Tag Archives: public

Unplugging Because. . .

Technology, like sex, has a love/scare relationship with most Americans.

Until relatively recently, sex has been something that you just did not speak about in anything remotely resembling polite company. Not only did Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds with a nightstand between them, but most of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television have to do with sex.

The flip side to that, however, is that while sex might not have been a public subject, it was the thing most on the minds of American men and women. Porn thrived, especially with the arrival of the internet and the ability of people to buy it anonymously. You couldn’t talk about it, but it was used to sell everything from cars and toothpaste to fridges and massagers.*

Things haven’t changed all that much, but it has become a bit less of a taboo in public discussion. Or at least, my wife, known to one and all as She Who Must Be Talking About Sex, and her friends seem to have no trouble talking about this kind of thing anywhere and everywhere.

I’m thinking technology is beginning to occupy a similar place in the American psyche. Not so much its existence, but, rather its use.What's the point of things like the National Day of Unplugging? Are we that scared of what the internet, in particular, and technology, in general, can offer to us?

More and more people are joining movements like the National Day of Unplugging, which was held early last month. The point of it was to abjure technology from sundown March 7 to sundown March 8. Ironically, folks who participated took photos of themselves and posted them on the National Day of Unplugging website to talk about “I unplug to. . . ”

I’m assuming ironic-deafness is a prerequisite to becoming a Luddite.

This whole thing reminds me of people who used to say, “I never watch television, except maybe a few hours of Masterpiece Theater on PBS.” Mostly folks said that to make it look like they were too smart, too sophisticated to debase their minds with the common drivel the rest of us enjoyed.

I suspect these folks are probably the same ones who won’t use an e-reader because they only read “real” books.

So, really, what’s the point? It’s not like any of these people are going to unplug for the rest of their lives. It seems to me that the whole point of this unplugging is to plug back in and then broadcast to one and all how virtuous you were because you put down your smartphone for a while.

It might have something to do with the fact that people don’t trust themselves very much. They use programs that block the internet or blank their web browsers so they won’t fool around when they should be working. They keep checking their messages and e-mail during meals with other people.

Even if you have always-on connection, that doesn’t mean you have to use it, yeah?

Mostly, I think the attraction of these sorts of things lies in the fact that, for most people, the idea of change is scary. And technology is all about change, about doing things differently, more efficiently, on a wider scale than before, seeing new things in your lives that had always been there, but were never noticed.

Dudes and dudettes get caught up in the world and begin racing toward the future with eyes open, but stop every once in a while, stumble, and realize just how much change we’ve been through and still face.

The strong smile, assess and continue. The weak unplug.

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Talking Privacy With Your Young Dudes

Think of their online life as a diary or a journal.

Your young dudes and dudettes aren’t going to be talking to you, their parents, all the time. They’re not going to share everything, no matter how much you tell them you won’t judge or yell or scold. They’re kids. They’re going to be skeptical and, perhaps, rightly so.

Yet, people need an outlet and that’s where Facebook and similar social media comes in. These young dudes and dudettes feel the urge to vent and they’ve been conditioned to do so in writing (good) which is mostly public (bad).

They already know from personal experience that they can’t tell everything to every single person and expect it to be kept a secret. Some people won’t blab. Others will. If you’ve got a secret crush, you don’t tell the one kid in school who never stops talking and never even tries to censor what is said.

It’s the same thing with their online lives. They might think that they’re only sharing with a few trusted friends, but it doesn’t work like that. And something shared in confidence that comes to see the light of day can and often will come back to bite them on the proverbial butt. Especially when they’re older and start getting investigated as potential employees.

But, again, try talking to your little dudes and dudettes as if their online lives were a journal or diary.

They can write whatever they want in the diary and no one can see it. As long as they take care of it and don’t leave it lying around any little brothers, little sisters or snoopy friends. Ask them if they’d really consider confiding their innermost thoughts to a diary and then leaving it sitting out, open, on a crowded table in the school lunchroom. No, of course they wouldn’t.

And, yet, they do the same thing every day with these social media. Now, I’m not saying this is horrible and should never be used. I’m not like those parents who wrote in Slate recently about how they will never post even a single image of their child on Facebook until the child is old enough to make that decision personally.

I think that might be carrying things a bit too far, but it’s their choice.

All I’m saying is that we as parents have a responsibility to engage in a continuing conversation with our young dudes and dudettes about the uses for and the value of privacy. Not everything needs to be shared, but it will be shared if it’s put on the internet.

That’s the whole point of it. Information wants to be free, yeah?

Well, as far as I’m concerned, there’s some bits about me and probably about you as well that don’t really need to be discussed by anyone other than me. And you, of course. You’re on your own.

So, talk to the young kids. Don’t let them just wander off on their own, but don’t lock them down in the cave and away from the light of day.

It’s a tough line to walk, but that’s why they pay us big bucks as parents, right?

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Exposing Yourself. . .

It’s a simple rule: Never post anything online that you wouldn’t want to explain to your mother. Or father. Or any other similarly judgmental familial relation.

And, yes, it’s being ignored right, left, up, down, sideways by just about everyone younger than 30.

This came to mind when the friendly confines of Casa de Dude were invaded by the raucous laughter of the Siren, a friend from college of my wife’s, known to me as She Who Must Be Strutting. The Siren was driving her youngest little dude, Robert Bob, up to boarding school.

The two ladies were out for a drink with friends, one of those sorts of gatherings where mammary glands are required, but gonadal possession in the first degree is prohibited, so I was left at home with Hyper Lad and Robert Bob, both of whom are of an age. Not a problem for me. It was the first Saturday night of college football season. They had video games. We all had pizza. Good time for the dudes.

Anyway. We were talking over piping hot slices and I happened to ask Robert Bob what sort of messaging app he used on his phone. He immediately told me it was SnapChat. For those of you not in the know, SnapChat is an app that allows you to send a photo to someone else on the service. The catch is that the picture you send will self destruct 10 seconds after first viewing.

Which, to most of us older folks, sounds like a recipe for the users to start sharing — oh, I don’t know — naked pictures of themselves, secure in the knowledge that the photo will never, ever, no possible way get out into the wider internet and be seen by anyone else but the intended recipient and then only for 10 seconds. Were you readers able to detect the sarcasm there?

So I asked Robert Bob why he felt safe sending those pictures (not that he was sending naked selfies. He wasn’t. Just asking a younger person in general.). After all, anyone receiving one of those pictures could easily take a screenshot of the picture as it was displayed on the phone.

Well, says Robert Bob, with the smug manner of someone who has considered that question coming from an adult and already has an answer that will completely deflate said old person and send them packing with tails between legs, “The app always lets you know if someone takes a screenshot.”

I waited. He kept looking smug.

“And?” I asked.

“And what else?”

“What do you mean what else?” he said.

And I went on to ask, in some detail, how knowing that someone had taken a screenshot and now had a long-lasting image of whatever picture you’d just sent to him or her will help you control whether or not that image now goes online, to be widely disseminated throughout the world-wide web.

To which he replied, “Uuuuhhhhhhhhh. . . ”

Yeah. That.

Understand, Robert Bob is an intelligent, well-reared, thoughtful, considerate young dude, but that question never even crossed his mind. I shudder to think of those young dudes and dudettes not quite at Robert Bob’s level and what happens to them.

Let me make one more thing very clear: This is not a call to arms for parents to start taking away phones or slamming down the metaphorical boot on the informational neck of their little dudes and dudettes. There will always be a new app, a new way to connect with others that you won’t know about and so can’t stop.

The only constant will be your child. If your child has sense enough to be careful and present only a carefully constructed version of themselves online, then you’re good. I consider this to be something like the sex conversation. It’s not something you have one time and then it’s done.

The sex conversation is an ongoing dialogue between you and your child. So should the public oversharing conversation be. Start early and continue the conversation at every opportunity.

Otherwise, unfortunately, there could be consequences.

About which we’ll talk tomorrow.

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