Unjustified Paranoia

    I had a friend in high school who warned me of the dangers of committing anything to paper.

There were a few things wrong with this right advice.

    First, she was talking to the writer of the group. Really? Don’t put anything down on paper?

    Second, writing notes was our version of texting. We all did it. It was a clandestine escape in boring classes, a lifeline in harried hallways.

    Third, her message that anything I put down on paper had the potential to come back to bite me, smacked of paranoia. As it turned out, although I don’t think she was so afflicted, her father was. Perhaps that was at the root of her cautionary note.

    Lastly, she didn’t take her own advice. Years after we had gone our separate ways, I found notes and letters authored by her. She poured out her heart and soul in every passage.

    Interestingly, I never did. In this regard, I know I was in the minority.

    And I still am.

    Even in emails and text messages, I edit. And reedit.

    Not so the legions of girls and young women of today with their up-to-the-second technology and lightning fast fingertips. They text with abandon, and with utter disregard for the backspace which could give their thoughts pause. The speed with which they communicate has rendered the delete key virtually obsolete.

    Thus it is that I hear from my students, while in class with an overseeing professor, immediately of the just-received grade on the test or the essay. Although I admonish them at the inconsistency of texting their tutor while in class, I have to admit I like when they share good news.

    And they do. A grade, a completed assignment, a pushed back deadline.

    But in the immediacy of their media-driven lives and hyperquick blip of their messaging, they share much more. So much more.

    In the jotted lines of their texts, I’ve been granted access to their world. And in the spaces in-between, into their lives. I know I wouldn’t give to them what they give to me. At least not in writing. The content is often akin to the stuff which we might have shared with a trusted friend through the lines of a telephone. It’s immediate and funny and potent and raw, and at times, heart-wrenching. And almost always -urgent.

    I wonder what it is about my young friends and my daughter that their messages seem so fully fraught with this sense of urgency. Even when it’s my daughter’s question about a song’s artist that comes from the midst of a party she’s attending, she needs to know –now.  Never mind that her phone has a direct link to the Google gods who could answer her much more quickly than I and my scattered brain. The question arises. She texts me her query. And I answer.

    In a different scenario, this would be called enabling. Maybe it still is. And maybe I and those of my kind are part of the reason our kids crave immediacy and lay bare so much out in their cyberworld.

    Facebook has hoards of detractors. And anyone advising students stepping into the workforce has warned and doubly warned of the dangers of revealing too much to the world through the site. I’ve done it countless times myself.

    But lately I’ve been rethinking the message. Just because I couldn’t have put myself out there the way my girls do, doesn’t mean they can’t. Or shouldn’t. It is, after all, their world.

No, I’m not advising that FB uploads of them taking ice slide shots through something resembling the male anatomy while wearing their bathing suits is the stuff that impresses future bosses. Instead, I’m saying that perhaps we can find middle ground. There are just too many of these less-than-perfect photos opps out there to expect anyone to come off as perfect. There’s also something a bit inauthentic about a college kid donnig a cap at the end of four years that too closely resembles a halo. I can’t imagine that anyone is served by an all antiseptic version of another’s life. It’s not terribly believable. Or likeable.

    So I liked the story of the young woman running for office in Virginia last fall who went on national television to confront her own FB photos. I actually thought they were pretty tame. (but then, as I’ve mentioned –my kids share A LOT, so maybe my view is skewed) However, she brought up a good point. If the only people who run for office from her age group are those who’ve never been caught in a bad photo, the ranks of the running are going to be pretty slim. And grow slimmer with time.

    I also liked her name: Krystal Ball. Seriously. Maybe she is one and maybe, despite her loss in the election, she’s giving us a bit of foreshadowing. If we continue to try to find perfect people, we’re likely to be perfectly fooled.

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