All of us leave a mark? Somewhere in life, and I just want to make my mark meaningful. Let me tell you a story based off the amazing children’s book The Dot written by Peter Reynolds. I was a first grade and kindergarten teacher so bear with me here.
The story is about a girl named Vashti who hated art class because she didn’t believe she was a good artist. Her teacher, noticing her frustration, encouraged her to simply make her mark on the paper. Vashti simply put a dot on the page and turned it in. Her teacher said to her “Great. Now sign it. When she shows up to class the following week, she sees her dot picture hanging from the wall in a beautiful frame for everyone to see. This recognition and this validation in the mark she made motivated her to create more, try harder, and fill the world with beautiful pictures of dots. Her school had an art show showcasing her dot art and there she met a boy, nervous about his own artistic abilities. She encouraged him to make his mark. He fills the page with a simple squiggly line. She looks at it and tells him to sign it.
We live in world surrounded by technology that calls everyone to create posts, videos, songs, skits all with the purpose of being recognized. But it feels as though the Internet and social media has just turned into giant silos where we only see and interact with a select groups of people, picked for us by algorithms, data collection, and behavior analysis. We are dropped in these silos so billionaires can make more money. And while there is some amazingly creative content out there, it seems as though social media is simply reflecting the concerning times we find ourselves in. It seems that people create to connect with the likeminded. It also seems that people post to blast and fight with people who see things differently than themselves. Often, it is used as a tool to tear each other down rather than build each other up. It varies from person to person. Everyone has their own connection to social media and their own reasons for interacting with it the way they do. I just want to return to how I first felt about social media. When I would logon to see which old friends I connected with. I connected to people who I hadn’t seen in years. I got to see how their lives develop. It was also a beautiful way to connect with new friends and document the development of our friendships. There was no rush to see how many friends I could get. There was no pressure to post something controversial and then login every 10 minutes to see if my point was validated. There was no rush to make the next viral video. To me, it was just about connection. And now I feel like some algorithm is dictating what connections I see.
I’m not trying to be self-righteous. Trust me, I have been there. I have sought validation. I have used social media to hurt people. I have used it to judge other people’s beliefs.
However there comes a time when you realize it is all so silly. That everyone is just human doing the best they can. And they are just trying to make their own mark on the world. A mark that has nothing to do with me. They are holding their own pencil staring at their white page. Tearing up or judging their page does nothing to make mine any better.
I love to create content. I finished graduate school a few years ago with a focus on educational technology. I studied how students can use emerging technology tools to create, connect and share their learning with the world. I just haven’t been sure what type of content to create. Do I try to Podcast? Do I TikTok, whatever that is? Do I spend my days trying to craft witty observations to daily news on Twitter? Do I cover myself in BB Cream and tanning oil, finding the best sexy pose on Instagram while trying to find the perfect filter? Do I whip out a jock strap and try to push the boundaries of social media with exactly how much of my ass I can show? Trust me when I say that no one would want to see those final two.
If I did that, I might actually gather a following. I might not, but is that the mark I want to make in the online world. Fortunately for everyone, I don’t think those are options for me. I am a gay man, an early childhood educator, a foster parent, an adoptive parent, a husband, and a survivor. I believe in the power of sharing our stories. I believe in owning our vulnerability, shame, and fear because that type of honesty form the types of connections I seek in my life. Those are the stories I want to create and share. I might gather a following, most likely I won’t. But at least I will be creating in a way that reflects my happiness and optimism.
I have my blank page in front of me. I have my pencil ready. And just like Vashti I am ready to make my mark.
Follow my journey on this Instagram or YouTube channel. My Instagram is @Teaching_Jake and my Twitter is simple @TeachingJake.