Think about the Dowager Countess of Grantham, marvelous Maggie Smith. When she doesn’t like something, she gets a face like a cat that’s smelled something bad. And you get the message.
If you read authors like Edith Wharton and Jane Austin, you know there’s not a lot of bellowing and stomping around. Hearts are broken, fortunes lost, people became ill, or bereaved, despondent or angry, and through everything, they all use their inside voices.
Compare that to, say, the last week on this blog, in which the volume on everything was turned up to 11 (although the comments remained civil and I thank you all for that). Daughter had to rant in public to make her point, Dad had to shoot a computer to make his point, I had to “hate” Dad to make my point. And I’m not generally a hater. But I got swept into what seems a trend of our time: anger that becomes superheated, superfast.
It’s not necessarily just that America is getting less civil. For some reason these days, it seems we need the volume on all our emotions cranked way up. Even negative emotions. Maybe especially negative emotions. We need to watch screen violence that is increasingly extreme, we need to fight our battles publicly and with insults and vehemence, and we need to grieve extravagantly, where everyone can see us.
(If you haven’t seen it yet, click here.)
The girl’s post complained about how her parents made her work soo hard and how she hated having to do chores and how instead of making her get a job, her parents should pay her for everything she does around the house and blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc. basic teenager bitching and moaning.
Well, this made daddy soo angry that he posted a video online of himself sitting in a field, cigarette smoldering in one hand, his voice trembling with rage, telling his daughter everything that was wrong with the post, and how disrespectful she is, how hard he worked as a kid, and how he warned her about posting stupid stuff of Facebook. Then, to punish her, he pulls out a gun and shoots several rounds into her laptop.
I hate this video. I hate this man. I hate his indignant self-righteousness and thin skin.
I know teenagers can be aggravating, but they’re teenagers. They do stupid shit. They bitch and moan. They rail against authority. They get pissed at their parents. That’s all part of being a teenager. Parents’ job is to not to show them who’s boss or keep them in line, but to help them become grow up and become independent without hurting themselves or anyone else. In the scale of bad adolescent behavior, complaining about your parents ranks pretty low.
The whole thing unfolded in the comments section of my blog and concluded (along with the friendship) when she spluttered that I am “…WEAK! And I MOCK weak people!”
Wow, I thought. Your future clients are in for a treat.
This incident came to mind when a Twitter buddy sent me a note wondering if any research had been done into “potential damage done by therapists who tweet/blog judgmental, hurtful views, jokes…?”
This person, a retired counselor, first noted a former mentee doing it. “I talked to her about it and she thanked me, stopped it.”
But that young counselor was the exception. When my friend noticed a couple of others doing the same, “I gently pointed out to both of them the problems both career wise and client wise with some of their postings (fat put down jokes, sharing very personal info about their own issues, sarcastic misuse of words like crazy and psycho etc) Both ignored me; one posted to mind my own business.
“All of this was done with their full names and locations and accessible to any of their clients with a quick google search,” my friend said.
“I know how hard it is for most clients to trust and how vulnerable they are to being judged,” she continued. “I can just image how crushing it would be for a desperate, suicidal client to read something demeaning/too revealing written by the person they expect to be compassionate, stable and on their side.”
The Internet strikes again.
Writing Real World Research has been fun and also a lot of work. I read a lot more research than I end up writing about. Academic writing is no easy read and I am eternally grateful to those researchers who manage to slip a little joke in here and there. Some papers are so dense that even if the topic is compelling, my eyes cross and I can’t hack my way through them. I have no one to blame but myself—I decided to focus this blog on research. Sometimes I hate myself for choosing a theme that so often forces me in way over my head.
Still, one of the perks of being a writer is that I get paid for finding out stuff I want to know. Reading and writing about research has taught me all kinds of useful things which, as the blog title suggests, I can take into the real world.
So to reflect on the past year, here is some of the stuff I learned writing Real World Research in 2011 that has been most useful to me.
Well, say good-bye to that. Warren had to close down the app because people were behaving so badly, his screeners couldn’t keep up with the screeds.
In a post explaining the decision, he wrote,
99% of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1% of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.
Why are people so hateful online?
(What’s Festivus? Watch the video here.)
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to having anything in common with Frank Costanza. And I’d rather skip the Feats of Strength part of the holiday. And I haven’t put up a Festivus pole this year.
But the Airing of the Grievances? I’m all over it.
I’m not good at being a little ray of sunshine. I’m a pessimist and enjoy what I call recreational bitching and moaning. And I have found some good that can come of negative conversation—I wrote about it here.
So to air a grievance, I have to admit that I do get a little weary of people whose Facebook updates are relentlessly upbeat. And this is especially true during holidays.
It was from my old friend Meryl. I hadn’t spoken to her in decades. A few weeks later, we met for coffee.
Later I received a Facebook friend request from a mutual friend. Within three days, we had located three more people from that old gang of ours. Then we were four. Then six. Then nine. Then eleven.
We were far-flung but we formed a Facebook group and shared photos of our childhood summers together. We reminisced about the people, the places, the sounds, the smells. For a couple of weeks, our group spent every spare moment in a memory cloud, remembering together things we had forgotten individually. Memories came to us in dreams and flashbacks as we moved through our days. We gathered in Facebook in the evenings, to reminisce.
The fever eventually passed, but we remain in touch and friendships have been rekindled.
Since I wrote this post, Frank Warren has had to withdraw the Post Secret app because people just couldn’t play nicely.
When Frank Warren launched the Post Secret blog in 2004, it was a lark. “A creative prank,” he calls it. He gave out 3,000 postcards to strangers around Washington D.C., and asked each person to write a secret on it and mail it to him. And they did. And people still do.
To date, Warren has received more than half a million secrets. Enough to fill four bestselling books (and then some). Once a week, he posts a carefully curated selection on the blog. Sunday Secrets is a highlight of my week.
Some of the cards are scrawled, many are works of art. The secrets are sad, funny, shocking, about love and sex, loneliness and anger, moral slips and personal habits.
No, I didn’t cave and mainline Facebook during my Mexico-beach vacation. I didn’t crumble and tweet my every mojito, check my email, text, or even google anything. My computer stayed home and I kept my phone turned off and locked in the room safe.
Despite all my prior misgivings, no trauma was involved. Not the slightest twinge. My husband had his computer with him and I wasn’t even tempted to peek. I never felt cut off, suffered no DTs, needed no substitutes. As anxious as I felt about not having a computer to write on for a week, I wasn’t even tempted to scribble a few lines with pen and paper.
I read, sketched, ate, drank, swam, snorkeled and lounged. It was easy
Some experiments don’t go as anticipated.
Some people who don’t do Facebook take the high ground about it, letting the Facebook philistines among us know that they prefer their friends the old-fashioned way, and that they are far too busy for such nonsense.
Then there’s the sky is falling! panic surrounding social networking, from people who believe that society is substituting virtual friendships for real world friendships, and that the Internet is isolating us.
That’s fine, believe what you want and do as you please. If I don’t see you on Facebook, I’m sure I’ll run into you someplace else. I do, in fact, leave the house sometimes.
But you can’t convince me that Facebook is the beginning of the end of civilization, and new research by The Pew Internet & American Life Project seems to confirm my faith in the Facebook scene. This project is an initiative of the nonprofit Pew Research Center, which “ provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world.” The research was conducted via telephone interviews of 2,255 adults, 18 and older.
The research unearthed lots of interesting tidbits about people who use the Internet, social networking, and particularly Facebook. For example, it finds that Facebook users have more close relationships, more of a support network, and they’re more politically engaged. In addition: