Letters to 2014
Congratulations, Class of 2014!
With the past four years, lots has happened in the eruption of social media. Facebook has been a presence in online interaction since 2004, but only really hit it huge in the last 5-6 years. The advent of Twitter and the teenage migration to tweet throughout the day proved that teens liked to be able to share things online instead of just via text messages, but there is often a preference to certain websites (and phone apps) for doing so. The feedback seems to be that Twitter currently rules social media as the fastest and easiest way to reach a large group of friends and followers... even moreso than Facebook. Although many teens are on both.
In any event, I began 2010 without using either platform to interact with my own friends and family, let alone students I taught. And as far as reaching out to other educators and people in many professions around the world? It didn't even cross my mind. But I quickly saw a use for social media as the delivery of the Letters to 2014 approached. Current middle schoolers, but especially previous students, seem to be eager to interact on social media. Why fight the trends when you can work right alongside them?
There is a negative presence on these social media outlets, of course. Online bullying is the highest we've ever seen. Fake accounts allow mean spirited comments to be spread without accountability. But in the shadow of all that, in lieu of some of the negative stereotypes that teens fulfill, there exists a normal and very human need like any generations of the past. A need to hear and be heard. A desire to share in the good times by laughing over inside jokes. An equally important desire to share sympathy in the bad times when life throws you a curve ball... or flat out beans you in the back.
This is the future of America. This genuine approach to using technology to meet fundamental processes of life hits the same needs as always; the physical, mental/emotional, and social need for well-being is ever-present. It's the how, that changes. With the evolving world of technology, even the internet and social media will look different in years to come.
So, Class of 2014, since you wrote to yourself in 2010 there are many things that haven't changed. Clothing, music, friends... some are very much the same. But there are also others that continue to morph. Styles of clothing can actually come and go as friends do, unfortunately. Music choices, activities, hobbies and interests constantly ebb and flow.
My Letters to the Future assignment is one of those.
My social media pages have just begun, with just a small following to start. We'll see where this all goes. I continue to teach at Scullen Middle School in Naperville, Illinois, in the same classroom you sat in back in 8th grade. Students are the same, yet also way different. My personal life has changed as well, as I'm sure yours has, but I'm reminded all the time that the ups and downs prove that life may be unpredictable but it's definitely worth living.
I hope that your past four years have proven much of the same. Congratulations, and I hope your letter finds you well.
Stay healthy, and enjoy life in the future!
- Mr. Todnem, May 2014