RSS

Tag Archives: social media

I Got Another Puzzle For You*

geneandjack

Software has been developed to assist school principals in policing the online behavior of students; online behavior outside of school facilities and hours that is. Pointing out the folly of such a pursuit or the obscene waste of resources of such an endeavor is disheartening. As our public education system is eroding in rigor and well roundedness, do we really need yet another distraction? At what point are we Willy Wonka warning of yet another bad decision with hushed weary intonations of; “No. Stop. Don’t”?

The notion that a child’s behavior outside of school is the school’s business/problem is absurd. Unless the school is part of an orphanage it is not the school’s problem. The very idea that there could ever be any software program that could police all the children, in all electronic realms is simply science fiction. Children do stupid stuff. Kids can be mean. How they do this stuff is beside the point. Generations ago principals did not police finished basements, railroad tracks, bowling alleys and soda fountains. No doubt some principals at some point have cleaned graffiti off a bathroom wall, but they didn’t crouch in a corner ready to pounce upon the scribe (or at least I hope they didn’t.) Most of us of voting age were either bullied, a bully or a mix of the two at one point or another. It’s what kids do. Siblings torment siblings, classmates tease classmates, and kids terrorize neighbors (Boo Radley anyone?) It’s not nice, it’s nothing any adult is proud of, but it is part of growing up.

The issue is how children and the adults around them respond to such goings on. Bullying and extreme response to bullying both come from the same place; insecurity. Children are trying to find their way in the world and to feel some sense of control. A bully feels better about him or herself when they lord over someone. Being bullied feels crappy but should not feel like the end of the world. It becomes the end of the world when the bullying is unrelenting and perpetrated by many OR when the bullied is fragile. Fragility can take many guises but should be recognizable to parents. A fragile child does not have close (age appropriate) friends, reacts disproportionately to disappointment, and demonstrates excessive anxiety or (inward or outward) rage. Children who have trouble connecting to their world around them can be devastated by the sense that their world hates them. Children, particularly fragile children, are best served by having their world expanded. Multiple social networks (e.g., scouts, dance class, religious school, relatives, etc.) are an insurance policy against ostracization. Feeling good about one area of his/her life can be the light at the end of the tunnel for a bullied child.

The very idea that a principal should spend money and time trying to police the (often elusive) behavior of children is absurd. If there is that kind of time and money available perhaps we could get the arts back into the school? For decades arts, particularly theater, has been used with vulnerable populations to explore issues of empathy and self-esteem. Prisons and juvenile detention centers have changed lives with their theater arts programs. Children engaged in writing or visual arts projects learn about each other and find common ground. A school experience not based on physical agility or extroversion creates a more realistic environment for children. (Few adults have to make their way through every weekday by being popular.) Bullying and extreme response to bullying is about a response to lack of control. Adding more external control (which has no hope of being effective) completely misses the mark. Strong children are not built with surveillance systems. Strong children are built by a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Schools can play a part in that but to do so they need to focus on education not on in loco parentis.

*Oompa Loompa Song (1971) – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Childhood, Education

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blaming The Messenger

Naked_girl_a_box_of_rabbit_fur_1920s

Human beings do stupid things; in fact we’re kinda known for it. We are impulsive, petty and opportunistic. (We are also all kinds of wonderful things but those aren’t what get us in trouble.) We make bad choices particularly in our youth. It’s why parents and sealed criminal records were invented. We tend to get better at staying out of trouble and accruing regrets as we age. But if we are doing any kind of living, mistakes will be made.

Recently there’s been some chatter about jerry-rigging the repercussions of our bad choices. This post-behavior regulating centers on the internet. You know, the internet, that thing that apparently not only has changed how we communicate and access information but has changed the very core of human behavior. Not. Nothing about human behavior has changed. The fact that bad decisions can now live forever and be accessed by all has changed. But people have not just discovered; lying, bullying or taking nude photos. Having a naked image of oneself has always been tricky (there’s a reason that prostitutes were often hired by painters.) Since the invention of photography a woman’s (it’s almost always a woman) life could be upended in later years by the discovery of racy photos. Many an aspiring actress has had to survive having early “modeling” photos published upon her newfound fame. The internet didn’t invent disseminating naked pictures. Nor did it create the motive to do so.

The internet did also not invent bullying, or the incentive to do so. It is tempting to say otherwise as reports of bullying have grown as internet usage has. Causation and correlation are very different. Sales of ice cream increase at the same time that sex crimes increase. Eating ice cream does not cause an increase in sex crimes, but both behaviors do happen in warmer weather. The internet has grown in popularity as our lives have become much more external. Our children’s first photos now happen in utero (or pee stick.) Those photos are shared with the world. Our children now “graduate” kindergarten and those photos are shared with the world. They are taught from the very beginning that life occurs with an audience in place. Every action, or inaction is captured in still or moving image. Life is a performance and therefore far more external than it once was. It is challenging to develop a strong sense of self (and hence esteem) when so little is done independently or internally. It can happen, but it is difficult. A shaky sense of self is a breeding ground for bullying. Strong, confident people do not bully. Children with parents who are in control, strong, authoritative and present, know there’ll be repercussions for their nasty behavior. The reported rise in children committing suicide as a result of bullying is sobering. Children with a strong sense of self will be miserable when bullied. But children with an internal life will turn off the computer (as instructed by a parent) and refuse to look at the nastiness. A child with a sense of self will find other outlets and activities outside of the bullying sphere. Do adults have to pay closer attention? Absolutely, but it’s not the internet that’s causing this behavior.

It’s not the internet that causes people to make false claims about products or services. Fake reviews have existed since there’s been something to review. (“The Epic of Gilgamesh is a must read!!!!!”) Even legitimate reviews are manipulated to sell. Open any old-fashioned print newspaper and you’ll see adverts with blurbs unrecognizable to the reviewer. It’s always been a buyer beware world. Unless a review is authored by a trusted source, it’s safe to assume it’s not all that reliable. Do we really need laws to try and regulate fake reviews on the internet? If it was even possible to regulate false claims (and it’s not) why focus on the internet? There are people promising me instant weight loss, better skin, teeth and hair every minute on television. My newspaper is filled with press releases posing as articles, blatantly selling products, people or places. When did being discerning become something we can regulate?

The internet and social media have changed the speed and range of our communication. Globally we have access to information and entertainment previously unimagined. It’s a little bit archive, a splash of Town Square, a news ticker and an entertainment center. Many people simply have no frame of reference for something so expansive and it is tempting to anthropomorphize technology. It’s a fool’s errand to regulate human behavior on the internet. Technology is ever changing and people will find ways around any awkward measure to regulate. Teaching our children (and reminding ourselves) that nude photos can be embarrassing, bullying is a pitiful behavior of the weak, and liars usually get caught would serve us better.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Mark, A Yen, A Buck Or A Pound*

RedBanker

Few of us are billionaires, and even fewer of us would have our child sue her uncle for millions. It’s an unusual situation and is not all that relatable. Or is it? Ronald Perelman is not a typical billionaire in that he spends an inordinate of time in the gossip pages. He seems to enjoy the spotlight more than most; he did marry a NY Post Page 6 columnist after all. But his desire for attention is relatable, isn’t it? Most of us don’t live in a world of ten or eleven figure wealth or Vanity Fair and/or Town & Country gossip columns. But all that’s just excess make-up and costuming. If we peel away the drag performer layers and hold up a mirror, we may see something quite familiar.

Money often substitutes for many things beyond the gold system. Once people’s basic needs (e.g., food and shelter) are met money becomes quite fungible. Accumulating money often is a pursuit of security and stability. Spending money can be more complicated and fulfill a myriad of needs. Fighting about money is usually pretty straightforward. Most often it boils down to; “enough about you, what about me?” We can dismiss last will and testament contention as bold-faced greed, and certainly there is a nugget of truth to that. But often it’s more complicated & personal. True, it’s hard to fathom what’s personal about the fight over Huguette Clark’s fortune. (Distant relatives who had never met Ms. Clark are lining up with their hands held out.) It’s pretty clear that Mr. Perelman, having already lost this legal case against his ex-brother-in-law once in 2008, is willing to pay more than $60 million to be called a winner. Theoretically what’s at stake is $350 million for Mr. Perelman’s adult daughter. It’s nothing to sneeze at (unless of course you happen to have personal wealth of more than $14 billion.) None of the players need this money (except perhaps those representing the parties.) But haven’t we all at one time or another played tug-o-war over something barely worth holding on to? Aren’t our dealings with money often about how we want people to respond to us? Don’t we make choices about external displays of wealth (cars, homes, jewelry) because we want strangers to think we’re “worth” it? Haven’t we experienced mini (and not so mini) meltdowns in restaurants, on airplanes and in shops because of not being treated like a V.I.P.? Most everyone wants to feel valued, and in our country money is the most calculable symbol of that value. A multimillion hair pulling fight is really no different. “Enough about you, what about me?”

Appearing in gossip columns might not appeal to the majority of us but is there anyone who still holds dear the goal of appearing in the media only upon one’s marriage and death? People don’t wake at 5:00 AM to stand outside of the Today Show window because they don’t have access to television; they come to be on TV. We’ve become (over many decades) a much more extroverted culture who by and large basks in our close-up. Social media took off because it fulfills a need. We want to be heard, we want to be seen. Selfie anyone? There is an argument to be made in favor of this extroversion, and perhaps attention-seeking behavior. It could be seen as a harmless way to fulfill a very pressing need. If we consistently feel as if we have our moments to strut and fret upon the stage, perhaps it bodes well for our real life relationships. It’s easier to be more empathetic and generous of spirit if we feel valued in some aspect of our lives. It’s not far-fetched to posit that if attention is being paid in our social media life, we can pay closer attention in our real life world. It’s not entirely nuts to consider that interactions with (3-dimensional) friends and family can be more “enough about me, what about you?” And if we heightened the rose colored hue on our perspective, and perhaps close one eye; we might even see a future in which money could lose some of its emotional power.

*Money (1966) – John Kander & Fred Ebb

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Empty Nesting

nest

Empty nests aren’t what they used to be. In fact you might be hard pressed to find a nest with vacancies. This isn’t exactly news; we’ve been hearing about dismal job markets and diminished economic opportunities for young adults for quite some time now. It’s commonplace to hear of households that include adult children (and even their children.) What is rarely mentioned in these discussions is that it is often quite an agreeable arrangement. Modern parents and children (of all ages except perhaps peak adolescence) enjoy spending time together.

The generations share interests, activities and even clothing. They are often in constant communication and know a great deal about each other’s lives. In generations past this was rarely the case in traditional American families. A child had his/her circle of friends and interests and upon reaching adolescence rebelled against all that his/her parents represented. The politics, music and literature of the younger generation were unrecognizable to that of the older. The clothing, hairstyles and lingo were equally foreign and perhaps infuriating. Who would want to spend time with someone they couldn’t understand? An adolescent’s primary goal was to get out of the house and away from the hopelessly old-fashioned parents. College served that purpose well, as did first apartments (filled with like-aged and minded roommates.)

Something has happened in recent decades to blur the lines between the generations. The most intriguing aspect to the change is that it’s both the younger and older moving towards each other. If we were to jump in a jeep with our binoculars and pursue the average American nuclear family in their natural habitat, we would spot this morphing phenomenon. Parents and children (of all ages) look an awful lot alike. They dress alike, they groom alike, they text alike. The fact that this happens in public proves that everyone is okay with it. Daughters don’t mind (or perhaps even enjoy) their mothers appropriating their dark/cadaver like nail colors, sons enjoy/tolerate sharing their baseball caps with their fathers. From the back (if weight wasn’t a factor) you’d be hard pressed to determine which generation was which. It’s been a long time since we’ve witnessed a unified family look, in nature that is; it happens in Christmas cards all the time. Surely there’s a more recent example of this indistinguishable appearance; but it is Little House On The Prairie that comes to my mind.

If we were to hop out of the jeep and (lawfully) enter homes, we might discover that there is no “adult” space (formally known as the living room) and “child” space but instead “family” space. Unless a parent engages in a delicate or dangerous activity, there is probably no “off-limits” space within the home (for fun, check to see if there’s a lock on the parents’ bedroom.) The music, movies, social media, gadgets, and fitness regimes are most likely shared. This average family probably socializes together and often vacations together. They will attend all school and family events as a unit as well. To the novice jeep rider this may appear novel. But it is actually a very old phenomenon (see Little House reference.) Back when we were forging new territory and had little if any connections to the world, our nuclear family was our world. One’s fortunes and survival depended on the strength of the nuclear family.

It is slightly ironic that in an age of such instant and ubiquitous connectivity we revert back to an isolationist mode of living. But if we take a closer look (back in the jeep everyone) we will see that we are anything but connected to the larger world. When is the last time you had friends over for dinner? How often are you invited over for drinks? When was your last block party, potluck or open house? How many times a week, or even month, do you go out with friends (without children in tow?) How long have you been at your current job? Do you lunch or happy hour with your co-workers? How often do you attend religious or community events? Can you recall the last time you dropped by a friend’s home unannounced?

Some of our disconnection to the larger world is our own doing and choice, but some of it is not. A job isn’t life sentences any longer, nor is marriage. We move (by choice or not) and we start over. We lose contact and perhaps the confidence to make new contacts. We are so electronically plugged in that isolation can feel like a reprieve. Our work life is so heavily in favor of extroversion that off-hours cocooning is a sanity saver. The reasons we choose to enmesh with our nuclear family could be many. The affects are probably always the same; nests are less empty. What is indisputable is that if we stay in the jeep long enough (and refuel a few hundred times) we will see this phenomenon shift once again. In 25 years or so we will start hearing the ancient strains of; “What are you wearing?!” “Turn that noise down!” “That’s not a word!!!”

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 23, 2013 in Childhood, Cultural Critique

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Delicate Balance

nurse

As long as the world exists there will be cause for concern. There will always be people treating each other badly, leaders using extraordinarily poor judgment, and exasperating public sentiment. It is tempting to become mired in the infuriating or insipid. But it is not advisable. Most people, unless they fall into the sociopathic spectrum, care about the world around them. Some of us are more inclined to empathize with the natural world; some consider human rights their bailiwick. There are others who are more meta in their concerns and look at the world as a whole and think; OMG! Whether you choose from column A, B, C or make your own hodgepodge, it’s crucial to keep perspective.

There are people who dedicate their entire lives to affecting change. Their work, lifestyle and every waking moment are spent trying to eradicate something. Most of us however are not chaining ourselves to trees or sleeping outside of the Supreme Court. We do what we do; write checks, canvass voters, write elected officials, participate in protests, adopt strays; and hope it makes a tiny difference. We talk about what’s important to us in the hopes of raising consciousness (and with the fear that silence=complicity.) We teach our children about our politics and social values in the hope that they will be engaged and do good work. But just a small step beyond this lays the tricky territory. Thanks in no small part to our 24-hour news cycle & group think of social media, we can easily become mired.

We know this is more likely to happen during any type of disaster (“disaster” for our purposes is defined as anything that is named and given a news show graphic.) Rarely is there any “news” after a disaster, but the coverage churns on. When the last of the confetti has been swept, the media rolls out the “how to talk to your kids about (insert disaster moniker)” “Experts” tell us how to speak to children of every age (hint: make it age-appropriate.) Nobody ever seems to question how a child would know of this disaster. Unless the child is directly affected by it, why is anyone exposing them to the incident? We run the risk of having our child think of the world as a frightening unpredictable place. There’s no reason for them to know that just yet. Let them wait until they’re big and strong and feel less vulnerable.

Disasters aside, dismal things are always happening and as adults we must find our way. We must walk away from the chatter and toward meaningful conversation. We need to know our limits and put down the paper or remote. We need to decide how much is too much and find our balance of engagement. Life is more multidimensional than simply repairing the world. Life includes relationships, celebrations, and pleasure. It doesn’t help anyone or anything to compromise these gifts of life. What point is there in repairing a world in which there’s no joy?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,897 other followers