In response to my last blog post, Abby Mumford posted this comment: “I love hearing how your mind works.” And I love hearing people tell me they love hearing how my mind works. ‘Cause that happens ALL THE TIME. </sarcasm>
Actually, people do seem interested in how I got the idea for SEND, a story about a former cyberbully coping with the suicide he caused with a single button click. Most want to know why I made the hero a bully.
I’ll tell you a secret. SEND was never a single idea. It was actually a bunch of unrelated stuff that my mind – warped as it may be – connected like Kevin Bacon degrees – except four instead of six. The process isn’t particularly brilliant or anything. I believe it’s how most minds work. But how many of us are paying attention?
Here’s how it really happened. First, I sent out an email that invited my entire staff to an orgy. Then, I bought my sons weapons without realizing it. Next, I got sick and watched a TV talk show. And last, I got a new boss who told me I need to tweet and blog and produce videos. And that’s how Dan Clements, the hero in SEND, was born.
You want more, don’t you? *sighs* Okay. Degree-by-Degree
Degree 1: The Orgy Email
Who among us has not spoken without thinking or sent an email before carefully reviewing? I frequently wish my speech could be on a five-second delay like live television but it’s my emails that cause trouble because I’m always multi-tasking.
The most famous – well, it’s now become infamous – example of an email regret was when I sent an email to who knows how many people with an X-rated typo.
Degree 2: Weapons for Teens
All parents worry about their kids. I bought my teens cell phones so I wouldn’t have to worry so much. But I never taught them about what NOT to do with their phones. See Degree 3.
Degree 3: Sick Day and There’s Nothing on TV
I stayed home sick from the day job one day and watched a day time talk show I otherwise never see. The subject of that day’s episode was a teen arrested for distributing kiddie porn. He forwarded to all his friends a picture a girl in his school sent him of herself. Naked. This floored me. I didn’t know this could be legally called child pornography. My kids text and forward pictures all the time. This boy was arrested and listed on the sex offense registry.
Oh my everloving God, you have not seen a mother worry until you’ve seen me after watching this talk show. The very second my sons came home from school, I – wrapped in my bathrobe and sounding like Harvey Fierstein – delivered my first Respect the Technology Lecture involving cell phone uses and their consequences. The boys were NEVER to use the camera feature unless they had permission. My sons agreed and I relaxed.
By relaxed, I mean I moved on to the next worry.
Degree 4: You want me to do what?
My day job is technical writer for a software company. Two years ago, we hired a new senior executive to shake things up. This man is a real visionary; one of the first things he said to me was this: “I read your Administration Guide. It’s uh… very long.” He challenged us to find new ways of documenting and delivering technical information. I’d never heard of Twitter and YouTube and blogging and suddenly, I was expected to use these tools as part of my job.
Researching social networks turned up the gas under Degrees 1 and 2 and I started worrying. (Big surprise there.) What if I said the wrong thing and got the company into so much trouble, they fired me? What if I misquoted something or revealed information before it was allowed to be published? Every time I tweeted about one of my products, my finger would twitch over that Send button. Why? Because I knew that once I clicked that button, I could never, ever, ever, undo it.
And that got me thinking about the boy on the sex offense list. What if he didn’t just forward a photo? What if he posted it to Twitter or YouTube and it went viral? What if the subject of that photograph was so embarrassed, she killed herself? What if it wasn’t a girl but a boy? What if the boy who took the picture cannot get his life back no matter how hard he tries? What would such a boy be like? What would the man he grows into be like? What would this boy do if he ever met his victim’s family? What if one of my sons did this?
The result of all this thinking was Dan Clements, the MC in SEND. He was born over a period of months as I absorbed more alarming headlines about cyber-bullying, and learned how to negotiate online communities for my day job. He was born from the bizarre, illogical, irrational but yet, unique ways in which my mind tries to form logical connections between and among the events that shape it on a daily basis.
I shared mine, now it’s your turn to share… how does your mind work?