facebook is weird.

It is. It just is. I’m on it a lot, I maintain an account for the kids’ school, as well as my personal account. I rely on it to keep in touch with my family on a near daily basis. If I couldn’t see pictures or videos of my baby nieces and nearly grown nephews, or learn about the various successes or observations of my brother and sister regularly, if I couldn’t easily show my parents how quickly our children are growing… if I suddenly didn’t have facebook, I’d feel weakened.

I like to share things I’ve read with my facebook connections. I rely on lists to manage all this, because I know not everybody wants to read everything I read, I know that not everybody thinks the way I think. There are very few things, actually, that I share with all my “friends.” Those things need to be universally appealing, apolitical… things about the kids, or safety, or food. I’ve learned this lesson, a couple of times.

That’s because I understand, even better now thanks to this article by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal, that Facebook is not the place to change a friend’s opinion or core belief. Or even a stranger’s. Facebook is, very simply, a place for all of us to connect with whom we want to connect with, and while we’re doing that, our every move can be monitored and used in order to improve corporate marketing efforts, online and elsewhere. And yet,

According to soon-to-be-published research from professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.

Exerting self-control, learning not to engage. It’s hard. I have a surprising number of thoughtless friends on facebook. (These include, I should add, people on both sides of the political spectrum.) It’s weird, that we’re connected. But these were people I said hi to in the hallways of my high school. Or they are people who know me now, who are nice to my children. Or they are people I have a little bit in common with thanks to a mutual friend–like somebody I’d meet at a cocktail party.

To watch, observe, keep my hands still and refrain from typing and hitting “return…” it takes a tremendous amount of self-control. We all need to sit on our hands a bit more. For one, it seems more… dignified. (That’s the reason I choose to use.) For another… we are accountable for our actions, good and bad.


“I know a change gonna come.”

I took a quiz today — learned about it thanks to a political facebook post, of all things. According to the results, I side most with Dr. Jill Stein of The Green Party (92%) and second most (91%) with President Barack Obama (Democrat). And thanks to a woman unafraid of self-promotion, I read this. (I should note, I went to the same high school as the author, Colleen Becker.)

[Stein’s] most vexing challenge is convincing progressives who agree with her message and support her platform to vote for a Green Party candidate. Stein describes how voters compromise their values and interests by choosing ‘the lesser evil’ — in their fear to stand up for themselves, they manifest their worst nightmares…
Practicing what she calls “political medicine,” Stein encourages her natural allies to heal themselves from a “sadomasochistic relationship to corporate politics” by acknowledging their agency…
Binarism afflicts American politics, and voters too often perceive the race between Democrats and Republicans as the battle of Good versus Evil. Seeing beyond the two-party structure is as difficult as imagining an economic model outside the Capitalist-Socialist dichotomy, yet neither duality adequately contends with current economic and political crises.

If my political views align with leaders of two parties, and I vote for the incumbent, would Dr. Stein suggest that I’m at best, a sell-out, and at worst, afraid? Both could be true. Mostly though, I think I’m a pragmatist, not a revolutionist. It troubles me, to think that a candidate who represents much of what I believe, might give me, a potential supporter, so little credit.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive. Maybe Dr. Stein simply expects more of me, a well-informed voter.

I’m just focused on making sure the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed and Medicare isn’t transformed into a “premium support” plan.

I see the forest for the trees, I really do. But a few of those trees are on fire, and they’re near my family’s home.

Lilies of the Field

Over breakfast this morning, I asked our son whether he wanted me to walk him to his Kindergarten classroom, or just drop him off at car circle, as his sister had done on her first day of school. He wanted me to walk him to his classroom. Then, it dawned on him.

“Is tomorrow the first day of school?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I don’t want to go to school,” he moaned, crying, with his toast falling out of his mouth.

“I promise,” I reminded, “I’m going to tell your teacher about Lily. Do you need to let your cry out some more?”

“Yes,” sniffling.

“Do you want to snuggle?”

“Yes.” He calmed down.

Two days ago, the school hosted an orientation for new students and parents. We stopped at our son’s Kindergarten classroom, and opened the door to a room filled to capacity with parents, new kindergarteners and their siblings. He took two steps in–and I happily pointed out two children he knew, a neighbor Sam and a preschool classmate Lily–and he marched right back out. I needed to carry him into the classroom as he quietly cried, and snuggle him for a good 10 minutes before he became interested in some toys.

Over the course of the weekend, I learned from him that in fact, he walked into that room on Friday and saw Lily’s dad before anything or anybody else.

“It frightened me,” because he knew then that Lily was in his class. He wailed, “I don’t want to be by Lily!”

Lily’s seat in class is right across from his. I’d guess this was done at her father’s benign request–his older daughter had the same teacher last year, and he likely shared with the teacher that Lily and our son were PreKindergarten classmates, sat next to each other, and got along.

But I learned from our daughter this weekend that she has seen Lily pull our son’s hair, grab at him, and generally bother him. Now, I’m sure Lily does this because she likes our son, but our son just doesn’t dig it.

And while Lily is a very bright, precocious girl, even I, an adult, can imagine not wanting “to be by” her, either. She told me last spring, as I was volunteering at the school carnival, that she wanted to marry our son. (Our son was off somewhere else with his sister and my husband.) I said, “Oh really? Then I’d be your mother-in-law!” I made a silly face. She decided to tickle my arm by scratching lightly, then harder, and her mother said, “Lily, be gentle. She likes to do that,” she added, by way of explanation, I guess. The mother walked off with her other daughter to buy something, leaving Lily with me for a minute. Lily then scratched me much harder, to the point of breaking my skin.

I looked at her with a very blank expression and said, “That hurt me. You need to stop.” Lily looked stricken. I don’t think she expected me to stop her, and she may have felt remorse, but I honestly can’t be sure. She was much nicer after that, though. Perhaps Lily hasn’t quite mastered the art of hearing “no.”

I don’t want to be one of “those” parents, but I will write a note to the teacher explaining our son’s anxiety about Lily, if only to share that he hasn’t quite mastered the art of saying “no.”

Saying it is, I think, is more important than hearing it.