Thursday, January 31, 2013

on the line on-line

Today I'm thinking about privacy. Again.

It started with a sort of good news story that came across the feed this morning -- a mother of a suicidal teen started a Facebook page in order to try to rally support around her son. Then a friend of his also started a page.

It's a good news story because it's a positive -- a positive step -- a hope for healing.

So I'm trying to figure out why it makes me so uncomfortable -- why I am more concerned than hopeful at this moment...

I want to say -- again, and as clearly as possible, that there is absolutely no judgement in my wanting to write about this today. The only purpose in what I am doing it to try to create conversation inside of this shifting landscape we find ourselves in. I do not know this woman, nor do I have any reason to believe she is doing anything other than trying to find a way to help her son. And I have only the facts of my own life and my own children -- not hers.

Still, I think it is important to try to have these discussions in order to air the layers of complication involved in our new social situation...

I could see so many outcomes for her site -

1. I could see it result in an out pouring of warmth and affection and make it possible for the boy to find a larger word -- one that does, in fact, reside just outside of the prison walls of his own isolation and bullied life.

2. I could see the mother finding support and a community that she needs as well.

3. I could see the cause of anti-bullying being furthered.

Unfortunately, I can also see some negative possibilities.
And if any of these negative possibilities occur, they will do so publicly.
I think, for me right now, it feels like a public offering of someone else's vulnerability.

We all come to these conversations from the culmination of our own life. A bit of personal background, which I offer because I think it is important to explain my own experience -- which might explain any number of things...

I had a mother who liked to go to friends for public support and collaboration in times of trouble. I think, truly, it was because she didn't feel qualified or capable of handling things on her own or believing in her own opinion.

Also -- my son was bullied badly in first grade. He was punched and choked and lived in fear for months before we knew -- at a small little hippie school in Cambridge, MA. He was such a wreck I had to pull him out of school -- four years later we all still have to work on it sometimes. It was a very isolating time -- the school administration, family, and even other parents who were close friends didn't believe or see what was going on. It was incredibly scary and was the worst year of my life.

I have watched with interest -- sometimes sorrow and fear -- the personal and emotional outpourings of my friends, family and colleagues over the last five years on Facebook. We all know what that looks like -- when people turn to the wall as a place to vent, or simply fall apart in public. Friends have confessed their inability to stop drinking, poets have exhibited their poor mental health...

I'm sure -- and there are stories -- that kids are making all sorts of trouble for themselves on line, in their hormonal and social hells...

But I think for me the danger really arises when a parent puts their children's vulnerabilities on line.
While I honestly believe she will find a huge outpouring of support, I also feel like there is a good chance she -- or he -- will meet with some hostility -- from strangers or from people in their own world.

I am concerned about his feelings, his privacy.
In a way, I think our kids are getting to understand the new privacy in a way that we don't at all -- so that in this world they are native to they are often more savvy about what to keep private than we grown ups are...

And also, while I can see the appeal of a virtual community, I think that there is no substitution for real, physical love and intervention.

Lastly, I think sometimes it is hard to dissent in the face of waves of sentiment on social media. And that is the biggest danger of all, of course.

We just have to keep talking and figure it all out together.

Most of all I hope that this boy, this mother, this family and community find peace and warmth and safety and ease.

Friday, January 25, 2013

This morning I'm thinking about all of the negative mommy stories that come up on my news feed. I subscribe to a wide base of parenting blogs, magazines, sites etc... this morning I read a story about a mom who gifted, 10 years in advance, a boob job for her 7 year old daughter.

Of course, at first, horrified. Sad. Concerned.

But isn't this a little like a freak show at the circus? Didn't everyone want to see... wasn't everyone disgusted... weren't we all relieved to feel, in perspective, beautiful perfect and blessed, if only for 10 minutes...

It preys on our basest instincts -- this gawking at the perversions of reality.

I would love to see posts about great mommy moments they had this week... not in the way to brag or make jealous or to hold ourselves above... damned, we ARE all in this together. We are all disfigured and beautiful, calamities and perfect...

just to celebrate together. This week my son has taken to telling me I'm funny each time I make him laugh... it makes me really happy.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two things caught my eyes this evening on Facebook.

One was the news that Gina Davis' foundation just got a great grant from Google to study gender roles in the media. Read the Wired article here.

The other was a syllabus from a new online poetry course from Yale University.

Ok -- first off, I think both of these things are terrific.

Girls in the media -- it's overwhelming sometimes how little things change -- how the images are still shockingly damaging, and the roles incredibly narrow still...

And the open classroom thing -- fabulous! Some of the best universities in the country -- probably the world -- opening their virtual doors to anyone who has the inclination. Education for education's sake -- purely -- from both directions.

But each -- and both within the span of the five minute news feed -- lead me to crystalize a few other thoughts I've been having.

There are a lot of amazing things for girls on the web -- social media seems full of them. I post a lot of them on the Facebook page. Girls are doing great things, and using the internet to broadcast their brilliance. As a former girl -- and a graduate of a women's college, ta boot -- I understand that this is a new access granted our daughters. It's stunning and world opening and exciting.

As the mother of both a boy and girl, I wonder where are the chances for my son. While I do not have any doubt that society will take care of my privileged, white boy creature -- I'm not sure where the growth and the excitement and the enthusiasm will come from. I want him to do some of the things I seem my daughter embracing -- thinking about the whole world, and changing it through social media and his own actions!

And then they Yale poetry course:
Plus two white women and one black man.

I honestly believe that until we change the way we teach boys to view the world -- and teach the world to view boys -- nothing can change all that much...

Friday, October 26, 2012

I just watched a segment from Nightline "Porn Before Puberty".

Definitely food for thought this morning. I am constantly thinking and rethinking the boundaries in my own house... what strikes me after first watching this is that this child experienced sexual abuse perpetrated by the computer -- and that her response also seems in keeping with that... which is frightening and confusing...

I definitely need to spend some time writing about this... and talking to some professionals...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Feel Pretty...

So here's what's on my mind today...

Last week I changed my profile picture -- for various reasons. Maybe sometimes it feels like cutting my hair or moving around the furniture... I like playing with the photos -- I like the big photos on timeline... I just did.

40 people liked it. I was really embarrassed. I mean -- very very sweet -- and friends from all different times and places in my life said all sorts of sweet things to me... always nice to hear. I felt very loved -- which in fact, I think I am. Very lucky to have the good sense to surround myself -- inner and wider circles with people I admire, who I know support me in life... I hope my children will find that warmth. Thank you, friends.

But the truth of the picture is -- I don't feel pretty. I took it on my computer -- because someone said I needed a not professional picture (I am also lucky enough to have professional photographers in my life...) -- but it's close, and appleish -- and I think I look like I feel -- which is kind of middle aged and tired. A little darkly circled. A little forced -- how on earth do you smile for yourself. When I take photos I make people laugh really -- I take 10 rolls of film until they forget I am there -- and my favorites are slightly blurred from the movement of the laughter in contrast to the stillness of my hands.


Today I am writing for the book about social media. So I went on a teenage friends page to check out what she's been up to lately. She is one of the sweet sweet girls I know -- a natural beauty with an innocence within. She is also "beautiful" -- with long legs and long blonde hair -- high cheek bones and a warm smile. On her page, over the last week, about 10 different people -- from many different times and places in her life -- told her how pretty she was.

And I wondered what effect this will have.

On her. I wonder if it makes her feel pretty. I wonder if it gives her real confidence. I wonder if she had a bad day, if she felt like a fraud. I wonder if a week passed and no one told her she was pretty if it would upset her... because she is 13. And that is what it feels like then...

And on her friends -- who are not so pretty.

Of course there are always pretty girls and not pretty girls...
but I do wonder how all of this plays out for them on line...

For myself, I don't think there's anything to be done, really... except remember, again, to notice for my daughter and my friends who are girls, not to comment on their clothes or on their looks -- but to ask them about their school work and their successes - their politics or their interest in language or math...

to share with them as much as I possibly can about love and kindness and the beauty of the world...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

 I also just shared this with my daughter on social media.
It's an article about yoga and transforming fear. My daughter has a phobia she has been really struggling with and we have been talking a lot about what to do about it.

Now -- we all know she's going to tear up at the Katy Perry one, and who knows if she'll make it through the first paragraph of this -- but I wanted to share for a minute what it is that I mean when I say that I like social -- that I like that my kids are on it (yes, the plurality happened this week...) and that I think there is benefit. Even as all of my like minded friends are appalled...
I just shared this with my daughter on social media. (I e-mailed it to her, too.)