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Archive for September, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

I write a fair amount about media literacy on this blog. It’s a topic I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about. I also have a professional background in SEO (search engine optimization), which means that I have a solid enough grasp of how the Internet works and how pieces of information make it to each person’s browser. That being said, after watching this nine minute TED talk, I realized I’ve had my head in the sand about some critical shifts in the ways information is delivered to each net denizen. This is disconcerting both as a consumer of Internet information and as a parent striving to teach media literacy to my young children. I’m grateful to now be aware of the ways in which people are getting dramatically different information on the Internet and how the algorithmic calculation of information distribution is totally invisible to the end user. As my children get older and begin to use the Internet as the incredible information gathering tool it is, I will be able to help them be more critical consumers of what they discover.

I feel like I’m gumming up the message and importance of understanding filters, personalization and Internet literacy. Fortunately, TED presenter Eli Pariser does a far better job, explaining it very simply and compellingly. Take nine minutes to watch this video. I promise you will be grateful you did. It will probably be the best thing you’ve ever experienced on the Internet. Well, except maybe the insanity test.

TED Talk on YouTube (posted by WikiLeaks… I’m still not sure how I feel about them)

Here’s the link to the video on the TED site:

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

And here’s Eli’s website, where you can find loads more information about the Filter:

http://www.thefilterbubble.com/

Finally, if you are looking for resources to learn more about media literacy, check out the unbranding section here.

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If you don't get the cultural reference, go watch the movie "Austin Powers." This is the character, Dr. Evil, telling his son to "zip it."

I’ve already posted about how my daughter is a super-talker, but have I mentioned how draining this can be at times? It seems that especially in the afternoons, as she’s getting tired, instead of becoming more placid, my daughter gets even more amped up. Her chatter shifts into warp-speed mode and her ability to rapid-fire questions (rarely pausing to listen to the answer, mind you) simply sets my head spinning. I can’t even think of responses, much less form words in my mouth before she’s pounced onto the next thing. It would seem that that best strategy to handle this would be to simply ignore her, but that just makes her double her efforts.

I’m assuming this is a phase and from others’ posts I’ve read around the Internets, by the time she’s fifteen I’ll wonder if she even knows how to speak at all. We’ll see about that!

In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to settle down the jabber, as the more she spins up, the faster she seems to go. This lead me to a great article on dealing with backtalk. My daughter isn’t quite five, so even when she does talk back, I don’t think it’s genuine “backtalk” in the sense of the sassy, disillusioned teenager. All the same, I can’t help but interpret her responses as being sassy, much as I tell myself they are not intended that way – she genuinely seems to be trying to convey her understanding of things, not questioning my statements.

I found the article on backtalk to be pretty refreshing because it got me thinking about the subtext of these exchanges. It doesn’t matter that I’m dealing with a preschooler instead of middle schooler. Her intentions may be pure, but my interpretations of her interruptions and questioning are what lead to my agitation. The article helped me recognize that I don’t have to convince my children I’m “right” or why my judgment is sound (“No, you may not have cookies right before dinner”). When my daughter lobs a counter point to something I’ve just said, I get annoyed because I feel like she’s constantly questioning my authority. It turns out that if I don’t engage in feeling like my judgment is being questioned – I don’t need to prove a point, I just need to state it – things will go more smoothly.

What do you think? How do you handle back talk and constant chatter from your five year old (or under)?

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The Butterfly Song

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Welcome to the Moonies. Parenthood.

Warning: Having a baby is just like joining a cult. No, I’m not talking about the “cult of parenthood,” wherein your childless “child free” friends suddenly feel insulted that you’ve crossed over to this strange world where all you want to talk about is your kid. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. It’s just that what your childfree friends don’t understand is that you haven’t made a choice to get subsumed into this weird parenting cult. You’ve been brainwashed.

Think about it – everything that happens to you when you have a baby pretty much follows the play-by-play of Brainwashing 101. Just read the following and swap out “cult” for “baby.” Welcome to parenthood, sucker. Please leave your brain at the door.

1. The Cult Weakens Your Senses Through Sleep Deprivation

First, your sleep schedule is interrupted. You are no longer master of your slumber. You can be awoken at any time, day or night. Sleep comes in short bursts at highly irregular times. It is also interrupted by loud noises, a classic mind control technique. Sleep disruption is probably the most basic and essential step in brainwashing. Someone who can keep you up very late and wake you up very early, much less interrupt whatever spans of REM time you do pull together… they control you. They own you.

2. The Cult Further Disorients You By Altering Your Basic Routines

Second, your most basic routines get altered. Ever notice how it’s impossible to find sunlight while wandering around a casino? That’s because in between the loud music, the glaring lights and almost maze-like hall systems, you become disoriented and lose sense of time and place in a casino. By numbing your orientation, you become more vulnerable to making mindless decisions. Babies change what you eat (I don’t recall getting to eat a warm, freshly prepared meal for at least the first six weeks after my daughter was born!), when you eat (odd hours here and there), and how you eat (huddled like a starving animal scarfing it down as fast as possible!). They also change when and how often you shower and what clothes you wear (there are days when you never make it out of your pajamas in those early weeks).

3. The Cult Separates You from Your Support System

This is a super biggie. I had a roommate who the Moonies once tried to indoctrinate. She and a friend were invited to a “dinner” at a Moonie gathering place. They were picked up in San Francisco, driven about 40 minutes away (so they had no means of returning on their own) and then, once there, immediately separated from one another. Diana, my roommate, realized later that while everyone was friendly, she and her friend were kept in two distinct groups for the whole night.

Babies separate you from your support network just as handily. Because your sleep schedule is so off, good luck making plans and actually being able to fulfill them! Childless friends quickly drop off, taking your sudden lack of availability as a sign that they’ve been replaced by the baby. Friends with children are so busy raising their own brood they can’t make it. One day, you look up and realize it’s been MONTHS since you had a decent conversation with another adult.

4. The Cult Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Badly About Yourself

Now that the cult has got you alone, look out for your self image! It doesn’t help that your body is already in its worst spot – looking at the mirror post-baby is sheer depression-inducing. Plus, due to #3, you haven’t had a stimulating conversation in ages and your brain is completely fried. It’s very easy to lose perspective of all the wonderful gifts you have to give to the world and solely see yourself as a 24 hour baby-feeding, poop-wiping slobbering idiot. Now that you need it most, you are least likely to summon the courage to get out of the house and connect with folks in the outside world because of how low you are feeling.

5. The Cult Makes You Look to It as Your Sole Source of Value and Self-Esteem

Remember the feeling you got the first time your baby truly smiled at you? Enough said.

6. You are Now Obligated to Give the Cult All Your Money

Now that the cult has completely oriented your world around it, it demands that you commit all of your finances to its health, well being and development. The cult’s survival and growth is your highest obligation in life and every decision you make from here forward for the rest of your life will be filtered through the “is this what’s best for the cult?” modifier.

But It’s Worth It – I Swear! (says the brainwashed one)

After all – doesn’t this just make your ovaries jump?

I'd give up my life for this little brainwasher, and it's not even mine. I mean, really, how can you say 'no' to cuteness like that???

By the time we all make it out to the other side of early parenting, when we start to get some simple routines and normalcy back – like sleeping for at least four hours in a row – we have no idea we’ve been brainwashed. This is the new reality for us, our complete and total dedication to our young spawn. Little by little, we reclaim small pieces of our former lives: an occasional dinner date with a friend, some witty repartee with a stranger in line at the grocery store, wearing shirts not branded with baby spit up. We creep back into the sunlight of a world that seems just like that which we left the moment before our child was first born, totally and completely oblivious to the fact that we are now 100% owned by our charges. Sure, our child-free friends can see it, but they’re not going to tell us. They think we choose  to pleasantly bear through our toddler’s  temper tantrums, preschooler’s constant interruptions and nagging,  teenaged curfew blow offs and sullen, ungrateful consumption of thoughtfully prepared meals. They don’t know that we are so totally absorbed into the cult that we can’t even see we’re in it. They think we are aware of our shift from autonomous adult to parental automaton.

But, thank goodness nature works this way. Otherwise, how would we continue to propagate and thrive? Without it, babies would simply be left on their own and, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. Speaking from personal experience, without the decent brainwashing I know for a fact that I’d be incapable of fulfilling everything parenting demands – the late nights, the odd hours, the sacrifice and in the end, the terrifying letting go. So, here’s to a good brainwashing! May it never wear off!

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Thanks to my fantastic new friend, MBAMommy, who let me subject her to my quirky idea about baby brainwashers the other day 🙂 You can read MBA Mommy’s post about it here.

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