Posts tagged with: social networking
Ever since SEND was released last August, I’ve been talking about bullying and ways to help end it.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of addressing my day job colleagues at a Lunch & Learn event. Every month, our Parenting Network schedules a different hour for parents looking to benefit from the experiences of other parents on topics ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to filing for financial aid. December’s topic was bullying and I was honored to have been asked to present.
Honored but also terrified.
After all, I’m not an expert on child development. There are no impressively-lettered credentials following my name. All I have to share is a personal experience with my own son that led to a book called SEND. I didn’t want to flub this opportunity. I didn’t want to mess up. So, I researched and queried lots of people. I compiled statistics and facts and resources. I designed a flashy PowerPoint deck. And then last Wednesday, I stood up in front of twenty-eight people with only two things:
A photograph of each of my sons.
I shared Rob’s frightening ordeal and then I introduced Chris. I admitted to my own shortcomings and mistakes as their mother. I shared my deepest fears as well as my biggest hope — that maybe, just maybe, there ARE things we can do, as parents, that can better prepare our kids for living in an online but disconnected world.
Sounds like an oxymoron, yes, but it’s not. Internet technologies like social networks, smart phones, game worlds and so on have connected us in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a generation ago…but despite all this 24×7 connectivity, there’s something that’s getting lost, muted, maybe even forgotten and that’s our ability to feel and sense the emotions someone else is experiencing. Instead, our online actions insulate us from empathy and in some extreme cases, encourage just the opposite.
Empathy is not something most children are typically good at. Have you noticed that? As parents, we’re almost continually saying things like “How would you like it if I took your toy without asking?” And, generally, our children get better at exhibiting empathy as they grow.
But somewhere along the line, we as a society have grown indifferent to empathy. Don’t believe me? Look at the number of sites devoted to celebrity gossip and not just of the banal kind but of the voyeuristic kind — the Britney Spears breakdown, the Lohan escapades, the Sheen implosion and the recent Kristen/Rob breakup. It’s like we’ve somehow decided that as long as we’re watching online from the privacy of our homes, we’re not truly hurting anybody. But when the subject isn’t a celebrity, but a girl in the next town, we’re all shocked and horrified when that child crumbles under the public scorn and commits suicide, STILL failing to acknowledge our own parts in the tragedy.
Parents, we have to remember that we are our children’s first teachers. When we buy them technology of any form — video game, computer, cell phone — we need to teach and constantly model appropriate use. I follow my sons’ online activities closely and frequently intervene when I object to their behavior. Recently, my oldest son tweeted my entire family’s whereabouts which I believe constituted an invitation to rob my home. Know who they’re chatting with online. When I noticed a Facebook friend on my son’s page who is older than me, I contacted her directly to ensure she understood he was a minor and being monitored.
During last week’s Lunch & Learn session, one parent said this: “The internet is like a sewer.”
She makes a valid point — would you permit your kids to go to a bad section of town unaccompanied?
So why would you permit them to do so online?
What are your thoughts about kids and the internet? How do you encourage empathy both online and in the real world?
So… one of my Book Hungry friends – the READING MACHINE Karla Nellenbach, suggested I do an ARC Tour of SEND.
What the $%&*!@ is an ARC Tour?
Glad you asked. Here’s how it works.
*Of course, honest opinion in this case means it’s the best book you’ve ever read.
Okay, not really.
No, no! I apologize. No pressure here!
Still on the fence?
Take a look at the fabulous SEND book trailer made by the amazingly talented Jeff Somers! (If you think the trailer’s cool, check out HIS books!)
Claire Legrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (August, 2012), started a game of author tag. Here are the rules:
If you’re tagged, you have to do the following:
The amazing Bill Cameron tagged me and wait to you see the company in which he listed me. *tingles*
Here are seven lines from TMI (Too Much Information) page 77. (Blog formatting may make this look more than seven lines… sorry.)
Here are my seven writers:
You’re it! Have fun.
In the wake of the Franzen frenzy about Twitter this week, I thought I’d write this homage. Out of all the social networks, Twitter has a special place in my heart for helping me achieve a life-long dream. Twitter made me an author.
Here’s how it happened.
Back in 2009, a new boss encouraged us to start incorporating social networking into our daily responsibilities. I’d never heard of Twitter prior to this directive, so I began researching it and set up my own account. My research frightened me – there were privacy issues, viral pictures, all kinds of scary stuff. That research planted the story seeds to what eventually would become my novel, Send, a story about a former bully trying to cope with the suicide he caused with a single key click.
I continued lurking on Twitter, and began adding writers – both technical writers (my day job) and fiction writers alike – to follow. I noticed many of these folks posted links to blog posts and articles about various writerly topics. I devoured these posts and by the time I was ready to start searching for an agent, I’d already learned what I believe to be the equivalent of an undergrad degree in query letter writing. Comprising that education was
YALitchat, a website run by the amazing Georgia McBride, was my first testing ground. I had so many versions of my query letter, I was paralyzed by fear of wasting my one shot at making a great first impression on the wrong letter. I let a bunch of them loose in the query-kick around group and finally gathered the guts to try the Agent Mailbox group. Georgia and her team vette out queries to be forwarded to a group of real agents. My very first attempt resulted in a request for the manuscript from Laura Bradford. (Laura will always hold a special place in my heart for that.)
Janet Reid’s Query Shark slush uncovers a few gems here and there. I happened to find her site just when she found Dan Krokos, a writer whose first shot at a query letter had her begging to see his work. Dan’s debut, FALSE MEMORY, comes out this summer with Disney-Hyperion. I added Dan and Janet to my list of writerly folks to follow. From them, I learned about Sean Ferrell, Jeff Somers, Bill Cameron, Robin Becker, Steve Ulfelder. I usually read romances, but I have bought and read books written by ALL of these writers and loved every single word. Sean’s NUMB is literary fiction. Jeff’s CATES series is dystopian sci-fi, Bill and Steve write crime fiction and Robin’s BRAINS is a zombie comedy – all books I would NEVER have bought – indeed, wouldn’t even have borrowed from the library – had I not first ‘met’ these folks on Twitter. Twitter expanded my reading horizons by letting me interact with talented writers I’d never have had the opportunity to discover any other way and I am so grateful.
“Interact” is a key concept on Twitter. I think it’s important to note that these folks took the time to talk to me as a person, to engage, and even to exchange opinions on subjects only tangentially related to our writing. I consider more than one of them friends. There are always those who use Twitter as a broadcast medium and log in, make a sales pitch, and log out and worse, ignore tweets from us ‘little people’ - even when directly addressed. Honestly, nothing kinks my colon more than to be ignored. I may or may not read their books and that’s not to be punitive. Rather, it’s simply because I’ve developed loyalties to the friends I’ve met via Twitter and would rather devote my precious free time supporting one of them instead of someone who can’t find the time to say hello in 140 measly characters.
*clears throat* Where was I? Right. Twitter.
Now would be a good time to point out I’ve never read a Franzen book and after his Twitter-bashing, find myself even less inclined to do so.
While I was still struggling with Send, a woman on Twitter convinced me not to delete it when I was convinced the only thing I was qualified to do was sell hotdogs on a New York City street corner. Her name is Kelly Breakey and I need to give her a great big kiss. On Twitter, I also met a woman who has since become a close friend: Jeannie Moon tweeted me one day to invite me to a meeting of the Long Island Romance Writers. I was thrilled to find a local writers’ group, and joined soon after that first meeting. The support, the wisdom, and the camaraderie are priceless. Jeannie, who works as a school librarian, organized a teen read of my manuscript and boy, those kids were AMAZING. I made extensive revisions based on their feedback, just in time for the group’s annual Editor and Agent luncheon held each June, where members practice pitching their WIPs. I pitched Send to Aubrey Poole, an editor from Sourcebooks, Inc. and to my astonishment, she loved it but wanted more revisions, including a different ending.
When I could breathe again, I went straight to a much-admired author I ‘met’ on Twitter and asked for help. Bill Cameron didn’t just read the manuscript; he sent me a ten-page email that outlined the problems as well as advice for tackling them.
I still have that print out. I keep it with me as a reminder that there is still genuine kindness in this world.
I made the revisions to the story and in November, learned Sourcebooks would publish Send AND a second novel currently called TMI. Send will be released August 1st.
So, let me sum it up. Without Twitter, I would not have my first book coming out from Sourcebooks Fire this August because I would not have been able to revise the entire story without the plan Bill helped me construct if I hadn’t met Aubrey, because I wouldn’t have been invited to the luncheon if I hadn’t joined LIRW, which wouldn’t have been possible had Jeannie Moon never friended me on Twitter and Kelly Breakey hadn’t convinced me to keep the story instead of deleting it to sell hotdogs on a New York City street corner.
Got that? Wait, there’s more.
Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have fallen hard for a toothless killer named Avery Cates. I wouldn’t have laughed so hard I wet my pants reading about a professor-turned-zombie. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have heard about Cartopia in Portland or cried when Conway Sax’s dad tumbled down a chasm. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have tasted bacon jam!
Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have become a real author.
Still lost? No problem. I drew a diagram.
So, to Franzen and anyone else who says Twitter’s a waste of time, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
On Saturday, February 18th, I was at the South Huntington Public Library with my cohorts from the Long Island Romance Writers, where Jeannie Moon and I presented a session on how to get started with social networking.
For anyone interested in more information about our session, visit Jeannie’s website, where she’s posted some additional links.
Oh, and here’s the Twitter Video I’d originally done for my technical writing team at my day job.
For my day job as a software technical writer, I’ve had to learn all about social networking – weigh the risks, know the benefits, tell the trends from the fads. It was this research that spurred my novel, SEND (August, 2012, Sourcebooks, Inc.), a story about a teen who exploits technology in the worst possible way. When I hear about young people using social networks in positive ways, I get pretty excited. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Liana Rosenman, one of the founders of Project HEAL, a non-profit organization begun in 2008 after a Facebook reunion, which helps get treatment for those unable to afford it.
Long Island natives Liana, 20, and co-founder Kristina Saffran, 19, were recently named two of Glamour Magazine’s Young Amazings at the 2011 Women of the Year Awards. Their efforts have raised over $150,000 entirely used for eating disorder treatment. Project HEAL now has a Clinical Review Board whose members review applications for treatment scholarships twice a year and a panel of Teen Activists dedicated to taking the Project HEAL message to their communities.
I asked Liana what made her decide to take on such an ambitious project on the heels of a torturous recovery of her own. As amazing as Glamour’s award was, glory was never a factor. Liana said, “I was diagnosed when I was twelve and suffered until maybe eleventh grade.” It was during her treatment when she met Kristina Saffran. Treatment, Liana told me, “…taught me coping mechanisms. Our bodies require fuel and that means food. You have to learn to what’s healthy.”
Liana lost touch with Kristina, but reunited about a year later, after reconnecting on Facebook, which in turn, led to some nights out. It was during one of their get-togethers when the rigors of recovery as an ongoing process hit home. “We were in a rest room one night, over-hearing the ways girls– and even adults– bash their bodies.” Negative self-image is a big contributor to eating disorders and the best way to correct negative self-talk? “Remember that no one’s perfect and that’s what makes us beautiful.”
The media’s obsessive coverage of every little dimple in Hollywood creates most of our negative self-images. But a new danger is quickly outpacing magazines and movies and it’s probably already in your living room. Social networks are making it easier for young girls to form and sustain the warped mental images that can lead to eating disorders. A recent Huffington Post article about ‘thinspos’ reveals this alarming trend.
I squirmed uncomfortably during this part of our chat. Earlier that afternoon, a tweet about pretty noses had reminded me of the taunts I’d endured when in my teens and I was feeling over-sensitive as a result. As Liana spoke, it occurred to me that I’ve quite literally spent several decades of my life hating something that’s part of me for no other reason than people told me to. There’s a certain amount of liberation when you free yourself from the mindless pursuit of unattainable perfection. I shared a personal story with Liana. When in my twenties, a doctor I’d consulted about adult orthodontia instead suggested plastic surgery. First, he recommended disconnecting my jaw to realign my bite, a procedure that would also correct my ‘weak chin.’ Second, he wanted to do not one but several rhinoplasties to first shave the width of my nose and then resculpt it into the ‘perfect’ shape. I declined because I couldn’t answer a question.
“Where does it stop?” Liana interjected.
Exactly. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to fix the things I can, like my fitness level, my sugar addiction, and my creeping weight, and to accept the things I can’t. I’ll never be a five-foot-ten blonde. But Liana doesn’t want us to stop there. Instead of accepting our flaws the way we accept death and taxes, “Embrace them,” she says.
I wonder how many of us ever tell ourselves we’re beautiful?
I asked Liana about her treatment. “I had no role models. No one to look up to. I didn’t know what recovery looked like or felt like. Now, I do. I want people who want help to know they don’t forever have to be The Girl With The Eating Disorder. Recovery does not have to define you.”
That brought our conversation to another key component in Project HEAL’s mission – to make it possible for those who want treatment to afford it. “A lot of insurances don’t cover eating disorder treatment.” Project HEAL has a qualified clinical review board, whose members examine each request for funds and grant two each year based on financial and motivational factors. If you’re a teen struggling with a negative body image or eating disorder, “Get immediate help.” Liana suggests. “The faster you’re treated, the easier recovery is.” If you’re a parent, you can get advice from other parents or from Liana and Kristina directly. If you want to help, visit the website to learn how you can make a donation or start a teen chapter in your school.
“Recovery is a choice.” Liana finishes.
What questions would YOU ask Liana? Comment here. If you need help, here is Project Heal’s contact information:
Facebook: Project Heal
Every year, on the Friday before Halloween, my employer opens the building up for employees’ children for Safe Trick or Treating. We also have a day care center on-site, so most of the children are very little.
Every year, we employees go just a little nuts decorating the cubes for the kids. I don’t know who likes it more – us or them.
I was er, drafted, about three years ago to decorate our space even though my kids are long past this age. I took up a collection, went shopping and stayed after work one night to decorate. That year, we did a Candyland theme. I bought huge sheets of construction paper and stapled them to the carpet to make the game board.
The next year, we did Alice in Wonderland.
This year, we did Harry Potter. It meshed well with what our neighbors across the floor decided – they went with a Haunted Castle theme.
Here are some pictures before the guests arrive:
I’ll update later when the kids arrive.
I visited the fourth floor, where these imaginative colleagues decorated their entire area as a pirate ship.
And then, I found Indiana Jones.
I FOUND ALL THE LOOT!
Facebook – to the fury of its millions of users – recently introduced a new user interface. Outcry was so loud, it actually made mainstream news.
This got me thinking. What is it about Facebook that keeps us coming back? We could use Google+ or Twitter or other networks, but we keep coming back to Facebook. Why?
If you were Mark Zuckerberg, how would you design Facebook?
The following blog post was written by my oldest son, Rob, and pre-empts this weekend’s usual chocolate post because the subject is too important to trivialize. I warn you – this is not easy to read and as Rob’s mother, I promise you, it’s even harder to bear because each time I read it, I am hit in the heart by the thought of just how close I came to losing him.
Jamie Rodemeyer was right when he said it gets better. Unfortunately he didn’t listen to his own words. For those of you who don’t know this name, Jamie Rodemeyer was a 14-year-old boy from Buffalo, NY. He had been bullied for over a year online because he was gay.
Jamie killed himself last weekend.
A year ago, Jamie posted a video on the “It Gets Better Project” YouTube page, encouraging other gay children who are being bullied to be strong and know that it does get better. But sadly, Jamie didn’t listen to his own advice.
I was even younger than Jamie when I was bullied. It was sixth grade and I was tormented pretty much constantly the entire year, not because I was gay, but because I hit puberty first. The reason doesn’t really matter – kids bully for their own amusement.
I used to be a very outgoing kid. I would say hello to anybody and I was never shy around new people. But I was physically developing much faster than the other kids were, and I guess these five kids didn’t like that about me. Anthony, Mike, Travis, Nick and A.J. were their names.
I had a lot of acne as a preteen, and also was already shaving. When you’re the only kid like that, things can be very awkward. There were days in lunch when the five of them would get bored and play a game. The game was “Count the pimples on Rob’s face.” Each day they would see if they could top the previous day’s number. I remember one day they got up to about 90 before I finally had enough. I don’t know why I sat there and took the abuse for so long, but I did. They made fun of my growing facial hair, my changing voice, and my hairy legs. Nothing was off limits to them. They also told me that nobody would care if I died. And after you hear that for a while, you start to believe that.
Now, I can imagine that none of that is as bad as what Jamie must have gone through. But, like most kids who are bullied, I didn’t handle it well, and hid my feelings from those around me. Some nights, I stood in the kitchen, holding the largest knife in the drawer just staring at it. I wondered what it would be like. What would death be like? Would it be easier than what I was currently going through? Would it hurt? Would anybody even miss me?
There were many nights like that throughout that year, but every time, I put the knife back in the drawer and continued on like nothing was wrong. And I made sure that my family members did not know about those nights.
I finally did talk to my parents and ended up going to counseling, but even with that, I still couldn’t handle it. I got into a fight with one of the kids near the end of the year, hoping that it would finally put an end to it. But it still continued on into the summer time.
Near the end of the year, my counselor finally gave me good advice. She told me that it would get better, that eventually I wouldn’t ever have to see those kids again and I could put all of this behind me. She was right about two things: it did get better, and I didn’t see them again. But I still haven’t been able to put this behind me and every time I hear about a kid like Jamie, it brings it all back.
It’s tough to move on and put this behind me when kids are still being bullied. It needs to stop. We must end it.
People always say, “Well, why doesn’t the school step in and do something?” Unfortunately, there isn’t much the school can do from what I have seen. They can take the bully aside and give him or her a stern warning. They can suspend the student doing the bullying. Or they can talk to the parents.
But all three of those actions will most likely end the same way. The child will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was actually hurting him, and I promise I won’t do it again,” and then they will leave, go find the student they’ve been bullying, and make things even worse for the kid. It will always get worse after that point. It’s just the way kids are.
Instead, every state needs to adopt a zero-tolerant anti-bullying law that will put the bullies in jail. A simple suspension from school does nothing to these kids. It doesn’t teach them a lesson. It gives them a week off from school. Jail time will teach them a lesson. Jail time is needed. Though I’m not a Lady Gaga fan, she is correct about this – Bullying is a hate crime, and it should be treated as such.
Until an anti-bullying law is adopted, we have to try to end bullying ourselves. If you see someone being bullied, step in and put an end to it or tell someone who can step in if you’re afraid. If you’re a parent, talk to your kids even when they don’t want to – or just can’t – talk to you. Tell them they’re worthy and special and how proud they make you even though they failed a test or forgot to mow the lawn.
But most of all, we need to keep telling these kids that it does get better. We need to get them to believe that, because it is the truth. It does get better. If only Jamie listened to his own words.
Rest in peace, Jamie.
Saw this in the NYT. The author says teen girls will read books about male and female characters while teen boys will NOT read books about females.
True or false? Let’s talk.