their seats to perform Hamlet in a sort of readers’ theatre.  His message brought a follow-up from another student who said she has started a novel she intends to finish.

I’ll admit that all the interactions with former students don’t go that well.  I encountered a student in the drug store recently whom I had worked hard to help obtain scholarships so she could go on to a four-year college, the first in her family to do so.  She said, “I can’t remember your name, but you were my teacher.” I reminded her who I was, and she said, “Oh yeah, you’re the one who took my cell phone.”  Ouch!

For now, I’ll take my break, but I’ll be right back, keeping in touch with my family, friends, students, my writing group (the Baker’s Dozen Poets) and more because the one place I never want to be is out of touch.

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