User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Social Networking and the Quest to Lessen (Lesson?) Existential Anxiety

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I have lived most of my life in a state of existential anxiety . . .

Existential anxiety arises when people deeply contemplate their existence. This contemplation leads to thoughts and feelings of freedom and responsibility, which burden the individual to find a purpose in life–and to live genuinely according to this purpose.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/138049-what-is-existential-anxiety/#ixzz2GYDr8LNC

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Starting in middle school, I developed this intense desire to have a significant impact on changing the world.  I want the world to be a more fair, equitable, and enjoyable place for all, in part, due to actions I have taken.  I have worked with at risk youth, with adjudicated youth, with kids and adults in a psychiatric hospital, with pre-service and in-service teachers.  I always try to plant a seed of significance – that they have the personal power to change themselves and the world.  My passion for doing so has not diminished but a few years ago I entered into a state of existential depression, believing what I was doing didn’t matter.  Ironically, even though I “preach” a message of personal power to change the world, I had/have doubts that I could do so.

Then came social media.  I often express that social media gives everyone the opportunity to have a voice and an audience to listen to that voices.  As for myself, I blog, tweet, and Facebook hoping to create some sense of significance.

Several events converged during the past few weeks to intensify my perpetual state of existential angst:

  • The Sandy Hook Massacre and the related #26Acts of Kindness
  • Revisiting Viktor Frankl’s ideas through a video shared on Twitter
  • My blog reached over 200,000 views and closing in on 10,000 followers of Twitter.

I cannot say anything good is going to come from the Sandy Hook massacre – it has not meaning.  It just reinforces the need to live and love fully and totally for today as we cannot be assured of a tomorrow.  Some folks seemed to take this thought to heart and joined Ann Curry’s movement to participate in #26acts of kindness.  In order to honor the victims and to attempt to do something, anything to make change, I did my #26acts and blogged about them in Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts to challenge others to do so.

This week marked the 200,000 view of my blog and I am closing in on 10,000 followers on Twitter.

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Yesterday I posted a Facebook status that stated, “Am thinking that I should be a poster child for existential angst – have spent my life in an ongoing search for meaning and significance.”  One of my friends, Janet Nay Zadina responded,  “I am so happy that I have work that is meaningful to me. You, also, have that. Your posting of Acts of Kindness has significantly affected me and many others.”

Maybe I do have a voice.  I still don’t know if I am making a difference, but hope my blog entries and tweets spark something for those viewing them. I have more hope I am making a difference than I had prior to social networking.

As I noted, viewing Viktor Frankl’s talk was also one of the events that had impact on me this week.  I started thinking that maybe a purpose I have in life is to encourage educators to assist their students in finding their own meaning and significance.

As Viktor Frankl noted in his talk, young people have a need for finding meaning in life.  In our role of as educators, Dr. Frankl made several comments that have application to working with students:

If we take (hu)mans as are they really are, we make them worse, but if we overestimate/overrate them, we promote them to what they really can be.

If you don’t recognize young (hu)mans’ will to meaning, search for meaning, you make them worse, you make them dull, you make them frustrated.  Let’s presuppose a spark for meaning.  Then you will elicit it from them and you will make them become what they are capable of becoming.

I believe that a responsibility of all educators is to provide their students with the knowledge, skills, resources, and time to find their own meaning.  Social media and networking amplifies and enhances their potential to do so.  In these days of social media and networking, kids, on their own, are changing the world:

Can you imagine how a world would look if the educational curriculum promoted kid-driven initiatives like these?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

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