Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stalker Generation

But FIRST... a digressionary outing!!!

Y'all know I started writing with fan fiction, yeh? and among my Harry Potter peeps I met some people who will stick FOREVER, yeh?  Well among those... in high placement (though honestly, I love them one and all) is a woman who from the first moment I met her felt like a kindred spirit... truly as wonky and twisted as I am (or more, if you can believe it)... far MORE charisma... and we bonded over Harry Potterness... but then she was a fabulous encouragement when I started that first timid experiment...

In November of 2006 (when I'd known her about a year online) I had a conference in Texas and a chance to meet her in person... While I was eating Pedro (seriously... my seafood enchilada dish was called Pedro) she encouraged me to REALLY write. I confessed I had written about six chapters, and she confessed (out of the FREAKING BLUE) that she'd been writing romance for years, but had been disheartened by an almost deal where the smaller publisher sold out and the new BIGGER one passed on a number of the unfinished projects.  She gave me a copy of 'Guide to Literary Agents 2007' and our already solid kinship was cemented.

Anyway, Stacy Gail got her first official contract for a novella recently (one I beta read--aren't I cool?) *cough*  and is making her blogging near debut with Burrowers, Books and Balderdash today (I say near debut because she guested once before, but that was before she came out.)  So go check her out (post goes up at noon GMT)

Back to this Stalking Business....

So Justin Bieber is following me on Twitter now. Twice. I'm not sure what I did to merit his attention, but there you have it. It's got me thinking about the strangeness of the way people relate these days. Don't get me wrong. There are aspects of it I adore, but... it is a little odd.

Just yesterday I got all excited about Peter Straub, one of my very favorite authors, making an appearance on One Life to Life (he has a periodic guest role) and what did I do? I did my nutty fangirl excitement thing on facebook, then again on Twitter, where I included @PeterStraub... you know... in case he wanted to KNOW I was a nutty fangirl... I've done the same with Nathan Fillion... (yes, I'm aware I'm a freak, but I suspect I'm not the only one)

I don't know the odds of them ever seeing it (caring if they do)... I don't know how creepy they'd find it... but MAN is it a world different from even a decade ago.

But I have some observations and thoughts on the matter (which surely is shocking--I'm usually so opinion-free...)

Frenemy Relationships

I have a teen and a tween. Both of them (by requirement) are Facebook friends of mine so I can watch a little of how they interact with their friends. I also have HEARD some bullying stories (girls are THE WORST), but without getting into THEIR business, I would like us all just to imagine our OWN teen years...

Imagine being the ONLY kid the most popular girl won't friend.
Imagine someone statusing your secret because she overheard something.
Imagine the PICTURE of you in the locker room being posted for the entire high school.
Imagine having a conversation with a friend and every comment you make gets a nasty remark from some biotch you AREN'T friends with.

MAN, what a scary world of possibilities (I think I might have just gotten a book idea).

On the positive side, imagine being a shy writerly type and having a crush TO DIE FOR on a boy... imagine you post a link to a song and it starts a *gasp* conversation with him.

Imagine (or maybe this would have only been me) taking care to read all cute boys favorites and developing these as your OWN favorites so you had something to talk about... (whether you actually liked these things or not)


I have a confession. There was a boy I liked for a good part of middle school. I used to make a point of walking past his house OFTEN. It rarely paid off, but I got my dose of butterfly adrenaline. THINK of the possibility on Twitter! I mean on facebook the person needs to accept your friendship, though of course unless they block you, you can still see them talking to other people. But TWITTER... Oh, I suppose there is still blocking... I'm completely convinced I would have been a total scary stalker, since I had no guts for... you know... conversations... then again, I wasn't bad in writing... and I think I only really scared a couple people (most of whom had no reason to fear *rolls eyes at egos of some boys*)

The Real Problem

I think my biggest issue with this age is the speed at which things like rumors can spread... the BUILDUP of armies when there is a fight that should stay between two people... the 'in your businessness' of it, so a FRIEND who gets jealous of your OTHER friends always knows what the heck you are up to...

(don't ask. The movie is a representation--if you tried to guess which one is me, you'd be wrong.)

My high school best friend had three (or more?) people who claimed her as 'best friend' (she was one of those charisma girls) but even in the 80s this situation was high stress... ONE of her 'best friends' was terribly possessive and the BFF of us all got grief when she spent too much time with any OTHER friend. I can't imagine how she would cope today... well I can... she probably wouldn't have been on FB much, but of course if any of the rest of us posted what we were doing... there would be hell to pay... Now the other two of us 'best friends' were not the rotten sorts and wouldn't have done it on purpose (and were good friends with each other, besides), but I have certainly seen this among my daughter's friends... somebody announcing activities in order to 'one-up' the other friends.

I have no idea whether this will harm their (meaning the current teens generally and my kids specifically) ability at relationships in the long run, or will help them deal head on because otherwise they get isolated completely. Maybe it is a Darwin moment, and only a certain sort will survive this.

I know. Dark thought. But it DOES seem like we are in an evolutionary moment, so far as human interaction goes. I just hope mine will have what it takes to thrive without victimizing anybody else.

So what would it have done to YOUR teen life to have grown up with the stuff that is around now?

Image of Stacy Gail created by Marissa Montano the FABULOUS.


Ted Cross said...

My two sons are growing up completely outside of all this. The schools they go to overseas don't have many bullying problems like the US schools, and we won't let them touch things like FB. My main concern is how they handle living in the US once they go back there for college...

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

If all tis stuff was around then, my life would have been an even bigger hell. Don't want to burst any bubbles but bullying has been around since man left the Garden.

Jessica Bell said...

Oh my God, if all that was going on in my life as a teen, I certainly think I'd have been considering suicide. I was VERY VERY effected by bits of gossip. I'd always be crying, and if it was as easy as pressing a couple of keys and clicking the mouse, I'd have been a total goner! Ouch! No way, I seriously don't know how teens cope with all the social networking sites totally invading their privacy. Perhaps they have thicker skin?

Hart Johnson said...

Ted-You're lucky if they aren't getting pressure at school to be on! My kids, once they hit middle school, seemed to think it was mandatory--begged and finally we decided so long as we supervised for a while... And ACTUALLY, I think there are benefits to casual conversations with... you know... the opposite sex...

Mary-Oh, I know bullying is old. I think this (and texting--holy COW, don't get me started on texting) make it more inescapable, and word spreads faster.

Jessica-I don't know--I don't think their skins are thicker. I try to tell my daughter to IGNORE it, but she doesn't seem able. I don't think they are mature enough. I think I flew under the rumor radar, mostly because I wasn't cool enough for people to be JEALOUS, and I was nice to people, but I can see how it could go.

Will Burke said...

A niece of a friend (about 11YO) posted locker room photos on FB, and it got WAY out of hand. She did not understand the problem that seems so obvious to us, and it blows my mind! Thank God mine is only 16 months, but I fear what will be all the rage in 10 years or so.

Old Kitty said...

LOL!! You ate Pedro!!


I now tend to think my youth as quite lucky now really. It was far too emotionally fraught without having to deal with all this new fangled social networking stuff. I think my life would have been truly hell if I was growing up now! :-)

Take care

Megan Bostic said...

With my kids, I've actually seen it get better so far from 5th up to high school. 6th grade seems to be the worst. Cliques are developing, children are really beginning to see (or are being taught) their differences.

I've taught my kids two things. Be a friend to everyone. They both seem to have done that well. The other is to stand up for those who need standing up for, including each other.

I've got good kids. They don't pick on people and they don't get picked on because of these two rules. And that makes them strong. I don't think I was that strong in my teen years.

Sarah Ahiers said...

off to check out her blog!
And, here's something sad to think about. I was part of a large clique in high school, made up of smaller circles. To this day, i still have one friend who updates on FB any time she has a party and only invites certain friends, leaving the rest of us feeling like we're 16 again. And we're effing 30 now. I really thought she'd grow out of it, but nope.

Hart Johnson said...

Will-I think tweens are notorious for lack of foresight--they just can't think that far ahead yet. And yeah... 10 years from now... I don't envy you!

Jenny-I know, right?! I had a number of options that looked appealing on that menu, but i COULDN'T not eat Pedro. And yes, we made it out of youth just in time!

Megan-those are great lessons to have taught your daughters. I try, but my kids have some challenges. The older just gets too caught in the drama and the younger has had a few times where he THINKS it is humor, but somebody else thinks it's mean.

Sarah-URGH! How annoying! I think I'm really glad my friends all spread to different corners of the world.

Ella said...

I enjoyed the charisma post and the family photo~

It would of made my situation worse! I was a pudgy, then hit Junior high, lost weight over the summer. When we hit 7th grade, two other small towns were bussed to our school. I was hated, because I wasn't a threat and then was. I was bullied, talked about like I was a ghost and couldn't hear. It was a difficult time...
Technology probably would of drove me to beg my parents to move to a new town. When I see some of my peers on FB, I still relive the moments...yeah, it would make a great book. I never took anyone's boyfriend, but it didn't matter. He looked at me.... Bad memories down that lane~

RosieC said...

Well, I was in HS on the cusp of all of this. I was involved in an online chatroom (back in the dark ages of dial-up). There could only be 20 people on at once, since there were 20 phone lines hooked into the server. HA. Anyway, it didn't feel much different om having conversations with people in my HS or JHS. Rumors spread like wildfire, but whether kids were talking in person at school, on the phone at home, or in the chatroom, it didn't matter.

Now, this is OF COURSE nothing on what FB and Twitter have done to our lives. It has made Homebody Rosie into a virtual socialite who never has to leave her couch to know the latest news about so-and-so's dogs and their lack of invitation to the Halloween Party (I kid you not. It happened). Anyway, my point is that it makes the shier kids more visible, but I honestly don't think there's much difference in the way kids interact. They're horrid at school, they're horrid on the phone, and now they're horrid online. The biggest difference is that one some meany tween girl writes something nasty on your wall, you can cry in the privacy of your own home instead of trying to hide in the bathroom.

Talli Roland said...

This post makes me happy that email only started 'working' when I was in university! What a different world it is for kids today (I sound like I'm about 100 years old!).

Melissa said...

The possibilities of bullying on Facebook seem a lot more real after reading that section. I'm glad facebook didn't really start getting big until I was finished high school!

Also, Justin bieber is following you, for real? That seems so...odd. Like celebrities interested in non-celebrities.

Unknown said...

Ever since seeing the Ozzy commercial during the super bowl, I gotta ask the same questions, "What's a Bieber?" hehe

Colene Murphy said...

Ah, now I want to watch Beaches. Nards.
We had some internetty things when I was in high school but it was just Aol Instant Messenger. I remember how crazy little things that friends and others would do on that little thing alone! It's painful to think of what facebook and everything would have been like!! Wow. Girls are scary...scary teens...

Anonymous said...

The yearbook documenting high school was enough. There's always someone though, scanning old photos and posting them on facebook. Some memories are ment to be forgotten.


CA Heaven said...

I think the content of the communication is pretty much the same as in the old days. It's just a lot more efficient.

Facebook is just a waste of time. I have an account, but hardly ever bother to login. I seriously consider suicide (on FB, not in real life).

My teen-son has more than 800 FB friends, but I'm not one of them. We both prefer it to be like that. I don't want to read about every girl-crush or party blooper of his. However, many of my son's buddies are my FB friends (they asked), so I get to see some of it.

Cold As Heaven

L. Diane Wolfe said...

What would it have done? I'd probably be even more messed up!

Terry Odell said...

OK, I'm feeling very old now. But I'm also a fan-fiction trained writer. Mine came from the Highlander television show. If you're really good with Google, my first stories are still buried somewhere in cyberspace. And one of my heroes evolved out of Duncan MacLeod.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Hart Johnson said...

Ellie-that’s horrible they were so awful to you! I think one of the problems with people is they expect you to not change, and when you did, they got mad about it.

Rosie-I can see some of those advantages, too—that if they are AWFUL, at least you are AT HOME… though the ganging up goes faster because it is so public.

Talli, you aren’t nearly as old as I am! My first job out of college, most offices didn’t even have COMPUTERS!

Melissa-it’s two people who SAY they are Justin Bieber, but they aren’t verified accounts—I think they are freaky fan people, but I STILL don’t know what they want to do with ME.

Jennee—didn’t see that, but I love it!

Colene-great movie, isn’t it? Very sappy, but so fitting for my BFF and I, at least at the time it came out.

Nikki-meant to be forgotten is exactly right! I’d never go back.

CaH—I think that efficiency is the fuel I am talking about. Rumors used to die out before everybody knew. Now they all know NOW. And my daughter has a similar number of friends—it’s nuts how that spreads at that age (and yay for being the cool parent the friends want to friend!—I have a few of those, too)

Diane-*snort* You seem downright normal to me. Might have done you good!

Terry- YAY for fan fiction roots! I think it’s an excellent training ground—you get to work on a few parts of writing at a time instead of having to do EVERYTHING.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd been even more anti-social, Hart! I would've hung out on all the geeky sites rather than spending time with real people. Well, maybe not, as it would've just replaced the time I spent in front of the Atari.

The Words Crafter said...

I'm sooooo glad this stuff wasn't around when I was in hs. It would have been really dark. On a dark plus side, though, I might have been forced to pursue writing much, much earlier.....

Adina West said...

I do think we grew up in a simpler age. I don't have any answers, but can certainly say that I'm already worried about the world my daughter is entering (and she's only 3!)

Kas said...

Well, I DID go through high school with all this internet junk, and while of course it has its positives.. I think there are far more negatives. I think it sort of just enhances everything that goes on normally... the mean kids are more obviously mean, the popular kids are more obviously popular, the ones who want everyone to know what they're doing have a way of shouting to the world their every action and thought, and the bullied are more easily bullied.

The redeeming factor in facebook for me is contact with people I otherwise don't see or talk to on a regular basis. I like being able to stop by a friend's page who I may not have talked to or seen physically in a while and say hey, I was thinking about you today.

I am slightly disturbed at how YOUNG people are now getting facebook and twitter and stuff. It started out that you HAD to have a valid college email to get a facebook... and then it expanded to high school... and added job/location networks... and now I know kids as young as 10 that have them. THAT is what I find most scary.. and dangerous.

Kal said...

If you ever talk to Beiber remind him that if he hurts my Selena that I know a guy who knows a guy and THAT guy has a shovel.

Speaking of weird connections. I had an old girlfriend. When our relationship combusted over her lying to me about a miscarriage I was done with her. Six months later I saw she had a perfectly normal full term baby that wasn't mine. How evil is she. Now a guy who dated her recently has found my site and wants to talk about her with me. It's all very weird because she is just crazy enough to INVENT someone, create a fake site, do fake posts ect...just to try to get into my head. Internet is such a double edged sword.

I too wonder how things like Facebook will effect future adults. Will they become more compassionate or less? Does the ability to bully someone anonymously lead to more or less school shootings, drug addiction or abuse? To those who are geeky suffer more or less since online they can fine kindred spirits that know the difference between a phaser and a light saber?

Hart Johnson said...

But Alex--on those geeky sites, you would have made geeky friends and then been less, isolated, surely?

WC-oh, man, I craved darkness at that age, too! It's too bad I never could get away with the goth look... *snort*

Adina-oh, no point planning now! In 10 years it will have all changed AGAIN!

Kas-I think that magnifying glass is a good way to put it. It isn't different, just MORE... and I love FB for the same reason. HWMNBMOTI insists if I don't see someone face to face or talk on the phone, we must not be real friends *rolls eyes* He SO doesn't get it.

Ack! Kal, that is SCARY! yeah--avoid the guy who's probably her! I do like the idea that people can find otehrs LIKE THEM, no matter what they are interested in.