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

Make-Believe Nostalgia

Yesterday I visited a community pool for the first time in a number of years. Growing up, we relied on our friends’ swimming pools because there wasn’t one in our community. In fact, the one I went to today was a small one that I’d never been to before, and I went because my aunt was feeling nostalgic: she used to go to that pool when she was a girl, visiting her aunt in the next county. So she and I went. As it turned out, there was a certain charm about this place that made me somewhat nostalgic for a life I’d never experienced.

My own nostalgia started stirring as soon as my aunt told me how she used to come to this town – only twenty minutes away from our own – and stay with her aunt, and come to this pool with her cousin. I started thinking about who I’d gone to stay with as a kid and what family I’d visited. Where I should have felt nostalgic, it was all made up: my entire family had always been right in my town. There’d never been anyone to go visit away from there.

Later, as my aunt attempted to swim laps around parents holding little kids and small children doing handstands and chasing diving sticks, I sat nearby on the edge of the pool with my legs in the water. To my immediate left was the lifeguard and to my immediate right was a group of about six elementary school boys. They kept doing cannonballs and the lifeguard kept yelling at them, and the only thing I could think about was The Sandlot. If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out. It’s funny, but it’s also nostalgic to the core. I kept expecting the lifeguard to morph into Wendy Pefferkorn and those little boys to become the kids from The Sandlot. When those boys got kicked out of the pool for doing (what else?) obnoxious cannonballs, I started observing other groups further in the distance, and for the rest of the day was struck by the dichotomy of early and late teenage life that was, in some sense, quite idyllic. Continue reading

Occupational Hazard

It’s not really hard-hitting news if I tell you that I don’t sleep at night. When I was employed, I had myself trained to go to bed and wake up, but with nothing else to do, I can’t sleep at night. This is my writing time. This is also when it’s finally quiet, and therefore when I get a chance to think about things enough for them to get under my skin, but this time it’s in a sad way. Continue reading

The Invincibility Complex

Like most teenagers, I had a mouth on me. I got myself into trouble by making sarcastic comments at my mother and other family members in evil tones (there’s a difference, see. Now I make sarcastic comments at her, but I say them in a joking tone and so she doesn’t want to smack me that way).  Also like most teenagers, I found myself grounded frequently with no use of the phone, computer, or television. In a shocking move, I was also pretty moody.

Where I differed from most teenagers was that instead of feeling like I was invincible, I always felt the exact opposite. I always felt like danger was lurking just around the corner and something really bad would happen to me if I didn’t work hard enough to keep it away. I think that perhaps the fact that my life as a teenager wasn’t quite as carefree as most of my peers’ had something to do with it. Then again, it also could have been a lot worse.  Continue reading