Tag Archives: social norms

Dear Diary

It sucks to be forgotten about. It sucks even more to be conveniently forgotten about. I usually say people just assume my life is continually abuzz with social interactions and so they figure I’ll be fine. I’m not actually sure that’s really the case. I am perhaps more annoying than I am memorable or desirable.

It also sucks that lately I’ve been using this blog to relay so many negative thoughts. It’s kind of neat though – here I can be earnest with sad emotions in plain view and go totally unnoticed. Hiding in a bushel of websites, I spose.

I need to refocus my attention on the people who remember me. And on the people who are forgotten.

And I need to stop smothering, for the love of god. My excitement makes it hard for me to listen. Tom did send me that book…

I spent two hours making a 3D-printable hat with a kid at the library today. He’s got some mad digital literacies going on. And you know what, I’ve just found motivation to write up my fieldnotes. Queue the Nujabes.

Maybe god provides answers?

Unbaby Almost

About a month ago I was tickled to discover Unbaby.me, a plugin for Facebook that attempts to detect pictures of babies and replace them with an image feed of your choosing. It’s a neat idea, but the system fails on two accounts:

1) It traces words and phrases like “OMG SO CUTE!!! 🙂 🙂 :)” to determine if a picture is likely a baby. This takes out small furry animals as collateral damage, which I’m actually okay with, and also sometimes pictures of people. Sorry Ashley Bradarich, you’re still a celebrity but I love you for it. Your devil-angel photo is certainly TOO CUTE FOR WORDS HOLY GAWDS!!1!.

2) I set mine to relay the amazing website designs image feed on DeviantArt but since people there don’t understand what categories are I get results like the following:

See, this is my kind of information science. IR can be so much more fun than convoluted math equations.

Agency and Appearance

I am an assertive, friendly and extroverted male of average to slightly below-average appearance. In most contexts in life this works out to be a solid advantage but there are many times that my personality traits can’t make up for how I look. I can work out, which is good, but ultimately that does nothing to change my asymmetric face. My half-wavy hair that only grows sideways doesn’t allow for alternative looks other than short and shorter and my deep eye sockets and honking nose don’t combine well with a withdrawn chin that is almost double. I almost wish I could put on makeup. I know it would be a lie, and ultimately taxing both economically and socially (not to mention it doesn’t change head structure), but it would feel nice to have some (perceived) semblance of control.

Honestly I don’t know which is worse -> to ask people out a lot and get rejected or (worse yet intentionally ignored) OR to simply feel like you don’t have the power or worth to ask others out… left stuck in the position of not getting noticed or scaring off people by being assertive.

I stand facing an odd double-standard. If people don’t want to date me because of the kind of personality I have I’m just fine with that. If they don’t want to date me because of how I look I feel bad. I think learning to accept how I look might actually present a real honest-to-god challenge. If only I could learn to find less attractive people more attractive – hormones just don’t work that way do they.

At the end of the day I spose I should probably just feel lucky. Regardless of any number of romantic advance failures, I have a million good friends and a lion’s share of opportunity in front of me, backed by relative privilege and comfort. Yes, let’s go with that.


So I keep accumulating little snippets of items and issues I want to blog about, writing them down, and then putting them off forever. So to help deal with this I’ve decided to write little blurps in series, much like I did in “Shotgun Blast” a while back. Okay here we go:

Babies in the Doc Study
As many of you know I’m a baby when it comes to comparison to other doctoral students, both in sociology and library science. In fact one of my friends in GSLIS has a daughter my age. Weird, huh? Yeah well nearly all of them are married and several have kids, which isn’t a big deal, except one of the students has now made it a habit of bringing her small child with her to work. He’s little, probably less than a year, and is typically pretty happy and well behaved. My issue is not with the baby, but what he does to what I would normally consider to be a place of scholars and quiet study. Every doc student but myself (and perhaps the detached foreign students) lord over the little baby and fuss about him for hours. I can’t possible work with it… I find it downright annoying. I got to thinking about it, though, and the feminist inside of me says I should shut up and deal with it. Why? Because women are often tasked with taking care of kids, and to exclude them from access to advanced degrees on account of it is something of a form of discrimination. So as much as the herd of fussing old PhD students and somber baby might annoy me, I should probably appreciate her right to bring him along, it makes our school a friendly place to young mothers. I think what perhaps bothers me more is the contrast it brings out between myself and the older mass of graduates. I’m so very different than most of them.

Urban Prairie Archeology
I had the chance to sweep down to East St. Louis last November and work with the Katherine Dunham Archival society. I dubbed the experience “Urban Prairie Archeology” because it was such a strange endeavor. East St. Louis has areas that are sometimes referred to as Urban Prairie, which is when buildings and empty lots are overgrown with prairie grass because of neglect and environmental factors. Archeology comes into the mix in a unique form – we were rescuing documents and artifacts from storage houses that contained many items belonging to the venerable Katherine Dunham, a female black scholar and anthropologist who traveled the world and expressed what she learned in the form of dance. She ran a dance company and retrieved a number of pieces of art from countries around the world – Haiti, China, etc… Unfortunately much of this material hasn’t been preserved or sorted and instead packed into small run-down houses that are infested with animals and invaded by the elements. Our job was to venture into these houses and search through a mass of junk for valuable items dating back to the early 1900’s. The experience was invigorating, we were able to save some community history, a worthwhile cause.

My Digital Literacy
Occasionally I think back to my education and wonder how I came to be so technical. I didn’t really learn much of what I know in school. Or did I? Certainly none of my classes ever taught me how to use programs or work on digital art but many of them provided me with absurdly good inquiry-based and self-led learning opportunities. I was able to make videos and websites and required to integrate them into the traditional learning objectives present in most of my classes. It wasn’t perfect and none of the instructors ever really understood half of what I did but in some ways it was the best possible way I could have learned much of what I did. I also came to remember a teacher – the only one who ever really successfully integrated computers into the classroom – from my junior high. He let me read a Star Wars book for a book report, something no English teacher or my mother would have ever considered worthwhile learning. It wasn’t about the book’s quality or difficulty – it just wasn’t considered valuable from institutional eyes. I was supposed to read Shakespeare to To Kill a Mocking Bird. Anyway, Mr. Block was all about encouraging students to explore what they found interesting and engage them on their own level with relevant topics. He brought Legos into science class and we were encourage to play games on the computers and also use them for science and exploration. I never found another teacher to so seamlessly and effectively blend computers into class like that. Not until grad school. I should find out what he’s up to now!

That said, school really didn’t influence my digital literacy all that much. Our Packard Bell 1995 computer provide me with art/animation sequencing programs that I made strategy games and FPS narrative robot stories out of, architecture and landscape design software that resulted in mansions and gardens, and I even used MS paint to create Battlemech blueprints, pixel by pixel.

Oh and that whole Web2.0 thing? Pictures, message communities, blog-like editorials, travel journalism? Yeah I was doing all of that on www.jag85.com long before Facebook, Flickr and Blogger. Sad that I was made fun of so vehemently for it, these days it’s ordinary.

I lived in virtual communities online, practicing writing skills and playing characters while imagining and creating universes in my mind. I modified game systems and shared my innovations – character sheets, programs, and new rule systems – with people from all over the world.

And all the while this was at odds with my mother, who saw everything that I did as treacherous and unhealthy. She thought that the exposure to violence would drive me to hurt others and that the time spent on computers would prevent me from acquiring people skills. And here I stand, one of the most extroverted people I know (online and off!) looking to help other people for a living.

I have to give her credit, actually. Without her to oppose (and prove that I wasn’t a bad person or mistake of a child like she made me think I was) I wouldn’t have come to where I am now.

And for the record my mom now feels horrible about how she treated us as kids. She was a mixed up and insecure person stuck in a world of rich housewives all concerned with appearing upper class. She had a poor relationship with her mother growing up and has struggled over her views of equality, gender roles, and common good. A lot of what she did was because she didn’t have confidence, and had even less control.

So where did my digital literacy come from? In terms of people – school, my mother, and, well, the internet. In terms of the abstract (in parallel) – drive, defiance, and curiosity.

Excitment Refresh (Facebook has ruined romance)

So I had the chance to go visit an amazing childhood friend tonight and we hung out talking… he’s probably one of only 3 or 4 people in the Universe that I can do that with – sit down without food or activity at hand and talk with endlessly, it’s a comfort I’ve learned to cherish. Anyway as we were talking the topic came to his excited interest in a girl he’s met in the Quaker group he belongs to who sounds unreasonably cool (she wrote a book! and has a had a really interesting and deviant life). He was thinking about telling her that he’d like to see her outside of a Quaker meeting sometime, etc… effectively ask her out. As we were talking I brought up the possibility that she could be seeing someone already, and Tom had thought about it but didn’t know. But what I remember most is just how joyful he was about the excited possibility of a person he likes – an opportunity, a connection, a thrill, the prospect of so much happiness!

I didn’t know this sort of thing still happened these days. First off, I really, really (and I mean really) miss the days when I could actually ask a girl out. Not that I’m afraid to or unable to (well okay I’m seeing someone so it’d be downright unethical, but that’s not the point here), it’s that I’ve learned to get better at it. I liked the days when it would be the moment where you felt as if you had just jumped off the high dive (or off the 40 ft ledge canyoning) and didn’t know what was going to happen. Pure concentrate excitement, anxiety, thrill, joy, all mixed together.

Now-a-days the procedure is different. First off, directly asking a girl out is against the rules. I know not literally but there does seem to be a social norm established, it’s creepy to be that up front with someone, unless you’re some dashing lad who plays basketball or sings acappella. I’ve had individual women argue that this is different for them but my observation is that on the whole it’s not cool by most women’s standards. Most girls will shit a brick and desperately find an excuse to dodge you, quite visibly so if you do it in person. So what do we do? Trickery, step-by-step:

1) Find the person on Facebook, see if they’re single. No mystery in this regard anymore, and in fact I miss it so because it gives a false sense of permanency. People are no longer a questionable option – if you see they’re dating on Facebook then you’re ethically obligated to stay the fuck away.
2) Invite them to an event with mutual friends or a large scale public activity that’s little 1-on-1 face time or pressure. Talk to them a little more than might be out of the ordinary at this event but without really revealing your interest, for if you do they will shit a brick and you’ll be back to square one.
3) Find them on AIM (or Facebook or Gchat or whatever) and start talking to them about a common subject (question about class, their opinion on something non-political, etc…) and eventually evolve the conversation into something more meaningful.
4) Ask them out to a non-threatening activity, most common is lunch or coffee, but more creative versions in my past have been skating around with Inline Insomniacs or going to build a puzzle together at the library.
5) Rince and repeat the above until you’re fairly brick-proof and then you might think about actually asking them out on a real date. Maybe.

And honestly, I think this system flat-out sucks. I used to say fuck it and was bold and asked girls out and tried not to be dodgy. But it resulted in an endless stream of rejections and let-downs and a lot of depression. So after a while of that I tried various remixes of the misdirection bullshit game above and had a lot of success. My current relationship is actually as a result of this sort of thing, and I’m not particularly proud of it.

As happy as I am for Tom to have found a girl mystery and a new source of hope, I’m still sick and tired of a world where only guys ask out girls and being forward and honest with one another is considered creepy, not compassionate.

I really do like Facebook – on the whole – I like that it presents us a whole new level of information. But really I think it’s inadvertently helped to perpetuate this potentially sexist norm and a lot of passive or indirect type behavior. The thrill of discovering someone through asking them out on a date is immediately diminished from the get-go simply because you already start off knowing if they’re available. Sure you avoid the embarrassment of asking someone out that is in a relationship, but you also avoid the flattery, the excitement and dammit I fucking like getting reamed once a while it helps me remember I’m alive. It makes the times that it does work out all the more worth it and I’ve learned to respect the people who can look you in the eye and actually say no. We don’t feel comfortable asking a person out until we check them out on this twisted social ecology. Girls use it as a defensive mechanism to keep guys away from them, in fact – mark their relationship status and suddenly they can feel safe. I mean hell we even somehow declare a relationship real when it’s hetero and on Facebook (nevermind the LGBT discrimination here, or the age-plurality complex).

So a lot of complaining about passive women and gender roles, I know, my usual, right? This might be my best unsung argument for denouncing Facebook yet, is that it helped to keep dating dishonest, indirect and introvert.

Maybe someday we’ll see a gender-equality universe where women are just as likely to ask out men as vice versa and Facebook won’t be the biggest cock-block in town… I’ll hedge my bets with the LGBT rights movement.

Signing out for the night, positivity will return later, I swear.

Facebook Friends, False Connections and Social Norms

I noticed a friend ‘defriended’ me the other day on Facebook, which normally wouldn’t be a hugely new or life-shattering event… except that this person happened to be someone who I really like and used to be really close to. It’s not uncommon to lose weak contacts like people I knew in classes or back in high school (with a friends list as big as mine I’ve actually noticed if I make small changes to my profile like politics or relationship status I can lose friends), but this one was different. We had some falling out somewhere over the digital medium in semi-recent history and it got me all upset and thinking about how the act of severing a connection on Facebook could really be a strong statement, especially when they’re far away and FB might be the only viable connection you have to them anymore.

I mean we talk about stalking and whatnot on Facebook but I’ve noticed that many people have a small group of people that they like to watch from afar on Facebook. Maybe that person doesn’t really know them very well or they’re afraid of being confrontational or they don’t even like them that much but they’re interesting – it’s nice to follow their life without having to become directly involved in it. It’s a fake connection though, created by the technology and not by the actual relationship you have with the person.

Anyway a friend of mine noticed and empathized with me because she had been recently defriended too – but by someone she sees occasionally in person. She had no idea why but was worried if there was some sort of problem she didn’t know about. It’s an awfully passive-aggressive way to indicate to someone that you don’t like them. We got to talking about the messages such an action might send and I concluded that hers wasn’t a legitimate concern because the person who defriended her was older (think 40’s) and not a ‘Facebook native’ and therefore couldn’t possibly understand what message he sent her with such an action. My friend, however, I felt definitely knew what kind of damage she would do.

But as I later came to understand, that may not actually be all that accurate. As more people from different countries, generations, and life experiences join Facebook they bring with them new ways of understanding it as a social environment and communication tool. And that includes the meaning of ‘defriending’ – just like society at large Facebook is probably developing a plurality of social norms. Some people take it more seriously and find it more meaningful than others and there may be some variance in immerse (everyday cognizant) use. I still do think that this correlates with age closely but much like the notion of digital natives it’s probably much more of a population than a generation.

The bigger question is what to do about the people who don’t agree to the social contracts and norms established by the youth population who made Facebook huge. How do we get everyone on the same page?

My friend, by the way, did eventually talk to the person who defriended her and figured out it was more done on accident and not intended as an aggressive move. I probably won’t ever hear from the person who dropped me again…