I Have a Voice (And You Do Too)

Not 'Shutting the Fuck Up"

Not ‘Shutting the Fuck Up”

My son asked me last night if there is still a role for feminism in the 21st century “with all the progress we’ve seen.” Of course! I told him. Steubenville, Ohio and New Delhi, India are surely proof enough. But there’s a subtler way in which women are silenced. I see it in the recent spate of articles about young women’s “annoying” speech patterns. I see it in the lack of female editorial voices on opinion pages (where men sometimes outnumber women by 10:1). I see it in the pairing of elderly men with barbie dolls on Fox news. And I see it, to be totally self-referential (a trait I have been taken to task for multiple times on my, um, extremely self-referential personal blog), in the frequent attacks on my ‘right’ to speak.

Let’s review: I know nothing and do no research, I have a “little” or “so-called” or “lame” job. I am not allowed to refer to myself as a “columnist” or a “contributor.”  (This reflects chutzpah.) I don’t know my place in the pecking order. It was unspeakably “pathetic” for me to share links to my work — as all writers do – from Andrew Sullivan and other sites. People assume that I am not paid, naturally. Or they are furious to discover that I am paid. It’s apparently “bragging” and “self-promoting” to try to generate income for oneself through efforts to increase readership that could produce additional writing assignments. (Just yesterday this windbag was asked to be a “contributor” to the Boston NPR affiliate.) But that presumes I am actually working; my ‘work’ is often referred to in quotation marks. My credentials are suspect too. My education is mocked. I’m told that I have no claim to speak on certain topics – especially issues related to men’s regrettable behavior. I’m censoring other people’s voices, God forbid (about which, a lot more in  a moment.)

And here’s the real kicker I’m “defensive.” This is the catch-all term for uppity women who want to stake out a claim. If we don’t like being put in our place, we are called ‘defensive.’ It’s unfalsifiable, which is the beauty of putting someone in her place, like asking: When did you stop beating your wife? There’s no answer that would satisfy.

Blah blah blah blah

Blah blah blah blah

I’m not talking about internet trolls, by the way. This feels different than the standard: “I hate you! No, I hate you!” discourse on the internet. As one supportive emailer put it to me: ‘The endless questioning of your credibility feels off. Do you think it’s partly sexism?” To be clear: I have no problem with disagreement on my content – none at all – but I do have a problem with people questioning my right to have a voice. I’ve spent 50 years learning to speak and I’n not planning to “STFU” any time soon, notwithstanding yesterday’s advice.

Still blabbing

Still blabbing

Over the last 24 hours, many hundreds of people have posted comments about my work at TIME.com. This is an open forum for anyone with a keyboard, and I’m delighted that people have a space to voice their reactions, even the negative and ugly ones. I’m old enough to remember back in the Jurassic era of print media the sense of powerlessness and asymmetry that characterized the reader-writer relationship. Only a handful of letters to the editor were published at best, and generally only those with stilted, calming prose. I still remember the first time one of my own letters was published. I felt a sense of validation that I, too, could have a say. It was posted at Salon.com — this must have been back in the ’90s, and I remember thinking: ‘Wow, this is a different world.’ So of course I understand the desire for a level playing field where speech is concerned.

I've been known to listen occasionally, too

I’ve been known to listen occasionally, too

Yet I am also taken to task for “censoring” people here at my blog, and that accusation (when there is an open forum at TIME.com for commentary on every one of my opinion columns, as there it at every site at which I’ve ever published work) strikes me as a Bridge Too Far. I’ve received hundreds of comments to this site, only a small fraction of which I’ve chosen to post below in the comments section. Why? well, here’s the response I’ve offered to one angry commenter who feels silenced:

For the record, when I write controversial topics like male-pepetrated violence, gun control, and rape, hundreds of people like you expect that their comments will be posted here at ErikaChristakis.com in addition to what they can post at TIME.com. My email inbox is also routinely full of emails, some praiseworthy but many calling me a cunt, a skank, and a person deserving to die and other nice terms. My policy is to publish a small cross-section of comments, both positive and negative, but I don’t see any obligation whatsoever to post every comment, or even the majority. It’s an editorial decision, if you like…My personal blog is my own space to define as I want. You have the same rights too. Publish an opinion piece! Start your own blog!

…Why question my right to speak? I don’t question yours. There seems to be a deep bitterness that I am the writer while others are the commenters. But that’s the marketplace of ideas…if you have something to say, you have plenty of options available to you, including a place for comments on my columns at TIME.com. Anyone can post there. It can hardly be said that you are being deprived of a voice. The irony, of course, is that I spent years developing my right to have a voice – through education and hard work – and it’s because of writers like me that you even have the venue to express your own ideas. In the old days of print media, you would have had to put some real work and skill behind your words if you wanted them to see the light of day. Not so anymore. (And that’s a good thing!) Everyone has a place to speak now. Go find yours.

Not going anywhere!

Not going anywhere!

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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25 Responses to I Have a Voice (And You Do Too)

  1. adauphin04 says:

    I, for one, am truly grateful that you are not going to STFU. I am currently working on a docu-drama addressing this and all such issues which are to be expected in this patriarchy. Expected, but not accepted. Expected, but no longer tolerated. “It is what it is” is no longer a viable excuse for the behavior of not only men towards women, but women towards women! Speak on, sister! Silence=death. Thank you for being you!

    • Thank you! And I feel the same about your work. For some reason, this comment first went to spam. Good grief! The last thing I want to do is silence YOU. :)

    • Jason says:

      There’s some pretty nasty women to men stuff, too.

      And if we think that silence = death, then should we not be very careful when we suggest that testimony given by a rape survivor is false. There are implications of that in this article when Erika writes that we don’t know what happened in India. The rape victim reported what happened before she died. And in Ohio the girl may not remember what happened that night, but the boys who were there do and three of them testified to exactly what happened — she was sexually assaulted.

      If silence does equal death, we need to be more willing to believe people when they report a rape or have been the victim of one.

  2. I don’t know how old your son is but to give him further insight into contemporary gender inequality, you might want to suggest he look at the shoes women wear, and those men wear. Why is it that accompanying women’s supposed liberation has been a trend in painful, ungainly, unhealthy footwear. And women collude in this oxymoronic sexualisation/fetishisation of feet. Instructive to observe that nowhere in the metrosexualisation of men is anything approaching this type of footwear!

    • So true! I gave up heels a few years ago because of knee problems and still struggle with the perception that i have somehow desexualized myself! In my high school senior son’s defense… he is actually taking an elective on the history of feminism (good boy!) and was asked to poll people he knew with that question. Our daughter belongs to a feminist group and believes that feminism means a commitment to activism, ie you can’t be a feminist unless you are actively “fighting.” What do you think?

      • I think it’s important to be active in living out ones values and beliefs, and I know that, at times, for whatever reason, I just ‘pass on by’ so I think it’s wonderful that your son and daughter have grown up understanding the importance of courage: the courage to be true to ones beliefs. They are being the change they want to see, and making it more likely that others will speak out against discrimination and prejudice, stupidity and nastiness, which is great.

  3. Dear Erika:

    Men and women have a right to speak in our society according to the First Amendment but also with the caveat that they do not slander or libel someone. Those are laws as well. It used to be, back in my day (60s/70s) that we had a much “saner” level of discourse but that is gone. I think we all know that. We have numerous “hot button” issues now that we did not have before. These are paraded out in society over and over. People are quite fed up with them. All I can say is that John Bradshaw’s mother told him, “John, never discuss religion with others. Avoid it. It is too emotional.” As a former pastor and counselor I agree. Perhaps we should add politics to the list as well. Because we seem to be getting into trouble a lot. Many subjects used to be off limits. Someone’s personal religious or political beliefs. How they voted. How much money they made. Who they were having sex with and so forth. Is it possible Erika that we are treading into people’s personal privacy and souls as never before and reaping logical consequences of doing so? We are damaging each other by this incessant level of discourse. Frankly, I am fed up too. Must everything be “up for discussion” or is it possible in this day and age to still firmly yet politely tell people, “that is really none of your business.” I shudder, personally, when anyone tells me, “keep an open mind.” Why? So anything and everything can filter into it? Why would I not “protect and guard my heart and mind” as I was taught to do by ancient wisdom? Am I supposed to open my mind and heart so any old garbage can filter in at the whim of someone else? I think not! When I surf through my TV channels and come across someone bludgeoning someone to death I turn the channel immediately. I don’t let harmful things into my mind or into my eyes. The eyes being “the windows to the soul.” Why would I entertain all voices and all discussions and all subjects? I don’t. Frankly, I find some discussions personally harmful. They are powder keg discussions from the get go. They are best left alone. Yet, many people bring them up to me over and over and they always end up in a fight and argument. Isn’t it best to leave them alone as John Bradshaw’s mother says? I think this is wisdom and good advice. Not everything can or should be discussed. Some things should be left alone. As to the wishes of the parties involved. You Erika, had a very wise voice inside of you telling you to leave this rape issue alone and not write about it. You admitted that in your post. Yet, your editor pushed on you to write it and what happened? You got ripped a new one and it was awful to hear some of the comments. Yet that intuitive voice inside, that inner woman wisdom, told you to leave it alone, right? When women like you can tell your editor firmly, “NO. I will not weigh in on this” and put their OWN moral integrity above everything else then we will have gotten somewhere as a society. Do you know what I miss Erika? I miss my Aunt Allie and Uncle Scotty. They were this old couple in my life long gone. We used to sit around the table on Sunday with a roast and potatoes and carrots with homemade bread and coffee “Just talking.” We laughed a lot. People told stories. It was hilarious. If anything go serious and it did once in awhile my Uncle was quiet. When asked he would simply say, “I keep my opinions to myself.” He was a great man! I miss that. Our opinions and our discourse in this country is out of control. We are tampering with personal and private subjects and I think this is getting us into trouble. WE are “trespassing” against one another in the personal and private realm of mind, heart, spirit and soul. Many things should just be left unsaid. My Uncle Scotty was a great listener. A very wise man and the ancient proverb says, “Even a fool if he is quiet is thought to be a man of wisdom” and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce said, “There has been too much talk by people who had no right to talk.” We never even ask if this person or that person has a “right ” to talk on this subject or that. We just automatically assume that everyone has a “right” to weight in on everything. I think this is our problem. I am sticking with Uncle Scotty and Chief Joseph. That is all I have to say about that. Have a good day and I wish you peace and blessings. Liz Levesque+

  4. Jasn says:

    Good luck to you. It’s sad that you won’t let dissenters call you on your false facts and explosive assertions. You seem like a nice person ill-equipped to be blogging on a national news source with strong opinions and such an inability to allow dissent.

    I am sorry that I was harsh in my comments — I am REALLY upset about these violent attacks. I think you should show more sensitivity to the people who are angry about your column — I am not alone.

    I had to change names / alter my name a few times just because you kept deleting me and threw out accusations (like I am a sexist) that were not only unfounded but so ironically upside down.

    Looking at your profile and that of your husband, you seem like intellectuals who are set off a bit from the trauma of people who have been assaulted. That explains this theoretical and approach and a looking down on the peasants with reactive opinions.

    I won’t revisit your blog, nor suggest to your editor thus:

    Take your blog off your byline. You aren’t inviting conversation, just allowing people in to see what yet more you have to say then only allowing in the kind comments.

    There’s a lot of pride and defensiveness in your TIME column and blog and not a lot of understanding. In my view, you have compromised your intellectual heft online die to this column and the reactive way you felt you had to cover for it. Calling people names, deleting their comments, never even suggesting a rethinking of your initial premise despite pissing off half of the Internet (for every one comment you see online there are 100 readers with that same angle.) The comments ran about 20 – 1 in opposition to your premise.

    But good luck. I hope you decide to be less critical of people who are passionate about their views regarding sexual assault and do a better job researching the facts of the cases you say we “don’t know what happened.”

    We do know what happened. And your column tries to cloud that and when people call you on it you act as if this is all about Erika.

    It is not.

    • To “Jasn”: There are so many things I want to say but, first, I want to challenge your assumption that I am the one who has been critical of your ideas. Quite the reverse is the case. I find the rush to judge in rape and murder cases very alarming, and potentially catastophically counter-productive, but I would have reacted very differently if you had been more civilized and sincere instead of going immediately on the attack with such hostility. You and many others are willfully ignoring the message of my piece: that social media can be very powerful in both good and bad ways. As you are well aware, I was using the Steubenville case as an illustration of a larger point: we don’t always get optimal and well-intended results from our desire to rush to judgment. I’m being accused by many of stifling protest and social action, which is ridiculous and patently false. This makes me sad and also very angry because my words have been twisted into something they are not. I have never said, nor do I remotely believe, that protest is bad. I believe social media can be a force for social revolution (as in the Middle East.) And, good grief, look at my other work on women’s issues: the Todd Akin debacle, Sandra Fluke/Rush Limbaugh story, the India rape-murder, the sex trafficking pieces and fair trade pornography, the pieces on male violence and guns and on and on. There’s a long record of my views on women, and there is nothing – nothing whatsoever – to suggest that I am a rape apologist or defending the cultural status quo favoring men.

      Reasonable people can disagree on the merits and limits of due process vs. the merits and limits of trial-by-media. Every case is different. We won’t know the ultimate resolution of these specific cases (maybe for years or even decades, if history is any guide) but we can have reasonable dialogue about ideas. That’s not what you or my detractors (to put it kindly) are interested in.

      Whenever I’ve written a controversial piece (usually involving women’s sexuality, guns, men’s violence, or all three), my inbox (both my harvard email and my blog) are cluttered with “comments” from people telling me I am variously: an asshole, a cunt, a whore, a slut, a bitch, a skank, a person who should be urinated and ejaculated and defecated on/in, a person who should be disembowled or murdered, a person who should be ‘very, very afraid’ of repercussions from the anonymous poster’s ire et cetera. I have been told to suck off/jerk off various men’s dicks and lie down and be fucked to death/up the ass and so forth. If you think I am exaggerating, I would direct your attention to the following article from the Independent. Why should I see, much less POST, this hateful drivel? In addition, I hear from anonymous posters like you who harangue me to respond to and publicize their views, often quite unrelated to the topic at hand, about what a horrible person I am. Such people have no interest in dialogue — how easy to throw stones from the anonymity of multiple fake addresses. Many of these commenters have gone well beyond my actual words and literally misquote me or bring in various tangential “facts” — that I have made my living off my husband’s success, that I am a snob, that I have apparently never experienced sexual assault, that I have never worked with or known ‘regular’ people, that I am a terrible mother/teacher/wife/civilian and blah blah. Often there is huge narrative inconsistency from the various commenters. When I wrote about the “overwhelming maleness of mass homicide,” I was excoriated for being a man-hating feminist harpy bitch. When I described the difficulty of adjudicating date rape accusations in a college setting (College Sex: 50 shades of grey), I was tarred with being a victim-blaming, woman-hating rape apolgist. The one constant is the accusation of being a pseudo-intellectual phony with no life experience and thus no right to speak.

      As for your presumption that you should be allowed uncontrolled access to my own blog for your views, on the grounds that I link to it in my byline, this is logically inconsistent and as a practical matter quite unfeasible. I’m curious what other aspects of my byline you claim the right to control. And what about other writers’ bylines? How many other blogs have you come across, including via writer bylines, that allow you such access? Is it because I am a “little” person – not deserving my very small platform I’ve worked hard to earn – that you feel this way? Or do you also think that David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, et al should also be obliged to allow all of your comments all the time? I read a lot of online commentary and read a lot of bylines, of both famous writers and people like me; it’s extremely rare that I am allowed to push my comments anywhere I want. Usually these blogs are either totally closed to comments or highly restrictive of them. I know this because even times when I am posting a comment to clarify my own work that a blogger has picked up, I am rarely allowed to comment. And I have no problem with this. Something dangerous has happened with the internet, along with the wonderful transparency and greater access to information: people, especially anonymous posters like you, start believing that they have a “right” to any so-called discourse they want with any person they want. Why should I take my blog off my byline? Because you are angry that you don’t get to control my work in the way you want? Why not write your own blog? It seems awfully “prideful” to want even more access than you’ve already been given. I can write whatever byline I want (as long as I’m not misrepresenting myself). I could link to my shutter account of family photos if I wanted. I could link to my CV. I could link to any other aspects of my professional or personal presentation I choose. Should you and thousands of others have access to all of these aspects of my identity? Why do you want to deny me the right to define myself? Think of how much air time my words have given you already. Do you think this particular medium (electronic) affords no barriers at all? I write a blog for my own reasons – it’s part of who I am. I also have a day job, a family, responsibilities and burdens. When I started my blog I made no contractual obligation that I would manage my site the way you and hundreds, if not thousands, of angry people want it to be managed.

      My blog is a small part of my life. Why on earth should I waste my very limited time sorting through these “comments” and posting each and every one of them – especially when my “readers” don’t have the courtesy to read my language carefully? In your case, where is the “lot of pride and defensiveness” in my TIME.com piece? Really, what loaded words. I seriously doubt my TIME.com editor would allow me to include a “lot of pride and defensiveness” in my column. How often was I accused of sentiments, and statements, I simply did not make in my TIME.com column this past week? That I want the football players to go free! Ludicrous! (I personally want ALL the people involved to be charged and prosecuted, including the parents who enable these disasters). That I am denying the Indian woman was raped and murdered? Insane. My first line referenced the universal “brutality” against women. I can’t even count the falsehoods and escalations and the willful denial of my stated goal: justice for all. But even if all my comments were uniformly praiseworthy, that was never the purpose of my blog. Yes, call me ego-centric! It’s my blog. I’m trying to develop as a writer. If that makes my blog, “all about Erika,” so be it. I think, however, that you would find if you actually took the time to read my other work, that I have spent my entire adult life focused not on ‘all about Erika” but, rather, working directly with the vulnerable and disenfranchised: children, especially, but also women in poverty, the mentally ill, rape and sexual assault victims, the homeless and drug-addicted and others. Quite a long way from the “theoretical approach and looking down on peasants with reactive opinions”. Wow. That’s a lot of assumptions. But why should I try to prove my street cred and defend myself against people who think they “know” me because I had the temerity to accept a low-paying gig at TIME.com with a byline that they insist should be an open-source website?

      I don’t know how to respond to your wishes for good luck. They feel insincere. Clearly, my writing isn’t a good fit with your interests and I am of course sorry that you are not going to come back to the blog. But I’m also on some level very relieved and here’s why, “Jason”: You may not truly understand (and note I said “may”) how unsettling it is to hear from anonymous people who have (in my honest opinion) mininterpreted and misrepresented my views. It’s scary to live in an atmosphere where so many people think it’s cool for anonymous strangers to call women cunts and make death threats and go off on wild tangents about one’s worth and personal background. It certainly concentrates the mind, as they say. As for changing my byline, I’m keeping it the way it is for all the reasons I described; but I can definitely promise I won’t link to my facebook and baby photos!

      • Jason says:

        Erika,

        Thank you for allowing my say. My “good luck” gesture was sincere. I get carried away with upset when I think of how I believe your column may have given some encouragement to those who deny the trauma this girl is going through. I do not at all think this was your intent and I apologize for making it seem so.

        I apologize, too, for using language in my posts to you that was unkind and even derogatory. You don’t deserve that and, truthfully, I think you have are are trying to bring fairness and calm reflection into this debate / discussion.

        I do wish you well. I get carried away with passion and am myself quite defensive.

        I appreciate your place as a mother, a citizen, a writer, a speaker and a thinker.

        I truly wish you all the best.

        Jason (aka… Jas, Jasn, etc.)

        PS: I don’s do Facebook (aside form owning shares ;-) So, I wouldn’t even get to see your kids pics… though I am certain they are charming.

      • Thank you so much for the gracious apology. I understand the passion and anger. It’s hard for all of us. (And I must say, I do appreciate that you weren’t issuing death threats. There are gradations of ‘derogatory’!) I’m sure people are writing sociology dissertations about all the ways the internet has both helped and harmed society. In the meantime, we are stuck trying to navigate this every day.

        Again, many thanks. I’m genuinely sorry my writing caused you such stress and had the opposite of its intended effect. Let’s move on and work to prevent the horrible things that inspired this exchange.

      • Jason says:

        PS — I hope you know I never used words such as “c…” or issued any kind of threat. My comments have been quite harsh and at times inappropriate, but I would never, ever call any woman that or do anything that made someone afraid of the person behind the post.

        If I have done the latter, I am even more regretful. I may seem like an asshole in some of my posts (and I’m not proud of that), but I am a person of peace and have worked for peace and justice throughout my life as has every member of my family present and past.

        Jason

      • Jason says:

        “Give me that man
        That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
        In my heart’s core.”

        There’s hope, even for the poets.

  5. Daphne says:

    And herein lies the problem with the Internet. The impersonal nature allows us to completely ignore the advances we’ve had by becoming a civilization. Someone 40-something-year-old can sit, naked, in his parent’s basement while freely posting abusive comments to people they do not know with zero repercussions. Perhaps they are just trolling, getting off on insulting and angering others. Hey, I like a good troll pile-on as much as anyone else, but at some point it just becomes annoying and ultimately sad.

    Disagreement is fine and I think quite healthy when positive, focused and genuine. I love a good argument that helps me to better form my own opinions. If I close my mind to any other opinions, I can assure you that I will become stupid. I don’t know everything and while I don’t always agree with others, their point of view educates me greatly.

    But this trend of aiming the anonymous fire hose of insults is a sign of the decline of our society. We can’t even listen or be civil anymore and we simply hide behind our IP addresses. To the Jasons of the world; If you don’t like what Erika or anyone else has to say, stop reading the blog. Try lolcats instead.

    http://images61.fotki.com/v439/photos/4/43328/157743/fatboy-vi.jpg

  6. Jason says:

    To Daphne,

    I have posted an apology to Erika. I agree with what you said and came to that conclusion on my own. We all know when we’ve been acting like a bore and I am regretful.

    That said, telling someone to go somewhere else and not respond to a column that was thought to be making a challenge worse is not appropriate. The girl in Ohio deserves better than some of the posters that have clung, however twisted their logic, to Erika’s post as a lifeline to their theory that this girl was not actually harmed.

    One poster has suggested that the girl isn’t that upset about it and the boys are “good boys.”

    I am not sure how anyone can see that sort of filth and not be upset.

    You are right to criticize my tone and language. I can’t recall that from the record. But, I think you are wrong to out of hand dismiss the concerns that are relevant to the piece Erika wrote and TIME published. Many people feel that it was unkind and unhelpful at this time and, as I say, it gave a great deal of energy to the rape deniers. Just read the posts and you shall see.

    Blessings,

    Jason

  7. Jason says:

    I just read again the graph that begins with “Whenever I’ve written a controversial piece…”

    I am stunned an saddened that people have been so cruel (and, again, I stand accountable for my part in this particular instance). It is awful that people would say those things and it makes me think you should make your blog private.

    Again, I am sorry for the tone of and anger in my posts. They were driven by furry at the crime and those who seek to deny it (like Lint has). That’s not an excuse.

    Again, I am deeply saddened that you have been subject to such attacks. I don’t think these are the kind of people who make good on threats, but that is no consolation.

    I hope you continue to write.

    Again — my regrets for my part in the anarchy of the discussion. I stand by my upset about your premise and how it was articulated and then used by those who deny this rape happened. It did. Read the testimony of the three boys.

  8. To: Daphne. I agree. Here is Dr. Keith Ablow on that very subject: “The Sick Society of Facebook and Twitter”- On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
    Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame. …
    On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.
    These are the psychological drugs of the 21st Century and they are getting our sons and daughters very sick, indeed.

  9. To:Erica- you asked yourself, “Am I a narcissist?” Yes. Of course. And your ego is probably huge. And you probably want to “be heard” and all of the above applies to me and you and everyone else in this sick Facebook and Twitter and social media society. I recently deleted my Facebook account because I was out of control and so were others. In fact, I am not a young person. But, I recognized that I have become “sick” like the others and I want to get well. I realized that the more I “blogged” and commented on Facebook and even on your blog, blog, blog, blah, blah, blah, that this was unhealthy. Had I become that needy?Yes. Too needy, narcissistic and egotistically full of self importance. It is a sickness to become that needy and it is pathetic. Opinions are like A$$holes. Everyone has one. They all stink.

    • I agree 100 percent (and that’s why I am not on facebook). Our culture is out of synch and we are damaging ourselves and our kids with all the self-importance. I saw the narcissism study too (thanks for the link) and live it every day at the epicenter of narcissism, Harvard University. On the other hand, I must say in my defense (and surely I speak for countless others), I am trying to add something meaningful to the public discourse and there are a number of things I’ve written that have really made me proud to have a platform in the media. I guess I would point to my work on kids as something about which I am especially proud. (a column I wrote for CNN on the value of play was one of the top five opinion pieces they posted that year and I feel I was saying something valuable about the importance of children’s play in a world where children’s development is truly under siege. I heard from hundreds of teachers and administrators and parents who felt emboldened to defend their own childhood philosophy because of what I wrote.) So I struggle with where to draw the line in terms of narcissism vs. contributing to the public discourse. I am also trying to earn some money and develop my writing skills! I don’t see why you have to put the word “blogged” in quotation marks. I don’t feel my “blogging” is ersatz or illegitimate! But I do take your point that it is narcissistic on some level, as I said. And, again, I return to the point I make all the time. If people don’t like what someone is saying or writing, he/she can walk away. You always have good insights and your civilized, generous responses (even when we disagree strenuously!) are much valued. So don’t disappear entirely from the ‘sphere. :)

  10. “Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists” by Dr. Keith Ablow–

    A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.
    Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.
    This data is not unexpected. I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
    On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
    We must beware of the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
    Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame.
    Using computer games, our sons and daughters can pretend they are Olympians, Formula 1 drivers, rock stars or sharpshooters. And while they can turn off their Wii and Xbox machines and remember they are really in dens and playrooms on side streets and in triple deckers around America, that is after their hearts have raced and heads have swelled with false pride for “being” something they are not.
    On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.
    These are the psychological drugs of the 21st Century and they are getting our sons and daughters very sick, indeed.
    As if to keep up with the unreality of media and technology, in a dizzying paroxysm of self-aggrandizing hype, town sports leagues across the country hand out ribbons and trophies to losing teams, schools inflate grades, energy drinks in giant, colorful cans take over the soft drink market, and psychiatrists hand out Adderall like candy.
    All the while, these adolescents, teens and young adults are watching a Congress that can’t control its manic, euphoric, narcissistic spending, a president that can’t see his way through to applauding genuine and extraordinary achievements in business, a society that blames mass killings on guns, not the psychotic people who wield them, and—here no surprise—a stock market that keeps rising and falling like a roller coaster as bubbles inflate and then, inevitably, burst.
    That’s really the unavoidable end, by the way. False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting. That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while. They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.
    Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface. I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.
    We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape. Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.

  11. Dear Erika: I wrote, blog, blog, blog, in response to your blah, blah, blah up above. It just seemed to fit well. I agree with your thought or idea that when you write for a living you have to try and balance contributing to the general good of society vs. own narcissistic need to be heard, admired, possibly even worshipped. I guess I just feel today a bit negative after watching The People’s Choice Awards and The Golden Globes. I see these award shows as an extension of Facebook and Twitter. Young people watch these Hollywood stars and live vicariously through them without making their own lives. Their own lives seem drab and dull. Are we all just fame junkies now? I must confess I watch the shows to look at the dresses. They are sparkly and pretty. I do have a weakness for bright shiny objects. Which leads me back to the fact that not everyone who is rich and famous in Hollywood has a charmed life. Not everyone who is rich and famous in politics has a charmed life. There are many woes to being rich and famous. I will forever remember Elizabeth Edward’s book “Resilience” in which she warned the reader that at any moment someone can come in and just take the life you have worked so hard for. Life is fragile and unpredictable and all that glitters is not gold. Sometimes it is a deadly cancer that takes your life just as you are beginning the golden years of enjoying it. We need a better discourse on the realities of life and aging in our society and we need to stop worshipping other people and the lives they lead or stuff they have. Have a good day. Liz+

    • I hear you! Thanks, Liz. I would have replied sooner but I was busy… reading People magazine. I, too, like looking at shiny dresses. I think certain people have always lived vicariously to varying degrees through ‘stars’ but the 24/7 news cycle plus our over-sharing culture have taken it all to such horrendous extremes. I always feel like I need to take a shower after I’ve read this crap. I was just thinking tonight that the Kardashians have totally jumped the shark, even within their entirely self-contained universe of outrageousness. Something about Kim’s pregnancy (we’re on a first name basis) and this look of over-ripeness – I’m so sick of it, the freakish heels and the bursting seams. Put it away, lady! And Jessica Simpson. What is UP with these women making their baby “bumps” into yet another source of sexual objectification?? What’s next? Money and fame do not buy happiness but they seem to increase the probability of being tasteless.

  12. Limouine says:

    Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell
    and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear
    and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and
    it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

    • I have a hermit crab horror story too! I got salmonella from a hermit crab “pet” when I was 10: got really sick, fainted, and ended up in Children’s hospital with a spinal tap.

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