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What Are The Cultural Norms For Online Personal And Community Learning.
When Marcy Jo provided a bit of social context for her fellow students with an unusual passion, they had no idea what was to come. The Southern California student, who found inner peace online through various interest groups and subreddits, had a habit of scrolling through popular online forums on her phone, only to find something she wasn’t expecting.
“My grandma used to tell me I was a glass half-full kind of person. I like order,” says Marcy Jo, who jokes she’s “always happy” in life. “It was just a minute and a half [on the forum]. Something from another thread just struck me in a way that I thought was fascinating. I ended up documenting that moment on my phone,” she adds.
Marcy Jo’s experience at Masjid, a Quaker-affiliated religious school, provided a window to a unique culture. According to The Verge, unlike today, her school used to stage classes in which no text was read; instead, student took turns hosting the class. Before you ask, yes, she can still recite the chapters in Step 1, 4 and 5 of Da Vinci Code. The key to the new method of learning was free time and the chance to think — two things that are simply not common in schools today. “[I learned] how to observe,” she says. “How to interpret data and choose topics based on that. That really interested me because I used to be an analytical person, but that way I could think and reflect.”
That way of thinking — connectedness — is not always appreciated on the internet; specifically, online activities that push boundaries outside of the “norms” in any given community. “Like, somebody wants to see an old Star Wars movie or something,” she says. “And nobody’s saying ‘yeah, you can watch it.’”
Photo: Viviane Zirakkova / Getty Images
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Instead, reactions are often either supportive or opinionated. Facebook, she says, is a good example. “If someone does something weird, there are no repercussions.” To this day, she finds, she struggles to convince her father to watch her watch The Lego Batman Movie. “He usually has an opinion on what movie I should be watching.”
While the internet is a tempting place to find camaraderie among like-minded people, it’s a place that inherently leaves anyone to build a community from scratch. This distinction is perhaps most crucial for adults who can’t immediately fit into any group of peers. “I think of it like going into a new apartment,” says Marcy Jo. “You’re in a new community and you just don’t really know anybody at all. It takes a long time to get to know someone that you don’t already know.”
There’s a small, steadfast number of adults who find their people on social media. Joe Geja, head of school at Pace, has noticed this phenomenon most of all. “Some of these online communities can be very isolated, even with the best intentions,” he says. “Maybe they’re into heavy duty drugs and porn and sports and making bad choices. And they’re on their phones a lot. And so I think that it does create a vacuum where adults can be left alone.”
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As for a definition of online culture, unlike the internet community label, at a popular community forum, somebody would look around before banning a group. “If I don’t see the others, I might read some of their posts,” says Geja. “I might maybe comment on some of them. And people would read those comments and I think that they would be moved by that at least emotionally and maybe also intellectually.”
If you think you are alone, this is the place to “show what you have.”