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.