Friday, March 7, 2014

Facebook as Funeral Home

On Tuesday, I got a Facebook message asking if I knew about the death of our favorite English professor and if I knew what had happened.  Then I got another message that directed me to the professor's Facebook page, where I learned that it looked like our professor had a stroke just as she was taking her dog out before turning in for the night.

There was some memorializing happening on our professor's page.  Yesterday, I wrote a post in tribute to our professor.  I posted a link on my Facebook page, and I tagged most of my undergraduate friends.

I was amazed at how many of them wrote tributes of their own--and only one was a fellow English major.  Friends talked about how she inspired their love of reading that continues to this day.  One of my female friends remembered this professor as being the first to tell her that she was smart.

And like I said, most of them weren't English majors.  But they were profoundly impacted and some thirty years later, they could bring up specific memories.

I don't have as much time to write today, but I wanted to note this phenomenon for all of us who teach.  Most of us who major in English (and other disciplines in the Humanities) will go on to teach primarily non-majors.  We may wonder if we're making a difference.  We may feel like we've wandered far away from what we intended to do.  Perhaps this feeling is one that's common to any of us who are thinking, feeling adults.

But in any given day, we have an impact on at least a dozen people, if not a hundred or more.  It may not be a lasting impact--but it might.  We can smile more and turn the day around for many folks.  We can be kind.  We can treat the passions of other people with respect.  We can choose to respond without rancor to those angry people we encounter--and if we're spiritual people, we can pray or send healing light their way.

We can think about our Facebook posts.  How could we provide hope to others?  How can we be a light, and not a source of snarkiness?  How can we maintain our connections?

At it's best, Facebook is a place of solace and sanctuary.  This week I've been thinking of Facebook as a funeral home, but in the best sense of that word.  Facebook is the place where we can gather to be reminded of our best selves and to remember those who have helped shape us in that direction.

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