Facebook polls become former Notre Dame teacher's hobby

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Steve Mosley

Not long after retiring as a teacher of high school social studies in 2010, Steve Mosley started looking for something new to occupy his time. He doesn't play golf, but he spends a few hours each day at the public library.

Mosley found that something new in Facebook.

"I belatedly became aware of Facebook," Mosley said, but he decided it might be a good way to reconnect with his former students.

About a year and a half later, he has close to 4,300 friends and posts on his wall number in the hundreds each day. Some are former students, students' parents, former colleagues or long-lost friends. Others are strangers, but most visit Mosley's profile for the same reason: to participate in his daily poll.

A self-described "news junkie," Mosley said most of his news knowledge comes from cable TV network news and newspapers.

Each evening he posts a new poll question related to current events. Many of the polls can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," but dozens of friends leave comments with their response. Twenty-four hours later, he tallies the results and soon after posts a new question.

"Something I really enjoyed doing when I was teaching was to try to motivate students to think about things," said Mosley, who taught for 29 years at Sikeston High School and 13 years at Notre Dame Regional High School.

His poll questions vary from seeking participants' opinion on gun control to White House policies to whether Bobby Brown should be held responsible for the death of Whitney Houston.

Mosley found when he first joined Facebook that reading news feeds, at least for him, got old quickly.

"I thought, 'How can I use this to continue to try to elicit responses like I used to in the classroom?'" he said. Since contemporary issues, or current events, was always his favorite class to teach, he moved quickly from posting what he described as "general trivia questions" to issues he picked out in the news which tended to be controversial. Not everyone found his questions interesting, and some had minimal response. But for the most part, what evolved from the polls was a highly used forum for discussion from people with varying views of politics and life in general, he said.

200 to 300 responses

While he could not recall which particular poll question had the most responses, he remembers one did have more than a Paul Krugman editorial in the New York Times one day, "and that was all in 24 hours," he said. Some of his questions have drawn between 200 and 300 responses.

A lot of the participants in Mosley's polls tend to be passionate when sharing their opinions, but he hardly ever gets involved in a debate, he said. No one knows his position on most issues discussed in the forum, and he intends for it to stay that way. There have been times when he has faced some wild accusations from people he has added as friends but doesn't know personally, he said, like that he is a government spy and will turn in all the information from participants. Because of those instances, he realizes there are downsides to Facebook, he said.

"I do have plans at some point to let my views be known," he said. "Maybe on my deathbed, I suppose."

Cape Girardeau business owner Dru Reeves participates in Mosley's polls up to four times per week. Two of his daughters had Mosley for a teacher at Notre Dame.

"I like the interaction going back and forth. It's entertaining. I don't get mad about anything," Reeves said, although he often shares his political views in his responses.

Reeves said he likes that anyone can experience how Mosley must have taught through the years.

A former student now living in Dexter, Mo., Tim Ward heard about Mosley's Facebook polls through a friend in Texas.

Ward, who said his political views are conservative, responds to the polls every day, he said.

"Some days it's a simple yes or no," Ward said, "and sometimes I just want my voice to be heard." Mosley's polls give him a way to do that, he said.

Mosley now considers Facebook his favorite hobby.

"I don't spend my whole day on there," he said. "So I've become a little addicted to hearing that ding, you know, the noise it makes when someone posts. But it tells me someone has an opinion, and that's what I like to hear."

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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