As a medium, video holds a powerful place in my life. The television is the focal point of our family room, the guide we seek out when tragedy strikes and the place we go for a dose of diversion. It’s how we share our cultural stories and how we process our world. All too often, however, I experience this medium in solitude.
However, with Facebook, I have a chance to share the experience socially. Occasionally people create their own videos, but typically they link to another video on YouTube. Afterward, I post a comment, “Yeah, that Jim Gaffigan cake routine is a hoot.” Or I simply toss out a thumbs up.
So, in living out Facebook, I start with sharing a clip from The Onion News Network in the staff lounge. Although I had seen the clip numerous times, it feels somehow more original with the fresh laughter of fellow teachers. Unlike Facebook, where the clip led to an interesting discussion, only one person comments in the staff lounge.
She shrugs her shoulders and says, “I don’t get it. Fake news. How is that funny?”
* * *
I share a class video with my students. Although I pretend it wasn’t much of an effort, I am secretly scared. Something about the hours of work and the creative energy stirs up this fear that somehow it will be mocked and I will be found out as an artistic fraud. Instantly I’m twelve again and I’m scared at what my peers will think.
We gather together in two semi-circle rows and wait for the projector light to brighten up. I stare at a still-frame image of us, larger than life, consuming half the classroom. I click the spacebar and the story begins. Our story. Our movie. Our unassuming epic.
Unlike a Facebook, in a classroom the comments begin during the video with murmured whispers of “remember that” and “hey that was me” and “I can’t believe I used to look that little.” We laugh, not in lol’s and rofl’s, but in collective chuckles. As the video moves toward its closure, the comments cease. We are watching ourselves, seeing our story, remembering our mythology.
When the video ends, students clap. Some cry. Some sniffle and pretend that it’s allergies. Others look away, trying silently to make sense out of what this year means to their story. Nobody comments. Nobody offers a thumbs up. But we’re closer now than ever before.
I could post it to the private area of our class blog, but instead I pass out individual DVD’s. In this moment, students want artifacts; something tangible to hold onto as evidence of a community that developed over the course of a year. And I’m struck by the deeply human need to literally hold onto our memories with our own two hands. We need relics, not merely of sacred people but of the sacred spaces that shaped us.