Showing posts with label identity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label identity. Show all posts

Monday, March 20, 2017

Navigating Privilege As a White Middle-Class Male

I live in a culture where aspects of my identity present me with concrete and abstract privileges that I am at times aware of and unaware of.  I'm a white, middle class, perceived-as-heterosexual, male.  Historically and to still today, this intersection of identity attributes represents one of the most powerful groups in our culture.  (If you are unfamiliar with what I mean by privilege, I recommend checking out Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" for a quick primer and there are several other useful knapsacks out there including ones on sexuality, sex, class, etc).  

Not all of these identity attributes operate at the same time or same level; the context of any given situation indicates just how much one will be more salient than any others.  Walking down the street in any part of the city, I am significantly less likely to be seen as a victim or perpetrator of robbery or sexual assault.  While driving, I'm not likely to be pulled over (in 20 years of driving, this has only occurred when caught at speed-traps, when I was well over the speed limit).   When applying for a job, my name doesn't raise questions or seem "foreign" or "ethnic" during the screening process.  These are but a few of examples--there are plenty more. 


None of this negates that I am hard-working, care about equality, or believe people are largely good.  However, it notes that I was dealt a different set of circumstances in a particular place at a particular time--and historical forces shape that place and time to give me preferential treatment while others are denied the same treatment or given unfair treatment.   


Word cloud in the shape of a cube


A "Woke" Kin

There are some people out there, like me that like to think they have better awareness of privilege in American culture than the average person who benefits from an intersection of privilege such as being white, male, and middle-class (to be clear, I include myself in recognizing that I am making the assumption that I am better aware; I always have my doubts about this and should as I note below).  That, of course, is a slippery slope to balance upon.  The term, "woke" can often be used to describe such people.  But when I think about the term "woke" and what it means, particularly for white people, I feel it gets complicated and challenging.  This NY Times article captures a lot of my concern with it:

““Woke” feels a little bit like Macklemore rapping in one of his latest tracks about how his whiteness makes his rap music more acceptable to other white people. The conundrum is built in. When white people aspire to get points for consciousness, they walk right into the cross hairs between allyship and appropriation. These two concepts seem at odds with each other, but they’re inextricable. Being an ally means speaking up on behalf of others — but it often means amplifying the ally’s own voice, or centering a white person in a movement created by black activists, or celebrating a man who supports women’s rights when feminists themselves are attacked as man-haters. Wokeness has currency, but it’s all too easy to spend it.” 


For those reasons above, I am skeptical of using the term woke for myself or other white people. It's more than that though.  The thing that people with privilege (woke or otherwise) don't realize is that to understand systematic inequality, be aware of it and to thoughtfully consider the experiences of those who do not have the same level of privilege means regularly engaging and learning from others who have experienced it and/or studied it. 



Woke is a process of staying awake, not an end destination.   

Engage, Reflect, Repeat

Many people of privilege have taken the time to read a book, blog post, or article, attended a workshop, or watched a video or documentary to inform themselves of the ways in which people are "othered" in our culture.  I appreciate those that have done so and felt changed by it.  But for me, I don't think that one-time or even the occasionally toe-tipping is enough.  In a culture where so much of the system of privilege is made invisible to those who benefit from it, dominantly repeated in our discourse, and blindly ignored through the myth of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps individuals, it feels like using a single cup of water to put out a fire.  It might help, but the submersion in the fire is inevitably likely to evaporate the water so quickly that it barely leaves a mark. 

While I have taken courses, attended seminars, workshops, and retreats, I have also read thousands of academic, professional, and online articles about understanding this.  I've watched movies, documentaries, TV shows, and online videos that address this.  I've read a lot of books (check out this bookshelf for some good recommendations) to continue to inform myself.  The goal for me is to regularly find ways to keep this in my view as our culture makes it extremely easy to forget.


For some, I'm sure this sounds like a lot of "work,"  right?  Why do it? Two reasons come to mind:  


1.  It's not a lot of work. It's a pleasure to expand my horizon, reflect critically about my life, and the world around me.  It's enriching, rewarding, and empowering to understand the roles I play in perpetuating privilege and learning ways to address and dismantle privilege.  Every time I learn something new, it helps me to better understand the world and my (privileged) place in it.  This helps me to better address and articulate the problems that exist as best I can.  It also means that I can better enrich my relationships with others, more consciously work towards being genuinely welcoming to others, and help other people of privilege understand these things.  It also helps me to better understand hostile or toxic thoughts that occur in my head (or in culture) and where they come from within our culture. 


And yes, I have toxic thoughts--thoughts that undermine, devalue, and disregard others that are not based on the facts and context of a given situation but informed by the numerous messages about marginal identities that I have been exposed ot since before I could remember.  Given that thoughts appear like lightning in one's head, "not thinking" isn't the issue; I can't necessarily stop these thoughts from happening.  But I can recognize these thoughts and call them out in my own head as they occur and do my best to unpack them and disregard them.   

2.  Our culture's messages reiterate the privileging of those identity attributes are strongly and repeatedly reinforced.  When we live in 2017 and (white) people claim there was no racism before President Obama (yes, the article is from 2016 but this sentiment still holds true for many) or that Obama is the cause of the racial divide (the second, told to me by a white male police officer), it tells me we are still far from really understanding folks who are different from the dominant group.  When we have a President in 2017 whose presidency fixates on the threat of "the other" to the point that KKK and white supremacists across the country are empowered to be increasingly hostile to non-whites, we're not really thinking about this whole thing as seriously as we should.  


These misinformed views, of course, largely miss how racism have been infused into politics for generations (well, actually, centuries) and is still a prominent intentional approach by Republicans with their Southern strategy and repeated attempts to block African Americans from voting.  To read the words of Lee Atwater from 1981, they resonate with how the Republicans have actively codeswitched to play upon white privilege:  "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can’t say 'nigger'—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'"  And none of this is to implicate that other political parties don't play with privilege in direct and indirect ways, but I'm struck by how blatant and open the Republican Party has been about it in the last 50 years.

Moving forward, for those at the intersection of privileges, it can be easy to miss things like this or dismiss non-privileged positions in our society given our rhetoric of individualism; it puts responsibility and success on the individual at the cost of realizing or recognizing the systematic forces at play.  

Thus, culturally, we pretend that humans are produced in perfect uniformity as if we were spit out of an assembly line--different models (e.g. a white male, a black female, a middle class latina, etc.  If a person fails, we assume the failure is a fluke, something wrong with the person, not the assembly line.  We never question how we are constructed and what parts go into composing us.  By contrast, it makes more sense to think about humans as building construction.  We all start with blueprints, thus some universal similarity, but our success and longevity has much to do with what precedes our existence.  Does the land we are being built on been made stable or environmentally sustainable?  Did the people involve in the construction use the same standards, the same tools, the same resources?  Is the community going to give the building the same level of support through reinvestment and upkeep?  Will the building be held to the same standards and regulations by inspectors?  In the building metaphor, it becomes more clear how privilege can produce 2 very different buildings from the same blueprints, but no one is likely to see the collapse of one and assume that it was just the building's fault and that other factors contributed to the collapse.

So to me, it is important to regularly re-engage with the subject matter that reminds me of how our culture values me as a building (of white, male, and middle class) and devalues other buildings (e.g. non-white non-male lives).  It's not a guilt thing either.  It's a matter of wanting to better understand myself, the culture that I participate and perpetuate, and the world at large.  I am intentionally blinded to the systematic justice going on behind the veil and therefore must repeatedly seek it, engage with it, and use it to inform me of how to better align my values with my actions.  


For those that are interested in doing similarly, there are some great suggestions that I've harvested over the years.

  • Read (or listen). There are many many many great books out there (many of them in audio).  Get reading/listening.  Here's my full reading this that I continually add to.  
  • Mix up your feed.  If you use social media, be sure to like/follow/link/subscribe with writers/creators/artists/publications that provide a strong lens on marginal voices along race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexualiy, gender, religious, class lines (Everyday Feminism is a good place to start given that ways they tackle intersection).
  • Get in on the conversation.  Join discussion forums or listservs that are actively having these discussions.  Often, you can join and listen to the conversation, without having to participate until you feel you have a meaningful contribution or sincere question. Another means of doing this is to research the relevant hashtags and follow the public conversations on the topic.
  • Hit the documentary circuit.  There are some great documentaries out there if reading/listening are not your thing.  Start with 13th on Netflix, but then check out others like the I Am Not Your Negro, The Birth of a Nation and feel free to find others--there are many.
  • Look around for local organizations that represent marginalized groups and voices.  I'm a big fan of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which has groups around the nation and put out great newsletters that allow for many different opportunities to learn, engage, and advocate for marginalized voices.  
  • Share what you find.  Some of my best discussions and opportunities arrive when I share what I've found and others benefit or challenge what I post.  This opens up dialogue that is sometimes contentious (especially when a commentator is disregarding the view) but is always educative for me in understanding the roles I play in privilege.  Also, please come back to this post to share what you find!
  • Be willing to regularly look in the mirror.  As you encounter so many of these things, there are going to be times you will try to disassociate yourself (I'm not like that; I don't do that; I'm a good person).  As I said earlier, nothing about privilege negates you are a good person.  You are going to encounter struggles that you have overcome, because privilege doesn't negate struggle, but rather changes the probabilities of different types of struggles and the degree to which you experience them. Don't use those struggles and challenges to avoid looking at and considering how you may have experienced privilege or seen it at play in the world around you.  This is hard but it is often necessary because it means unpeeling layers of culture that have trained us not to see that privilege. Find ways of looking in that mirror by writing/journaling or talking with trusted people who also understand privilege to better parse it out.

Other recommendations?  Other thoughts about what I've been talking about there?


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

Of late, I'm feeling a bit wiped.  I know this has a bit to do with the good ole work-life balance, but I'm also struggling with how I continue to engage with the world and the things that I fundamentally know and believe about the world and I would be curious to hear how others grapple meaningfully with these challenges.


Horrific Event Cycle

Breaking News!

Much of this happens as a result of the hyper-narrative of events.  What I mean by this is that for several years I've noticed there is a series of cycles around any major news story--especially those which are controversial or horrific that goes something like this:
  1. Horrible event happens.
  2. Immediately responses to horrific response that mix empathy, anger, and shock.
  3. Quickly followed by responses criticizing those people and how they responded, which often invoke shame, hypocrisy, and ignorance coupled with bigotry (knowing and caring about this group, but being ignorant of other groups--especially marginalized groups).
  4. Shortly followed by responses criticizing the critics and damning their insensitivity to the "real tragedy."
  5. A response by the critics about the insincere responses of the previous responders.  
  6. All of this then gets rolled into critics who provide a meta-commentary, which allows them to comment on larger issues.
  7. The meta-commentary then is reacted to by all the other critics as twisting words, reductive thinking or some other problem.
  8. These continue to spiral until another horrible thing happens at which point said commentaries, meta-commentaries, etc are folded into, evoked, or mocked because of the seriousness of the new thing.
Meanwhile, there is a never-ending round of "gotcha" and "told you so" memes that are generated and circulating are meant to purposely incite or offend various people, all in the name of freedom of expression and minimalizing complex and nuanced issues that require substantial thought and consideration.  All of this unfolds sometimes within hours, though usually days of the original event.

It's hard for me not to engage in various levels of commentary because they are often infused with ideologies or are clearly evoking similar past events.  Whether it's another terrorist attack, a mass-shooting in a public space, or even a manufactured story purposely meant to rile the dominant culture about a supposed threat to their power and prestige, they all come at us in series of articles, news clips, and memes that beg a response; that beg a need to identify inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and misinformation.  


Just Ignore It

IWISH I HAD

This cycle is exhausting to witness and partake in.  The media only enhances it with the outrage cycle to produce stories that aren't stories but still suck us in to discussing it (e.g. the Starbucks cup).    And it is hard to avoid engaging in it to some degree.  To remove one's self from social media doesn't work because it is still likely to be present in news stories, on the television news, and on one's news feeds.  To attempt any level of awareness in the world and to not be blasted by it, seems all but impossible.

I often hear people say, "Just ignore it."  In fact, I've lost several "Facebook friends" due to my failure to ignore the nature of their posts.  But I generally can't ignore it.  If I see something wrong--something that alienates or marginalizes already vulnerable populations, then I am compelled to say something.  I have trouble letting it slide as to me that seems to be a sign of my own bigotry.  That is, if I fundamentally believe in the humanity of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc, then to chose to only speak up for groups that I more closely identify with seems to reject that idea outright.  I can't pick and choose; I'm either vigilant in supporting all groups to the best that I can, or I'm just playing favorites and that means reinforcing or refusing to confront my own innate bigotry.

There's also something about ignoring that I find disconcerting and impossible for me.  I know some of the nicest people can happily and purposely ignore something.  They will even say, "don't tell me about that" so that they can avoid cognitive dissonance around something in their lives (e.g. the horrific and unsanitary conditions of the animals we eat, the environmental and human degradation of the coffee we drink, the human abuse and exploitation of children and adults for other commodity items like clothes, diamonds, and chocolate).  It's very hard to turn off that switch for me and I don't want to turn of the switch per se.  I don't want to numb myself or allow myself to ignore it because so much harm is done in the world by our ability to ignore those things which we are not directly affected by.  


Ignoring Is a Privilege

Racism: The Elephant in the room

If I'm not African American, then I don't have to think about what it means to be black, the inherent inequalities at every step of the criminal justice system for African Americans, the numerous other social and cultural inequalities, and how that will impact me.  Therefore, when people on Facebook, especially police officers, openly mock, blame, or disregard often with inherent racist posts about #BlackLivesMatter, I get the privilege to ignore it, on the assumption that it is not my problem or it doesn't directly effect me.

If I'm not transgender, then I can ignore the various memes posted by typically hereotsexual men and women that mock Caitlyn Jenner or any transperson of any variety for that matter.  I can enjoy the mockery taking place.  I don't have to think about what it means to be trans in a culture that regularly kills people because they don't fit into a simplistic gender, sex, or sexuality system.  I get to laugh at the post; it doesn't increase my internalized fear for my safety every time I use a public bathroom.

If I'm not Muslim, I don't have to think about what it means to belong to a world religion that like so many other religions, have people who are practicing some bastardized form of it and committing horrific acts in its name.  I don't have to constantly walk a line between faith but also communicating that "I'm not 'them', I swear" because people and news media's reductive thinking can't or chooses not to distinguish between terrorist organization and world religion.   I don't have to tattoo the American flag on my forehead to avoid questions being raised about whether I should be here, what kind of threat I represent, or what am I doing personally to prevent other Muslims from becoming terrorists, like I'm personally responsible and representative of all Muslims.   Instead, I can talk about deporting "them," torturing "them," or even nuking "them" like they are an infestation because I belong to a culture and government that has committed genocide on other peoples, so what's one more. 

Ignoring is a privilege afforded to those whose lives are not directly effected by whatever is being ignored (In truth, it does effect all of us as bigotry, injustice, and violence perpetrated upon one group opens up the opportunity for it to happen to all of us).  I don't sit well with knowing I have privilege based upon factors that society has deemed more valuable despite such privileges being entirely a matter of birth (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, sexuality, etc) and therefore, when there are ways I can address my own innate privilege, I do my best to do so.

But How to Engage?


That is the question I grapple with.  I don't want to dissent into a Bug's Bunny "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" debate but of course, it so often does happen.  I see a post or comment that is troubling, inaccurate, or misrepresents peoples or beliefs and I find it important to respond.  In truth, I'm trying to respond to the person, but often the nature of the post makes it clear, they are being purposefully incendiary; it's their American right, of course (insert commentary about who and when "Americans" get to assert such a right).  

I often respond often knowing the person who posted it will not listen, respond, or hear what I have to say and if they do, it's from a position of snark or just disregard.  I often try to be respectful in my tone (though I do fail at this).  Sometimes, I am met with the same respect or the person can identify with the concerns I raise.  However, even if this never happened, I'm still compelled to do it because others need to see it. 

I provide whatever response I do because I see the need for others who see that post to know that there is a different way; that there are alternatives.  I know it's important to voice a counter-view because, it has helped others seeing the same post better understand their own issues with the post or just to know there is an ally out there.  I regularly hear from people that appreciate me speaking up to something they were afraid to or unable to comment upon.  That this happens by being networked to the person posting the offensive content makes it all the more important because it means that post, regardless of its problematic content has actually helped others become more understanding and aware.  


There's Always Housekeeping


Friend Options on Facebook
The desire to delete "friends" or unfollow people who post such content is strong and I know many will do this or simply unfollow or block posts.  I am often tempted with these options, but I feel it is just another form of ignoring.  I don't have to see the bad stuff--I can block the content and not the person so I don't have to engage with it.  Inevitably, I will know it's still there, but I can continue with my blissful feed of posts filled with health advice, pop culture interests, and cute cat pics.  That just doesn't sit well with me.  It seems to me that if I don't have the tolerance to hear what they have to say at all, then I need to consider why be friends with them at all and why do I expect tolerance but do not give tolerance.

Deleting friends doesn't seem like an option either and it's not because I don't want to offend those people or fear that I will eventually end up with no friends.  Rather it's that I make conscious decisions to be "friends" with people and I recognize that they will definitely not like everything I post, I should not expect any less from them.  More important, these are good people.  Yes, they may post things that are problematic, but on the whole they are good people with family and friends, often doing many good things in the world (caring for loved ones, donating to charity, volunteering, etc).  That is, the issue I have with them is singular but they are multi-faceted.  Deleting them seems to be another form of reductive thinking that I don't want to participate in.  


Butttt....How Do YOU Deal?  

suggestion box

I've shared the above to give people a sense of what I'm doing and why, because I'm hoping there are others out there who have similar views and approaches.  I'm curious to hear about your tactics, ideas, and ways of negotiating being a compassionate human in all its forms while being challenged by the problematic and often vitriolic rhetoric in the form of posts, memes, and articles on your social networks. 

I certainly will continue to engage in the ways I find are best to do so.  I will also find a means of reconciling the need for breaks for mental care with the concern of my privilege to be able to break away from it.  But I am curious to know how others negotiate these challenges.  What tactics do you employ?  How do you often do you engage with content that you find problematic?  How do you engage with it?  How do you avoid burnout?  How do you survive burnout?  



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Be a Good Friend on Social Media Part 2 (or 2)

So if the first part of this series was about things you can do, these recommendations can best be understood as caveats and considerations about how you use social media with friends.


Assume Everything You Say Is or Can Be Public

Public Domain Image - Source: https://openclipart.org/image/300px/svg_to_png/191202/public-domain-logo-slightly-nicer.png
There are a variety of safety settings on many social media platforms.  But just assume that it can all somehow, planned or unplanned, become made public.  Assume what you post to your wall, to other people's walls, and even in "private messages" is as likely to remain private as it is to end up on the cover of Time.  Just plan for that and post accordingly.  That means you probably don't want to bash your work, your friends, your enemies, your in-laws or any other person or persons that you're at odds with unless you're prepared for potential exposure and confrontation.  


Think Before Posting

This is of course connected with the previous post but it's worth repeating.  The average person that is one social media has between 100 and 200 connections on their network.  That's a lot of individuals to keep in mind when you are posting.  However, that means you should take a moment to think before posting.  It's easy to take a shot at a particular group of people, business, political viewpoint, etc.  We do it all the time, but it's worth taking a moment and asking yourself if there is a better way of presenting it or expressing your frustrations without targeting, generalizing, or misrepresenting a group of people.  


You May Know Your Friend, But You Don't Know Your Friend's Friends

People Network - Image Source: http://pixabay.com/p-63769/?no_redirect
This follows along the lines of the previous two but it's worth more directly thinking about.  You have a sense of who you are connected with but not necessarily who your friends are connected with.  When interacting with your friends via social media, remember that there is a chance their friends are likely to see the conversation (particularly if it occurs on your friend's wall instead of yours).  Recognize that they have a variety of different views that are as likely to be similar as they are different.  Be respectful as you engage with them as you don't fully know where they are coming from.  Have dialogue but avoid getting nasty with them no matter what happens.  Be civil and don't assume that whatever happens between the two of you will be considered "OK" by your mutual friend.  


Write Longer Posts in Outside of the Post Box

I can often get into debates with people online.  I rather enjoy this in terms of the different ideas and thoughts that are presented.  However, if I'm typing longer posts--ones that are more than 1-2 sentences, then I'm likely to move to a different platform than the textbox provided.  This helps with a few things.  It helps me see everything that I am writing, rather than having to scroll up and down the tiny box.  It also helps me spell and grammar check--after all, if I'm trying to make an important point and my spelling and grammar are all over the place, my thoughts will be taken less seriously by some.  Also, depending on the textbox's protocols, I don't want to hit "Enter" (which i'm trained to do automatically) to start a new paragraph and all of a sudden, find that it has been submitted.  Last, but not least, is that by writing it in another environment gives me pause.  There's one extra step I have to do before posting it and this is important.  It helps me think about if I really want to post it.  This has led me on a number of occasions to delete it instead and choose not to engage in the debate.  Altogether, it allows me to better and more respectfully engage in discussion with people on my social networks.  


Strategically Correct/Critique

So this one is one of the trickiest in the lot.  I'm going to recommend what is probably the most civil thing to do, but then I'm also going to talk about what I do and why.  The most civil thing to when you find something that someone has posted is wrong, has mistakes in it, or is personally offensive for some reason is to contact that person privately and respectfully explain your concerns.  You will need to recognize and accept that sharing your opinion won't necessarily change the post but you will have clearly acknowledged your concerns.  The goal is to inform and explain your position if you find it offensive or to clarify how or why the post might be inaccurate if there is misinformation on it.  

However, that's where I deviate from my advice.  My approach (and I have lost Facebook connections because of this mind you and am ok with that) is that I'm likely to speak up on a person's wall when I find something offensive or factually inaccurate.  I do this because I'm personally a firm believer of dialogue.  When I find something that is offensive or disagreeable, I move into the conversation, not by attacking the other person (usually) but by critically considering what has been posted and commenting as such.  It's something I do regularly.  


If You Have to Block, Then You Should Boot

Muting image - Source http://pixabay.com/p-98510/?no_redirect
This more firmly applies to connection-based (where both people agree to be connected) than follow-based social media (where agreement to follow is singularly made and not mutual).  I'm a firm believer that if you have to block someone's posts, then you should not be connected to them on social media.  My reasoning for this is that if you are connected to someone on a social network, you're making a public endorsement and that is a mutually beneficial statement.  Each person says, "I publicly recognize this person as friend-worthy."  In such instances, if you are choosing to block the person's posts while still being connected them, then you are still benefiting from the connection while silencing the person.  That feels problematic to me and disingenuous.  If you cannot tolerate what someone is saying or doing on their social media, then maybe, you shouldn't be connected to them.  At this point, someone will usually say, "yeah but I see this person regularly and it would be awkward if I de-friended the person."  Absolutely.  But that means it's time to have adult conversations about your friendship or their questionable social media posts.  

What is some advice you would offer for better social media exchanges with friends, families, and colleagues?



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How To Be a Good Friend on Social Media Part 1 (or 2)

Social media has changed some of the ways we interact with friends and family for good or for bad.  This new space of engagement changes much of how we interact and to what degree we see our friends' larger picture.  We no longer see friends in as limited lens as we might have before but have a larger context of other friends, acquaintances, and family.  Because of the nature of these environments, it's as likely for one person to having meaningful dialogue with their friend on social media as it is one of their friends' friend whom the person has never met.  It means many of us are trying to navigate unclear waters and I thought post might help people better understand how to renegotiate friendship online.  

They are a mixture of Do's and Don'ts to help navigate this tricky new space that many of us find ourselves in.  We're often good at figuring out what to do in the face-to-face environment, but online isn't always as clear as it would seem.  


Identify What Your Social Media Approach Is

This sounds weird, but it's a useful personal exercise and one that can help you decide what it is that you are using these platforms for.  I have my take on social media and place it here on my blog.  It identifies why I use social media and what I want to get out of it.  I hear a lot of people who get frustrated or unclear about the purpose of social media or don't really think about using social media.  Giving yourself some time to clearly identify what it is that you want to get out of social media can help you better decide how you want to interact on social media.  Are you using it solely for finding different information via your social networks or are you looking to use it as a way of interacting with friends when unable to meet face-to-face?  Do you want to engage in debate or just relax in this space?  Determining what you want to do helps you determine where to focus your attention.    

Congratulate in Public

Paper Note with "Good Job" on It:  Image Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4038/4294686346_fa10e0e9c7_z.jpg?zz=1
Give friends credit!  Thank them for doing things for you or with you, on their achievements, and just for being awesome people.  You'd be surprised how a simple comment can light up a person's day and doing so on social media means it's public.  That can be a great way to provide a bit of cheer and excitement for someone since by thanking them, you're also bringing attention to them in both of your social networks.  Remember that this also extends to businesses, organizations, public figures, etc.  


Promote and Share Statuses and Links (Give Credit)

As you come across great content that you find through your networks be sure to give credit.  You may find a link on Twitter but repost it on Facebook.  If that is the case, be sure to tag or acknowledge who helped you find the source. Being acknowledged for contributions to our friends and connections experiences is in part a major piece of what drives social media--knowing that what we share, has an impact.  


Help Promote Social Media Efforts and Campaigns by Friends

"Always pay it forward and never forget to pay it back.  It's how you got here and it defines where you're going... @briansolis" Image Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7178/6904613521_cec81f5a96_z.jpg
I think this is an important and underused element of being a good friend on social media.  Many of us want to support and help people in our networks.  If we are taking the time to post some cause that a friend is pushing for, the hope is that our friends will if not directly contribute to it, then help out by sharing it onward.  When we advocate or promote on their behalf, we help them in ways that are still useful.  Many of us have hundreds (if not more) of people in our social network.  When we share someone else's post for support, aid, etc, we're leveraging our network to help spread their message and potentially expanding the reach exponentially..  That's valuable and powerful for helping out friends.  


Tag With Relevance

Whether tagging in these environments be sure to tag people that are relevant to content of the post.  To follow up on the previous recommendation (Congratulate in Public), when talking about companies, organizations, etc., be sure to tag them as well.  I do my best to include tags when trying to say something good or even critical (more about that below) of a public entity.  Regardless, don't tag unless there's clear reason for it.  Also, be aware as best as possible of your friends and family members' preferences for tagging.  Don't tag people who don't want to be tagged.


Like Statuses That Are Meant to Be Liked 


Dislike Button - Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/21/Not_facebook_dislike_thumbs_down.png
Or as I like to put it, "Don't like RIP statuses."  It's clear that some statuses are meant to indicate positive messages.  "I got a great new job!!!".  Perfect--like that a bajillion times.  But more vague messages, you'll want to stay clear from liking.  "I lost my job, today."  Use your words for these types of status.  "I'm sorry to here."  "Can I help?".  Liking such statuses can be confusing for the person who posted and it's even unclear to the people doing the liking.  Because usually the words used for positive credit are words or icons representing liking, hearting, or favoriting, to like questionable updates sends a mix message even though you are sometimes just trying to show support.  



This is the first half.  The second half will be posted next week.  What is some of the advice you offer for better social media exchanges with friends?



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning

Let's set the scene.

Here's me on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  I'm in the midst of running my first 30K Race.  That's right, I decided that what better way to spend the weekend just after my 33rd birthday, chugging over 18 miles on a warm Sunday afternoon.


Keep in mind:

  • There were no zombies chasing me.
  • There was no grand prize for coming in among the last 1/3 of the herd.
  • I had plenty of other things to do that Sunday.
  • I paid to be here.
Now, let's go back 15 months to June, 2011.  There are no pictures of me running.  Because up to that point, that is, the first 31 years and 9 months of my life, I did not run.  Let me rephrase that I ran only when ultimately forced to.  You know, like at gun point.  The fact is for 31 years, 9 months I had a HATE-HATE MORE relationship with running.  It didn't like me and I sure as hell didn't like it.  Like the student in class I repeated to myself and everyone that would listen, "I'm just not meant to be run.  I'll stick with other things."

But that clearly changed.  Indeed, last year, I ran a marathon and this year, I'll run several more.  Along the many miles I've run over the last few years, I learned to love running a whole lot to the point that I've spent thousands of hours running and thousands of words writing about running.  


In this evolution from non-runner to enthusiastic (almost obsessive, I'll admit) runner, I realized that there is a lot that I've drawn from running that helps me think about learning because somewhere along the line, I learned to run in a way that worked for me.  Here are the 10 ways that running reminds me of the challenges of learning.  

1.  I started slow and I am still slow and that's ok.

I have to run at a pace that works for me.  I can't worry about how fast other people are running.  Sure, I can sometimes look at it as motivation to speed up a little but the focus must be on me and what my body and mind are telling me.  This rings true for learning.  We are often disenchanted with our progress because someone else gets a subject matter much better than we do because it's not our forte or we don't have the right background to approach it as skillfully as others.  

2.  I had to figure out what worked for me.

There's lots of different methods to approach running out there.  Prior to my experience, people told me all sorts of ways to do it.  But I had to figure out what worked and what didn't work for me.  This meant a lot of trial and error.  In fact, this is where many people will abandon running because they can't seem to find the right way to approach it that works for them personally.  In this vein, I think learning is quite similar particularly around certain subject matter.  How some people learn a subject matter is going to be dependent on trying and finding different ways to approach the subject.  

3.  I set a range of goals to indicate levels of success.

Run!  Or even "run a marathon" are way to big for me to tackle.  I had to chunk them it all into manageable pieces.  When I started out and just wanted to get to be able to run, I found a place I could run at (Lake Quannapowitt) and set markers for running such as
  • Run for 10 minutes.
  • Run until you make it to this marker.
  • Run as far around the lake as you did yesterday and 100 feet further.
As I made progress, I set new goals and made sure to have a range.  That might include having a range within a race (my low goal is 30 minutes, my high goal is 25 minutes) or a range over a particular season (run at least 6 half-marathons or longer and 1 full marathon).  The goal was to make sure I had different ways to measure success.  This was helpful because it connected with #2 in that, I needed to see what goals were more motivating for me.  Similarly with learning, if you set to task, "I'm going to learn math."  You're setting up a massive goal.  So why do that or at least consider it a large goal with a long-term plan composed of smaller goals and objectives.  What are the smaller goals that can be stacked to get you to the larger goal?

4.  I set time aside to both think about (write) and do it (run).  

It goes without saying that you need to set time aside to achieve the goal.  That was obvious--though not without its challenges.  Eventually, I went the route of buying a treadmill so that in the harder weather I didn't have to rely on going to the gym and such.  It saved time to have easy and unlimited access to it.  Besides setting aside time to do it, I also made sure to think a lot about the running.  Visualizing myself running the race at top speed in perfect form has contributed to some great breakthroughs in my performance.  For learning, this means you have to set time aside and that time can't be the very last minute.  You have to incorporate it in some clear ways into your life's routine and you also need to think about it.  You shouldn't be thinking about "I need to do it" but you should be engaging with the content in your head--even when you don't have to.  This is where learning can take place through reinforcement.  

5.  I kept track of my progress because nobody else would.

I initially kept track of my runs on my Fitbit monitor but then moved into DailyMile, which has been fun and adds a nice social element to it as well.  I also continued to keep track of progress on this blog of course.  Keeping track is important because so often, we are looking forward and seeing the end goal still rather far away, but we need to look back and appreciate how far we have made it.  It's also important because if I'm trying to get somewhere, I have to know where I am within the big picture, right?  With learning, looking back is also important because it can provide you with a means of reflecting and appreciating where you are within the subject matter and how much progress on the subject that you've made.  

6.  I hit walls; I asked for help.

I most definitely hit some walls and places where I needed help.  I asked for help.  I had no shame in asking for help and encouragement from my friends and social-networks.  My friends and family want me to succeed and want to help me if they can.  The same holds for learning.  When you hit walls (and you will hit walls), reach out for help from friends, family, or people more versed in the subject matter.  Largely, people like helping others--especially if it is something they are vested in.  

7.  I was overwhelmed at times by it all; I wrote about it.

There will always be times when I think about running and am overwhelmed by it.  Overwhelmed by what I've done, overwhelmed by what I'm trying to do, overwhelmed by the mere idea that I am doing it.  Hell, I could even brim with tears at times.  That's all good!  That's a reflection of investment.  If you're so vested in learning something that you're emotionally moved; that's not a bad thing.  It shows how important it is to you.  For me, writing about it helped a lot because it allowed me to sort things out and to stay on focus.  Writing may not work for you (especially, if you're trying to learn writing), but find an outlet to channel the emotions and ideas about the subject matter.

8.  I talked about my running (sometimes, quite excessively).

If running was important to me, then I should be talking about it just like other things that are important to me.  This served two purposes.  
  • It had me talking about running--which is something runners do.  Talking about running reinforced the fact that I ran and was continuing to run.  I had never thought of myself as a "runner" but sure enough, I found that I was.
  • By sharing with other people in my life, it became a point of conversation.  We would talk about running or friends would ask me about my most recent race.  The most amazing moment of talking about running came when people started asking me for advice or told me that my actions were inspiring them to run.
When it comes to learning, the more you talk about and engage in the topic, the more likely you are to think about the subject matter and even gain mastery over it.

9.  I owned my accomplishments and gave room for others to acknowledge them too.

I took pride in what I was able to do.  I won no races, but I had victories at all of my races.  Every time I had a personal best or was just damn happy I showed up, I made note of it.  I blogged about it, I posted in FB and Twitter about it.  I celebrated my progress.  In sharing my victories, many others also provided congratulations which added to the positive feelings I had about running.  I also made sure to give thanks to those who helped.  You need to celebrate the victories that you make--regardless of where others are in their learning.

10.  I valued the experience for the internal value; not just the external benefits (though they were nice).  

I came to recognize that running provided me with many internal benefits that were useful.  The mental health benefits of running are many to count.  The better health reports I get from my doctor are also important.  The respect and admiration I get from friends, family, and colleagues--that's nice too.  I run for me--but that respect and admiration has proven a powerful tool to get me to that point.  For learning, this is the big challenge: the crossover.  That is, the moment when learning the subject is internally valued (you want to learn because it helps you understand your life more) more than extrinsically valued (you want to learn because you want an A on the examine).  

Those are my top 10 ways that running reminds me of learning.  What about you?  How else does running remind you of learning?


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Recommendations on Social Media Books

I do a lot of reading as we all know and I'm quite interested in social media and its relevance to modern society.  I regularly get asked for recommendations for books to help get a grasp on social media.  I often find it hard to recommend just one book.  It's like asking who is your favorite pet or child.  Well, here is my list of books on social media that I've read and found useful.  It's a list of books I both like (Jeff Jarvis, I'm looking at you) and dislike (Nicholas Carr, this one's for you), but all of which are relevant in the discussion.  This list was composed in November, 2013.  I anticipate that I will need to update it again in another year as I continue to devour books on the subject.  All that being said, if there's any that strike your fancy, that you've read, or that you're interested in knowing more about, don't hesitate to let me know.

The cumulative knowledge that I have culled from reading all of these has been that social media may be a new format of interaction for us but is not entirely in terms of how we excahnge and have dialogue among humans.  There is ample meaningless communications that go on day-to-day ("Hi, how are you?") and there's also deep and profound communications that occur.  Social media is no different--except that unlike ever before, it can be captured and quantified.  So while some may think Twitter is a sign of the end-times and full of irrelevant material, they miss how much of our day-to-day is full of irrelevance and meaningless banter ("It's a nice day.").    And like many things in our culture, it's easy to point to simplicity (ignorant tweets) than to point to complexity (because that requires context and nuance).  But there is more value to be gained than problems when as we move into social media.

Recommended Books for Social Media

Book Cover:  The Digital Divide ed by Mark Bauerlein Image Source: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6048/6261457608_1794643d37_o.jpg
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
  • Andrews, Lori B. I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.
  • Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. Print.
  • Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
  • Bilton, Nick. I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
  • Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson. Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow, 2011. Print.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
  • Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Brown, BrenĂ©. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden, 2010. Print.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. 50 Digital Ideas: You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business. London: Virgin, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. How to Thrive in the Digital Age. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
  • Christakis, Nicholas A, and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009. Print.
  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.
  • Diaz-Ortiz, Claire. Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.
  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
  • Matthew, and Soumitra Dutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Chichester, England: Wiley, 2008. Internet resource.
  • Forni, Pier M. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print. Fraser,
  • Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2011. Print.
  • Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. New York: Portfolio, 2012. Print.
  • Howe, Jeff. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. New York: Crown Business, 2008. Print.
  • Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. Print.
  • Lanier, Jaron. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.
  • Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
  • Li, Charlene. Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.
  • McRaney, David. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. , 2013. Print.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Mele, Nicco. The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath. , 2013. Print.
  • Mycoskie, Blake. Start Something That Matters. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011. Print.
  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.
  • Reese, Byron. Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War. Austin, Tex: Greenleaf Book Group, 2013. Print.
  • Rifkin, Jeremy. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
  • Sommers, Sam. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. New York: Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.
  • Steiner, Christopher. Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012. Print.
  • Sunstein, Cass R. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. New York ;Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Book cover: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  Image Source: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4133/4946166454_28ca4b4420_z.jpg
  • Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt, 2007. Print.
  • Thomas, Douglas, and John S. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Waal, F B. M. The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. New York: Harmony Books, 2009. Print.
  • Wasik, Bill. And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.
  • Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Williams, Juan. Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011. Print.




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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.