Monday, April 11, 2016
Over the weekend, I took part in the first of what is certain to be annual Play Empowers Pep Rally in Maryland. I was flattered to even be invited to deliver a keynote address and a pair of workshops. When I stepped up to the podium on Saturday morning and looked out at the audience, I suddenly felt as if my Teacher Tom Facebook page had opened and all those notional people who normally reside there in the form of thumbnail photos and pithy comments had come to life. Everywhere I looked I spotted faces I recognized, who I "know" without actually knowing, real live colleagues from around the continent (and even other continents) right there in what is crudely called "meat space." I've had the experience before in my travels yet it still both stunned and thrilled me. I wanted to stop right there and start exclaiming, "Hey, I know you! And you! And you!"
And while I managed to hold it together enough to get through my material, that's sort of what I wound up doing over the course of the weekend. Many of us hugged like old friends and our conversations were surprisingly easy considering that we were "only" social networking friends. Of course e-relationships will never replace meat space ones, but it certainly felt like I was amongst friends, even old friends at times, folks with whom I indeed shared history. If nothing else, we were coming together with a running start.
Some of it, I know, was specific to this special group of early childhood educators, many of whom I've been interacting with for years, but I've had similar experiences before with both family and friends, finding ourselves together already caught up and ready to go. I know it's fashionable to be down on social media, and some level of suspicion is appropriate, but getting to share a weekend like I just did with "mere" Facebook friends, laughing, debating, planning, and inspiring one another is an experience that graphically reminds me that there is nothing artificial or shallow about the real and wonderful people who are connected with me across time and space through this place called the internet.