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Cell phones & the fear of being alone

While I’m a technology lover, I do agree with the point of view that by using technology (especially cell phones) so much we miss out on or plain avoid the opportunity to be alone.

There is a lot of self-knowledge to be gained from being alone and free of incoming information. But it often hurts and is scary. So we avoid it by reaching for connection (aka cell phone). Sherry Turkle argues that the kind of connection we get this way is not always authentic and satisfying. It is a cheap replacement, like a cheap “nutritional” drink is a replacement for a healthy, nourishing meal.

Anyway, arguments like the one above are boring. But this comedian explains it much better on Conan:

Can you try to pay attention and notice when you are using your phone to avoid being alone? Can you try practicing being alone, just sitting there, without music or any other stimulus, for maybe 5 minutes every other day, and see what happens?

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Know what you know

As I was getting ready to leave my first ever grown-up academic job for a brand new academic adventure, a dear colleague gave me this piece of advice:

Remember this: You know what you know.

It’s one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, and I find myself passing it on to young professionals, and many women who, like me at that time, might not yet have enough self confidence.

I’ve turned this around into:

Know what you know.

First, know your stuff. Don’t bluff. Don’t cut corners. Do the work. And then, remember and trust that you know it. Have confidence in yourself and what you know.

What is some very good advice that you were given early in your career?

 

 

Wisdom of words

This is a guest post by Eileen Hegel of Higher Ways. I met Eileen when we overlapped on the Clemson faculty for a brief period of time. We got into a conversation on Facebook about the power of words in a diversity context.. and I asked her for a guest post. Here it is.

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Words have power. We have all said or heard the words fat, ugly, skinny, beautiful or perhaps gay. The impact of words, even just one, should not be overlooked as they can speak hope or hatred.

Without a doubt, words can inspire us to forge ahead or instigate failure. I am positive we can all think of words that have ignited our heart. In the same fashion, I am sure we can reflect upon words that have fueled a fight. Hence, the British writer, Rudyard Kipling noted, “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Recently, I had an opportunity to become reacquainted with the power of my words.  Herein, I said something that sparked a mini-wildfire in a person. Shortly thereafter, another word, this time a missing one, caused me some challenges with the same person.  I knew that I had set off the fire alarm once again!

In both instances, one word triggered a set of emotions. Words have an interesting way of doing this. The trigger may go beyond what we see on the surface.  In fact, words often do.

Whether two people know each other or they don’t, words can be like a match. Words have the power to either kindle the fire of friendship or scorch a relationship. How we handle words may be the difference between saving a soul or in some cases, sending the relationship into ashes.

Although I can think of times when my words have blackened some bridges, maturity has for the most part, taught me to pay attention to what I say. Even with care in the use of my words, they will always have a transactional effect. Hence, words make for an interesting fuel between two people.

In fact, I will never forget the time my words truly stoked a spirit. While teaching a group of alternative students, I let 13 year old, Jeff, know I enjoyed him in my class. He told me, “No teacher has ever told me that!” I secretly understood why, but nevertheless, I meant what I said.

The next day, my boss let me know she had received a call from Jeff’s psychologist. The psychologist wanted her to know that in his 20 years of counseling, he had never seen a kid turn around so fast. He wanted to know what the school and his teacher were doing.  Unbeknownst to me, Jeff had been suicidal before he came to my room. That day, I knew, that the power of words were, indeed, the power of life!

Stand up, say something, but what and how?!

MLK quote

 

I do not claim to understand the entire context or meaning of this quote, but here is what I take it to signify: When you witness injustice, you do harm by not saying anything.

My friends and I have been talking about this a lot. There are situations at work when people say mildly (or even acutely) offensive things, ranging from “hi, girls!” (to a group of female faculty members or staff) to stronger displays of who is in power, who is allowed to speak, and who is too low on the hierarchy to be right.

We all recognize that when things like this happens, it is wrong to let them go. We should say something. We should speak up, cry foul, use the opportunity to educate and raise awareness of how to communicate in an inclusive workplace.

But how do you do this when the people you are talking to are your colleagues (which translates to superiors, if you are not tenured), and when you are a woman, and this means you risk being labeled as “bitchy” as soon as you say something that’s perceived as unpleasant.

I’ve read a blog post from a woman in a tech company that recommended replying like a man would do, humorously, with something along the lines of: “dude, not cool.” I don’t think that would work in academia.

I know from research in communication that the solution is to provide training to recognize these situations and to teach people specific lines they can use when they are flustered and shocked and can’t think of anything to say. I wish I could post here a collection of such lines, but I do not know of any.

Do you have links to any resources that can help, or any experiences we can learn from?

A case study of pinkification as a failing strategy for diversity

[Guest posting this on our college’s dean’s blog]

I came across this story about the brilliantly hilarious criticism that BiC, the pen company, encountered upon launching a line of pastel-colored pens “for her.”

The product has almost 500 reviews on amazon.com, and I’ll let them speak for themselves by sampling a couple:

“I picked up these pens to fill out a job application as a research scientist, but the only thing they would write on were the subscription cards for Good Housekeeping and Cosmo in the lobby (but not Newsweek or Time- which at first I thought was weird, but after looking at the pen for a minute, I realized I was better off without those dense, hard topics). I eventually got one to work on an application for a nanny, so thank you Bic for giving me proper direction in my career!”

-and-

“Before I purchase such graceful, dainty, gender appropriate pens I want to be completely confident that I will still think math is hard. My role model, Barbie, used to say that she thought math is hard and I don’t want to stray from her guidance. What has been your experience?”

The story is amusing, but also very interesting because it points out society’s response to a strategy I like to call “pinkification.” I am sometimes worried that our college’s diversity efforts may fall into the pinkification trap.

Why are people (men and women alike) so upset with some cheap plastic pens? Because they reinforce stereotypical gender roles. We are fortunate to live in a society where individuals are free to become who they want, rather than follow cultural prescriptions of gender-appropriate roles and jobs. We have excellent airplane pilots who are women and men who dream of becoming flight attendants. And it’s about time we stop marveling at the “weirdness” of it all – this is the new normal.

Without claiming that genders are identical, I beg that we be wary of “pinkification” as a strategy for increasing diversity in our college. Ideas such as:

– offering “easy” classes because women don’t like the “technical” ones;

– changing the curriculum because women care about making a difference in society (what, men don’t? not the students I encounter… when I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, most of them say that, in one way or another, they want to help people);

– putting Hello Kitty posters on the walls or the interior decor equivalent;

… are all troublesome because they manifest stereotypes and biases about gender roles and preferences. Rather than defining gender roles, why not create a kind, respectful and encouraging environment where everyone can feel free to manifest their full personality and potential?

So, what can we do instead? I, of course, do not have the solution to such a complex problem. But I can make some suggestions, and hope you can add to them in the comments below.

Maybe we can start becoming aware of our own deep-seated ideas and biases (we all have them). As we notice our mind producing thoughts such as, “women typically don’t do well in this subject” (let’s call them women, not girls nor ladies), or “this woman is successful because of political alliances or luck”  – maybe we can stop and consider where the idea comes from; what is the root of the problem; and how this opinion manifests in subtle verbal and non-verbal behaviors that actually influence women’s performance. What if we try to play around with the thought that “all students who work hard can excel in this subject, regardless of biological sex or cultural gender” – and let that idea transpire through our subtle verbal and non-verbal behaviors?

Maybe we can begin to consider how the toys we give children teach them about what they are supposed to like and be good at; that little girls are taught to want to be princesses in pink tutus. There are many subtle and not so subtle behaviors that communicate to young, impressionable people what we expect of them – and contribute to shaping their sense of self.

Maybe becoming aware of our own beliefs, of how they manifest through behavior, and how these subtle behaviors influence students’ sense of who they should be is one little step towards creating change from within.

What other ideas do you have?

Facebook safety for kids

Funny, clear, brilliant:

Lafayette Twestival Ticket Giveaway

March 24 is Twestival Local 2011.

What is Twestival?

Twestival is a way for people to get together and donate to a local cause. It is mainly organized on Twitter, and showcases the power of Twitter to help people organize and do good.

What happens at Twestival?

Once you get in, you listen to local bands, talk to people, have a drink… it’s just a fun night out, but you know that the ticket money goes to a good cause. This year, the proceeds go to City Foods.

Twestival will be held downtown Lafayette at the Muse.

See more details here.

I believe it’s a worthy event, and a good opportunity to meet people from the community, many of whom love social media just as much as you do!

I know students are strapped for cash, and that’s why I want to give away some tickets.

I will give away 5 basic tickets to Twestival. All you have to do is write a comment below explaining why you want to go, or why you think people from the community should attend.

You do not have to by my student, or a student, to enter.

I will select the winners through a random drawing on Thursday March 24 at 2 pm, so make sure you enter your comment before then!

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