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Archive for the ‘Let’s Give ‘Em Something To Talk About’ Category

I like boys. I like being around boys. I like talking to boys. I like, no I love, teaching boys. Yesterday, I read a post, and the comments therein posted, titled Boys Suck. Teaching boys is one of the greatest joys I have in my career since many of the boys I teach are fun, funny, intelligent, and outgoing. Hearing educators complain about boys only reinforces the underlying causes behind the gender gap in higher education.

The gender gap in higher education should frighten people. Boys in higher education are becoming fewer compared to their percentage of the population. In fact, Ali Carr-Chellman addressed a lot of this in her TED talk “Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning.” The facts behind male education are frightening. In higher learning, according to the American Council on Education, boys represent 43% of those enrolled in or earning bachelor’s degrees. If you are a young man of color, that number decreases even further, with the American Council on Education stating that the numbers for Hispanic males were 42% in 2007-2008, a decrease from 45% in 1999-2000. According to information from the US Census bureau for the 2010 census, 50.8% of the US population is female and 49.2% is male. While there are 1.6% more females in the general population, there are 14% more females in higher education than there are males.

What does all this mean? Somewhere, Americans are failing their boys. Ms. Carr-Chellman discusses teachers who find gaming, or other boy interests, to be wasteful. She tells a story of a boy who wishes he could write a story about a tornado blowing apart a house but that his teacher would not like it. These two examples are but two of many that explore the manner through which boys are marginalized in K-12. Marginalizing even a small portion of a population, let alone nearly half of it, marginalizes all of us. When we preach education but focus only on those behaviors or interests that our society deems to be acceptable, we tell a segment of our population that education is only meant for those individuals who can conform to a set of proscribed interests. We discuss gender equality for women and want women to succeed, but why does that mean that we have to cause boys to fail?

Failure of any group, in part, relies on the views educators have towards their students. When an educator dismisses a student (or group of students) based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, that instructor has disenfranchised all the students in the room, not just the single ostracized group. When one group feels left out, they find themselves uninterested in the coursework as well as uninterested in maintaining an interest in the classroom environment. This disinterest based on marginalization can be interpreted as a disinterest in learning. However, feeling disrespected for simply being something – gender, religion, race – means that the student will withdraw from learning. This is basic human instinct. This withdrawal removes an entire realm of perspective from the classroom, one that if cultivated could add instead of detract. If boys are withdrawing, we, as educators, need to help them engage.

Aiding boys in their education does not mean pandering but understanding. Boys are often more kinetic. In education today, things like testing and information retention require calm and sedate behaviors. Classroom discussion often requires an orderly path of participation. However, understanding the need for boys to find their way means that at some level educators need to leave their own comfort zone and embrace those behaviors that make boys so enjoyable in the classroom.

The boys that have taught me the most about teaching boys are the ones that are the most rambunctious. I love having a raucous class that has lively discussion, humor, and fun. I love that my male students are often more willing to speak up on topics that interest them, while girls are more willing to give thoughtful comments even when they find the material useless. When my boys are engaged, they create a roomful of loud discussion and personal engagement. For example, when discussing self-identity with technology, a conversation that even briefly brings up the idea of the video game Call of Duty brought about a lively discussion not just of the game itself, but of how the players use the game to escape a mundane life. This was parlayed into a discussion of how people use avatars or social networking sites to create an identity that helps them escape from their normal lives. When discussing the debate culture in the classroom (a la Deborah Tannen), a link between the competitive nature of sports and the competitive nature of debate engages the boys. These simple links to topics that interested the boys helped them feel comfortable within the academic realm, giving them a sense of connection to the material and the classroom discussion.

Engaging students is not about pandering. Engaging students is about noting those overlaps between your materials and their interests. Boys are socialized differently than girls. In a writing class, for example, many boys have been socialized to believe that they are “bad writers”. They have been socialized to feel that writing is something for girls. They have been socialized to believe that the best writing is about emotion, not action. They feel that their writing should be about unicorns and rainbows, not pirates and swords. They have been socialized to feel that those things that interest them, sports or video games or rock music, have no relevance to the classroom. Girls have been taught that they can do anything, be anything, and learn anything. Are girls outnumbered in certain fields? Yes, they are, but educators recognize this and focus girls towards these fields. Are boys outnumbered in certain fields? Yes, but they are socialized to feel that this should be the norm.

Educators often discuss the need to understand different learning styles. The literature gives examples types such as aural, visual, and kinetic. Yet, in the majority of classrooms, those who are aural and visual have educators who can fit this into their classroom. Students who are kinetic learners often find themselves sitting at a desk listening and looking. At a certain educational level, the idea of manipulables are considered juvenile. However, for kinetic learners, a lesson as simple as “cut your outline up into strips and move the lines around” might be enough to help them see that their learning style can fit into even a college environment. A classroom activity using my two year old’s Duplo Legos (the only Legos in our home not attached to a specific “structure” such as the White House or Millenium Falcon) garnered more interest from my male students than any other lecture. The students had ten minutes to choose blocks, build a structure, and write instructions to re-create that structure that structure exactly (including by color of block). Pictures were compared between the originals and the re-created structures. The pedagogical goal was to teach students the need for clarity in writing. This kind of kinetic environment can be used in the college classroom while still maintaining the necessary decorum.

For the adventurous, allowing the boys to use sports or video games as their examples that relate back to classroom materials may seem to lead to chaos. Using the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry (or Patriots-Giants rivalry) as the example of how to create an argument focusing on a thesis (which team is better) can get the boys engaged in the idea that they exhibit these skills without realizing it. Of course, it also can lead to a heated debate regarding team hegemony, which of course only further proves the ability to prove an argument.  However, a controlled chaos is the discussion I love the most in my classroom. I love when my students are so passionate that they gesticulate or want to bang a table. I love the way that a discussion can become more than just words but show how words can evolve into physical actions. I love when my boys find themselves comfortable enough to step into the academic realm. For boys who have found themselves treated as troublemakers for being active, having a place in the academic world wherein they can express their thoughts without being sent to the principal is important.

Few boys will walk into a conference room at the age of twenty-five and expect the roundtable discussion of their file to relate to sports or a video game. Few boys will feel the need to talk loudly or be rambunctious in the office space. However, those boys will never be able to get to those conference room if educators keep marginalizing them based on their gender and interests. I love boys. I love teaching boys. What I want to see in colleges are more boys. Boys. Boys. And more boys.

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Society. That’s what. Over the last few months, bullying has become a disconcerting trend in the news. First, there was the story of Tyler Clement. Then the Trevor Project went viral.  Bullying over sexual and gender preferences has come to the national forefront, as well it should.

However, where does this all begin? Earlier this semester, I worked with students discussing the nerd and jock stereotypes. Resoundingly, my students told me that my understanding of the high school social structure was outdated. “There’s no such thing as the nerd!” they cried. “Smart kids do sports. This whole nerd thing is dumb.” “We’re all the same!” They all insisted that these were universal truths.

In the last few weeks, Katie’s Story has gone viral. Katie is a little girl who loves Star Wars. Her mother is absolutely correct – tolerance is preached in schools, but this does not mean that children accept it. Children look for those who are different, pinpoint those differences, and find ways to belittle those differences. In fact, in a class where students insisted that nerds and jocks were outmoded stereotypes, one student argued about a segment of a reading discussing gay porn that the reading created discomfort since it discussed “man on man sex” a lot even though “it’s not like I’m homophobic.” No, we’re not homophobic. We’re intolerant of differences that don’t jibe with our sense of social norms. There’s a difference, but there’s not.

The difference, to be honest, is that kids learn these norms at a young age. I’m more than proud of the fact that Monster knows Blitzkrieg Bop (B Bop) and can sing “Ay! Oh! … Go!” I’m beyond proud that he wants his Yoda shirt in the morning (even if that means making sure we have multiple ones in the house and have to make sure at least one is clean on any given day to prevent insane meltdowns). I’m thrilled that he looks at handstamps, then at his wrists, and gets a confused face because Mommy has “stamps” on her wrists known as “tattoo.” I’m proud of these things.

I’m not always proud of myself. I’m not proud that when I saw a kitchen set on sale at a local toy store I didn’t scoop it up. Although, in my defense it was more about having a lot of Christmas gifts already, a tantrumey child, and no idea how I’d truck that sucker home than it was about gender issues. I’m not proud that I don’t point out pink to him (although, it’s more along the lines of “I hate the color pink in general and want to view as little as humanly possible” than it is about not wanting my son to like pink). I’m not proud that I don’t offer him as many stereotypically non-boy things as I do stereotypically boy things.

Last weekend, we took Monster to Lego Kidsfest. For me, this experience tops the list of things I’ve done with my son. Why? I’m inculcating him to the concept of convention culture. I love that there are places where people of all ages can come together and share their favorite hobbies. I’m saddened that it was very obvious that there were far fewer girls than boys at Lego Kidsfest. Boys dominated. I’m saddened that when I walk into a local kids’ art place, it seems geared slightly more towards girls (two Fancy Nancy parties and one Planes, Trains, and Cars). I’m saddened that when I visited the art place, it was more girls than boys. I’m saddened that the things we assume our children will like when they’re young are things that have a gender identity, even if it’s subconscious through the use of colors and names.

For example, why are there only four female trains in the Thomas stories? Trust me, Monster has a serious crush on Rosie. I can safely say that I know almost all the trains by name at this point. Why aren’t there more female trains? Why does one of them have to be pink/lavender while the others are mostly primary colors? (At least Emily is a nice, happy, shade of dark green.) Why does Foofa have to be pink (with the requisite flower sticking out of her head) while both Brobee and Muno are regular primary colors (at least Toody is blue…)? Why do I walk into the Target children’s section or the Old Navy children’s section and see that all the cool graphic shirts are in the boys’ department while all the pink hearts and flowers are in the girls’ department? Why can’t there be flannel plaid shirts in the girls’ section?

The answer is the word stereotype. I spent the last three months trying to explain to my students why stereotypes matter, even though they insist that stereotypes don’t really exist today. This is the problem. This disbelief in the existence of stereotypes is where the bullying starts. Bullying against gays, blacks, Jews, women, and all the other more obvious societal categories is beyond wrong. Please, for those of you who know me or have read this blog before, understand that the following is more about the insidiousness of stereotypes as a whole as opposed to an attempt to minimize the larger societal issues of racism, Antisemitism, or sexism. This is about the underlying issues that society needs to address.

From a young age, we teach children that there are differences. In fact, children very often, notice differences, as basic as shirt color (yes, I read this somewhere…but my memory is escaping me.). Children and all people categorize. Categorizing on its own is not wrong. Categorizing but attaching a positive/negative connotation is where the problem occurs. These connotations are insidious in our culture and are part of the cause of the general bullying.

For example, why do there need to be separate lines of clothing for men and women when it comes to things like sports or Star Wars? Why should boys be the only ones who get to wear plaid? Why should there be a whole wall of really cute sneakers and shoes for little girls in Stride Rite and about two racks of similar looking shoes for boys?

At the youngest of ages, as small as birth, people start transferring implications onto their children. Yes, my son listens to the music I like. I’ll be damned if he didn’t decide he likes Thomas on his own. He also likes ABBA. He also loves his Rosie train. When we take him to the library, he beelines for the kitchen set area. More often than not, there are more girls than boys there. Within these seemingly minor moments lie the undercurrents of bullying. Bullying arises when people sense a difference from a perceived norm. Bullying arises when people assume that a difference implies that one of the options is better or worse than another.

With little Katie, it’s simply that most stores make blue Star Wars toys. With my son, it’s people looking at him and assuming that he doesn’t want a toy kitchen. These toy issues seem so very minor in the greater scope of societal prejudices and issues. However, they are the inception of the larger issues. They are the moments that define where children, who later grow into adults, learn their sets of norms. The norms of gender begin at a young age. However, these are not the only norms.

Over the course of the last three months, I’ve attempted to explore with my students the idea that intelligence, and thus the “nerd” stereotype, have evolved for various reasons. My students have steadfastly refused to admit that there is such a stereotype. The fact remains that when we look at those people considered “nerds” – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, or Mark Zuckerberg – an underlying “less than” implication exists. Sure, they’re smart. Sure, they’re wealthier than half of the American population combined. However, there just has to be something wrong with them. More people can recognize Sarah Palin or Dennis Kucinich than will be able to recognize two of the Supreme Court Justices. We can say that it’s because Supreme Court Justices do not use words like “refudiate” or run for president. The truth is that their job is far too esoteric for most Americans to grasp beyond the most basic level. By pretending that all people are equal, that there are no underlying norms regarding some amorphous agreed-upon level of intelligence, is to inculcate another stereotype. Like all stereotypes, this is another insidious way of creating bullying. One cannot be too smart. One cannot be too interested in some movie. One cannot love a certain type of music. One cannot fall in love with someone of the same sex.

Pretending that people do not recognize differences does not erase these differences nor does it erase the connotations contained therein. Assuming that tolerance means acceptance makes all of us ignorant.  Tolerance implies permission to be different but not necessarily liking it. Tolerance implies that people won’t do harm. Tolerance does not erase the inherent distinctions made between norm and non-norm. Tolerance simply assumes that people will not act upon these distinctions. However, if people begin to believe that tolerance equates to acceptance, then change cannot be made.

Acceptance implies an inherent approval. Assuming that permission equates to approval is the fallacy of many of the non-bullying activities in schools today. Accepting that people are not the same is a whole different story. Many young people feel that because they have learned about prejudice and why it is bad that they have learned acceptance. Bullying in the most obvious sense – racism, sexism, anti-gay, anti-religion – is what most children think about when we teach them about prejudice. They assume that by not using words like “nigger” or “faggot” that they have evolved beyond the underlying thoughts. They assume that because the American president was elected “in spite of” his race, that Americans have evolved. We now tolerate differences. We do not, as evidenced by many things in the last few years, accept.

Bullies inherently understand that while they need to tolerate the big things, they do not need to accept them. In fact, they feel that they do not need to accept differences as a whole. We cannot teach acceptance of all things. Acceptance, or the approval of differences, is a personal choice. We can teach the idea that different does not equate to negative. We can teach that just because you disapprove of something does not mean you have to demonize it. However, to truly define what lies within a bully, we need to understand that by teaching tolerance we are merely hiding the problems. Parents, more than anyone else, need to understand that teaching tolerance only furthers the bullying. Within every bully lies a tolerant child. Teaching children to understand that differences can be either chosen or not and that these differences do not imply a positive/negative connotation is different. People do not have to agree with everyone else’s choices. People do not have to agree with everyone else’s lifestyles. People do not have to agree with everyone else’s decisions. People should, however, learn that different does not mean demon.

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The Stock Market Crash of 1929 is to people in their 70’s

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Pearl Harbor is to people in their 60’s

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Segregated schools are to people in their 50’s

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JFK’s assassination is to people in their 40’s

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The Fall of Saigon is to people in their 30’s

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The outbreak of AIDS is to people in their 20’s

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The Fall of the Berlin Wall is to people in their teens

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9/11/02 is to kids born today

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In a lot of ways, this probably is going to be an unpopular post. First, I need to point out that yes, I consider myself a feminist. However, my definition of feminism is probably different from that of a lot of other women. I’ll jump on the women’s empowerment bandwagon. I’ll admit that I was thrilled to see women prominently figured in national politics this year (regardless of how I feel about them politically). However, lately, I’ve begun to wonder about how the United States views men.

Now, before posting angry comments about how women still fight for their rights on a daily basis, read the rest of this post. There is no denying that, in a lot of ways, women can still be seen as being behind in the workforce, socially, economically, or in many other ways. However, the problem is that in many ways, this is emblematic of issues with how US society views men as well.

The most wonderful part of the last nine months has been watching Mr. A prepare to become a dad. He’s dedicated. He’s excited. He kind of glows every time he walks out of the children’s section of the bookstore with yet another book that his soon-to-be-born-son won’t be able to appreciate for another, oh, two to five years. However, it’s sweet. It’s nice to see.

Parenting, however, does tend to focus on mothers and not fathers. A few months ago, we went to the obligatory “labor and delivery” class. While I appreciate that Mr. A is not going to be shoving a watermelon out of a hole the size of a pea, I also recognize that he is far more integral to this process than simply being a sperm donor. The class focused entirely on the mother, negating the idea that maybe the dads are nervous, as well. Dads were taught to massage mom, help mom, and give mom support. These are important. Moms in labor are, well, laboring. As one about to go through it, I do not doubt that certain expletives and promises about future conjugal options will be shouted in a very loud voice. That being said, new dads are just as nervous, scared, anxious, worried, and emotional as moms in the delivery room. No focus was given at all to this. In many respects, this is nothing but a symbol of how our society treats men.

Even further, when the hospital discusses the importance of “skin to skin” touch, the focus seems entirely placed on the baby’s ability to bond with the mother. Bonding between mother and child is important. No one can doubt this. However, again, why does no one point out that the same bonding can occur between a father and his child as well? Apparently, to many people, a man’s purpose is to do nothing but watch his wife and child forge a bond without him. Even further, all discussions about breast feeding focus on how dad can support mom. This is important, again, no doubt. Many mothers struggle with breast feeding. Many mothers need encouragement and support in order to be able to follow through successfully on their family plan. (Note: This is not meant to indicate a personal judgment regarding breast feeding or formula feeding. That is a family’s decision, and each family needs to make that decision itself.) However, the question that can be asked s whether it is wrong for men to feel left out while watching mother and child bond in this most intimate of ways. Yes, it is important for dad to support mom and baby. Yes, there are ways for dad to be involved, if mom pumps or the family decides to supplement. However, while men cannot biollogically be involved in this process, it again shuts men out of the parenting process.  Once again, men are shifted to the backseat when it comes to childrearing. Even worse? If there’s a carseat back there, it’s an awfully cramped backseat.

Look, for example, at the idea of paternity leave . First of all, unlike many parenting discussions for women, this particular one is filed under (if you look at the URL itself) “Business, Career Management” as opposed to Health. The mere filing of this article under “Career Management” implies thhat for fathers, work must come first. They must remain breadwinners. They must be the ones to manage their careers. Even articles that focus oh the role of men in the family see that role in terms of how it applies to work. Men often have to take vacation time or personal time in order to be at home with their new child. Paternity leave in several other countries gives men equal time (or at least the option of equal time) to spend with their children. This difference between how men’s role in the family is viewed and how women’s role in the family is viewed once again exemplifies how far American society has not come.

As a society, support abounds for working moms. However, what about working dads? Working dads may be just as frustrated and upset about not spending time with their children. However, as a society, Americans do not seem to care. Yes, many articles are written for women about how to balance work and home . However, while the paternity leave was the third article under a search for “paternity leave”,  the suggestion that women be able to bring children to work was the fourth article under a search for “maternity leave.” Women are encouraged by society to integrate the two. If they are not encouraged, at least society views it as a potential opportunity someday down the line. Men, in this society, are viewed as ones who should still put career first and family second. Women are shown ways to attempt to have it all, if they can (which often they find they can’t).

Stay-at-home dads are treated, often, as second class citizens. Some women have complained about how others treat their husbands or significant others who choose, for whatever reason, to stay home with the baby. While women may pressure other women about whether to work or stay home, society, in many ways, gives women an opportunity to choose. Men, often, are not presented with this opportunity. Women are not rejected in society for choosing to stay home. Men often are. None of this is to say that women are not pressured, by themselves or others, to choose to stay home, even when it is not potentially the right decision for them. It is, however, to say that women have support networks readily available to them that men do not have.

This societal pressure on both genders inherently inhibits equality. As long as men are treated as the traditional breadwinners, women can never truly be equal. As long as society continues to view men’s role as subservient within the family structure, men will continue to be frustrated by what they cannot – be it physically or financially – do. If men are treated, socially as opposed to within the individual family unit, as second to mothers when it comes to child rearing, women will continue to face the uphill battle that they have been fighting for years. The key to true equality is to allow choices for both genders. Women should not have to fight alone for equality in the workplace, and men should not have to fight alone for equality in the home. Men and women need to understand that for either gender to be fully accepted as humans in their own right, they need to work together. Men and women need to fight for equality equally. Until that time, women will have a stigma attached to them in the workplace, and men will have a stigma attached to them at home. These are the apron ties that bind society to ideals of family and mother/fatherhood and keep it from growing and evolving.

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Way all the way back in September, the first CT Forum of the year was all about the internet. Since then, this post has been kicking around and mocking me. It was started in September. That being said, it sat here partially written festering and gestating over the last few months. Finally, it can be born in a way that does the thoughts justice.

The most interesting aspect of the evening, given my uses of myspace, facebook, and Ravelry, was the discussion by danah boyd . The discussion of social networking online by teens created more questions than answers. One of the statements she made essentially said that teens are doing today the same things that the rest of us did when we were there age, just on the internet instead of the mall. She also talked about how friending works for teens online. She said that there’s three basic levels. First, people whose friends network is in the 10 -20 range. These people keep their connections intimate. After that, the numbers jump to 200-350. These are the people who basically friend their entire high school, analagous, per the moderator, to giving Valentines to everyone in your class in elementary school. After this group, the numbers again jump substantially to somewhere in the 500+ range. Then the discussion turned briefly to the idea of “Top Friends” on myspace and how the drama that ensues over who are your bestest friends tends to be similar to all other teenage dramas. Finally, in a discussion of what these kids will expect in the workforce, Ms. boyd discussed how teens today are connected to each other 24-7 via email, social networking sites, and text messaging.

This then, in turn, brings up the question as to how adults use social networking sites. Recently, a friend determined that he was doing a great job at work when his new boss invited him to his linkedin profile. Obviously, adults are using the internet to network socially. LinkedIn is like a professional myspace. Adults use it to make work connections. This seems the most pure use of adult social networking sites. Grown ups create profiles and add people to help themselves network in their professional careers. This acts as a myspace for the working world. Ok, so they are not adding bands and actors and movies, but the same basic concept applies.

However, even more interesting, are websites in which social networking is a component of the overall purpose of the website. For example, Ravelry assembles knitters, crocheters, and other fiber hounds together in one place. Currently, in its beta form, users must have an account. Mainly this requirement is so that the servers do not crash from over use prior to being fully functional. The effect of this, however, has been that the boards are rampant with users talking, sharing, and creating friendships. Topics of discussion include such things as patterns, yarns, religion, politics, other hobbies, pets, and kids. Indeed, several in real life friendships have been cultivated using the groups dedicated to location and, ironically, tattoos. As with myspace and facebook, membership is free.

In addition, Fertility Friend is a website dedicated to helping women work through the process of trying to conceive a child. The main thrust of this website is a charting program that aids in helping women chart their little ways to the joys of motherhood. Charting, essentially, involves taking a temperature every day and watching for other signs of fertility in an attempt to knock a home run out of the ball park of the bed. The website, however, is not free. The VIP membership involves additional charting capabilities, but also a chat function, a posting board function, and an ability to add friends. This allows women struggling with issues surrounding conception to come together, share their experiences, and talk. Because, really, aren’t women all about the talking?

Are adults essentially doing the same thing as teens in these online communities? The hypothesis, using only personal experience, is yes and no. Aside from uses of myspace and facebook by adults in their 20’s and 30’s, most of the websites through which adults are networking have an interest or some overarching theme that brings them together in the first place. Ravelry brings together fiber enthusiasts. LinkedIn brings together career minded folk. Fertility Friend brings together women going through the trying to conceive experience. The common denominator for many adults seems to be the urge to share a common interest or experience. Even websites like harmony.com and match.com have a common interest or experience – one of wanting to meet other people to cultivate a romantic relationship. Interestingly, more and more adults are using social networking websites in new ways in their lives. People are coming together, but they have a common starting point – a goal, an interest. Social networking websites are rapidly becoming the new church socials or town halls.

The friendships people are cultivating are of two types. Some are ones that transfer over into the real world. Others remain, due to geographical constraints, firmly rooted in the online world. The question that much research has begged is whether people are becoming more or less emotionally connected because of the rise of these internet connections. Ms. boyd, in some of her research, indicates that due to teens not having truly private spaces available to them, the internet is a place where they can be themselves, find their identities, and experiment without having adults constantly overseeing their activities. Meanwhile, what are adults doing? They are essentially doing the same thing. For adults, the social networking often appears to be an attempt to continue to find one’s identity within an emerging world. For example, Ravelry is specifically for fiber enthusiasts, mainly because no one else would want to be there. People are finding that they can leave their limited social segment behind – socioeconomic, religious, and physical -to reach out to other people. People who feel isolated are looking to social networking websites, even if that is not the website’s main intent, as ways to connect. Fiber enthusiasts are not the largest community in the world. Many people have no one around who can understand their obsession. Thus, coming together online allows them to feel more connected to other people. Even if that connection is one that lives only in the pixels and electronic buzzing that is the internet.

The same is true with a website such as Fertility friend. Trying to conceive a child can be difficult. One’s friends, family and even spouse may not understand wholly. Women coming together to discuss their triumphs and tribulations gives them a chance to share their thoughts and feelings, realizing they are not alone. Moreover, in the course of these most intimate of discussions, the whole of their lives become spread open for all to see. The intimacy is one based not just on a common interest but on the most intimate details of a person’s life. These women are negotiating a new identity as women trying to become mothers.
So, without statistical analysis and without in depth research, what do these observations mean? What they mean, it can be supposed, is that adults and teens are not that different. These social connections fulfill, whether they extend to real life or remain on the internet, new frontiers in the ever evolving world of self-identification. Connections made through the internet can be as real as those made in person. Sometimes, since people can find a bit of comfort in detail sharing anonymously, they can become stronger than those in person. It is possible to know more about the history of someone an individual meets on the internet than about a person one has been friends with in real life for years. Sharing of uncomfortable details is easier when eye contact can be avoided. Sharing of feelings is often easier when body language cannot be seen or voice cannot be heard since the fear of implied rejection can be avoided. These friendships can involve just as much support and caring as those made through eye contact and body language.

So, as adults continue to negotiate the world of the internet, perhaps they will be able to renegotiate their identities in an evolving world. Perhaps, even for the oldest of the old school, the ‘net will provide a a social safety net, a place to be oneself and to find oneself without having to up and drive cross country in a 1960’s VW van.

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