Hey Internet, How About We NOT Be Dicks to Children?

New_Jersey_Counties_by_metro_area_labeled.svgI take a lot of crap for the fact that I religiously watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I’ve been watching it for years. Yes, I think it’s ridiculous, and no, I won’t stop watching it because it’s not high-brow enough. You take your mindless entertainment and I’ll take mine (and can we please agree that everyone knows that no one in the entire history of the Real Housewives franchise represents actual real housewives, but we can know that and still enjoy the mindlessness of it?).

So all day, I’ve been reading articles and following along with the fraud trial and sentencing involving Teresa and Joe Giudice, who have been cast members since the show’s first season.

The story has been trending on social media all day, and as such, there is no shortage of people pointing fingers and passing judgment all over the damn place. It’s really irritating me. Really irritating me. To the point where I thought, “Ok, I’m not going to get up on a soap box about the Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

And then I thought of the Giudices’ four daughters, ages 5-13, and I thought: I have a soapbox. It’s called a blog. And so I apologize, but I’m about to get a little righteous. Because what is happening to those girls tonight is not okay.

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Turn and Face the Strange

Why is it so easy to get comfortable? We call ourselves proponents of change and say that we welcome it, but we settle into this state of happy lethargy and contentment. We might not be fine with where things are or where we are with them, but we’ll choose to be (or at least say we are) because it makes it easier and then we don’t have to think about it. When did it become favorable to never want to push ourselves or test our boundaries in any and all areas of our lives? Continue reading

When Social Media Becomes Internet Bullying

Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of your Facebook friends advertising their Formspring accounts lately, especially if you’re friends with high school or college students. By my [completely unresearched] estimation, they seem to be the largest demographic. If you haven’t heard of Formspring and don’t know what it’s all about, suffice it to say that it’s a social media forum through which people ask each other questions. If you’d like a more thorough description of its services, feel free to check it out.

In an age where we have so many different resources available to ask people questions, I’m not totally sure why a service like this is even necessary. If you want to know what your friend’s favorite movie is, why not just ask in person? Ask on Facebook. Ask on Twitter. Ask on AIM. Pick up the phone and call or text. This seems to be billed as a “getting-to-know-you” kind of service, allowing people to ask questions in order to, well, get to know someone better. In that respect, it seems like Internet speed-dating. Remember back in the ’90s when everyone warned us not to meet up in “real life” with anyone we met in AOL chat rooms? Then all of a sudden online dating services started encouraging us to do just that. Did people suddenly become much more honest and trustworthy? Doubtful. But I digress. Formspring also advertises this site as a way for people to ask questions of their favorite authors and celebrities (something that many of them already do on Twitter. I see public figures advertising their Twitter accounts all the time. I’ve yet to see one advertise a Formspring). Continue reading

High School Reunion? No, Thanks. I’m on Facebook.

About a month ago, I met up with a few high school friends I hadn’t really seen since that time. They were a grade ahead of me and had just gone to their ten-year reunion. I asked them how it was and the general description they gave was that it was just like high school. As I listened to their accounts, it reminded me of sitting in the cafeteria. Every group was at its own table. People who weren’t friends didn’t talk to each other. No one ever went mingling around to different tables unless an extension of a group of friends was there. I wasn’t really surprised to hear that people stuck to their high school cliques.

Then I started thinking about my own impending reunion. I’m sure that in the next six months or so, some sort of Facebook group will crop up telling me that I have to join or I’m not invited.

Once upon a time, high school reunions had formal invitations. They were a place to come home and get back together with old friends one had lost track of over the years. It was a time to be nosey and find out who was making the most money, who got fat, who got bald, who married way above or below their social caste. It was a time to meet people’s spouses, hear about divorces, see pictures of former classmates’ kids and, unless you were one of the nosiest, pretend to give a crap. Continue reading

The Internet Giveth, and the Internet Taketh Away

There’s something ironic about the fact that I have such conflicted opinions of social media and electronic communication when it is by and large the way I most often communicate. It always makes me think of the Wally Lamb novel She’s Come Undone. If you haven’t read the book, let me first recommend it (or anything Wally Lamb has written, really) before saying that I won’t ruin it for you by giving too many details. Suffice it to say that in the novel, the main character’s life goes into a tailspin after she receives her first television and her life completely changes (and not really for the better).

I was in 8th grade, awkward, shy, socially backwards, and probably with ugly shoes, when my family got its first computer and AOL account. Going into chat rooms changed the way I communicated with people. With the safety of being behind a screen, it was more difficult for people to hurt me, and I had a much easier time letting my true personality show – my sense of humor and my compassionate side, particularly. (However, for those who think Internet bullying is a relatively new concept, I can attest to the fact that it existed in the mid-to-late 90s. Some of the same people who said mean things to me at school found me online and said mean things there, too. Kids are sharks.)

It wasn’t long before I went from chatting with friends and total strangers to talking to people I didn’t know well at my school. This was a cop-out in some ways and good in others. I would never have talked to these people at school, nor would they have likely talked to me, without the buffer of a chat window. However, when it was time to meet face-to-face with classmates (I never met strangers for obvious reasons), I knew that they would think it odd if I didn’t act in accordance with who they knew me to be: my “online personality” – the person I actually was, as opposed to the person who couldn’t figure out how to be herself around others. This forced me to come out of my shell, and by the time high school was over, I was still shy, awkward, and socially backwards (still am, really), but not nearly to the degree I had been (and I have a far cooler shoe collection). Continue reading