Tag Archives: Big Brother

Behold the ’80s

Sweet Jams shorts - not the ones we had in our family, but a fine example

Growing up in the ’80s was great, as I recall: the 49ers and Joe Montana were dominant; my pop music cassette collection ruled; and I was not at all embarrassed by the thought of wearing Jams shorts. (Admit it — you owned more than a pair or two yourself). I remembered the phone numbers of my parents and friends easily, too, and the only place I answered a phone was inside my house. Ah, memories.

Now that I live in the 21st century, though, I am still re-living the ’80s. Every single movie or show that is currently popular was once popular in the ’80s (though yes, I liked The Transformers trilogy, as over-the-top as they were)… they even had to revisit Tron with Tron: Legacy and remake Dallas for TV to boot. Seriously? As for fashion, there are parts of the updated ’80s styles that I can handle, and then there is the rebirth of odd crop tops and the whole jeggings trend, and I just can’t get behind either of those things. Because shirts cover stomachs in my world and I think one should have to choose to wear either jeans (skinny is fine) OR leggings instead of both at the same time. Call me old-fashioned that way.

So I don’t know what to make of this. On the one hand I get that fashion and what is popular goes through its natural cycles. I have noted the steadily rising popularity of true bell-bottom jeans (far beyond bootcut) and some serious platform, verging-on-disco-worthy sandals — welcome back, ’70s! On the other hand I worry about a dearth of new ideas and innovation in general. Does every single book that people like have to become a movie? Does every ’80s Saturday-morning cartoon have to become a movie? Or better yet — a movie trilogy? I guess one can argue that recycling these kinds of things makes them relevant for a new generation, and perhaps there is value in that. But there’s this selfish part of me that thinks, “Those things were part of my childhood. Get your own distinctive cultural material to remember.” No one person can own art and culture, I know, and probably the folks who are producing this material for the popular audience are my age+ and feeling nostalgic.

Maybe what I’m actually concerned about is what the implications may be for my own future children and the kids of my peers. Are they just going to remember being over-stimulated, over-digitized, and over-exposed? And in thirty years will we have retreated back to landlines and more thoughtful privacy rules because we finally tired of loving Big Brother? I adore my 2-year-old goddaughter — my brother’s youngest child — and she definitely said to me over Christmas, “You have an iPod.” One of my colleagues told me that her daughters — who are approximately 7 and 5, respectively — will take a picture and say, “Mommy, are you going to post this on Facebook?” Frightening, but a result of what we have created collectively.

I even read an NPR article yesterday that said our manners are declining! People statistically are growing less and less inclined to say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Wildness.

Again, this is all just further proof that I am turning into my parents and pining for “the good old days.” Or it just begs the question that we used to examine in 10th-grade Humanities Core when I was teaching high school English: To what extent does modernization create progress in a society? While our teaching team made sure to offer them a variety of texts, we also read — appropriately so — Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

[Side note: Did I also mention that I hate how Oprah Book Club books — even for classics — get brand new paperback covers emblazoned with her Oprah Book Club seal? As a lover of books and an English major, this bothers me to no end.]

Looking forward to re-reading this post when I’m 60-something.

My Virtual Self

Recently, I read an article that claimed that a paper resumé is becoming (slowly) obsolete. That employers, particularly in creative fields, are more interested in one’s “social presence” to learn more about the kind of person they might be hiring. What interests them, what do they think is important enough to share, how do they interact via social media — Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, and all of the other ones I don’t know or understand completely.

So then I started thinking… I should probably update my resumé to make sure it’s current anyway… which would then mean updating it on my alumni account and LinkedIn. More virtual connections. I should probably update my volunteer profile on Stanford365 as well, because otherwise how will they send along any volunteer possibilities that might actually interest me?

Once upon a time I once had a Friendster account, which I think may still exist though I barely used it to begin with. Now, however, I have a Facebook account, a GoodReads account, a LinkedIn account, and most recently, a Pinterest account. Oh and I also have Google+ because I have a Gmail account. Not to mention that my IM account from college is probably still usable and my old Yahoo! email address… then there’s my college email account, my old work email account, my alum email…  Ooh, and I also like and use Dropbox for file sharing. In short, somewhere in the annals of network connections and “cloud” space, my fragmented identity exists for almost anyone to see. Even while I write this, I can think of more ways that I exist in virtual space, this blog being the next most obvious one.

Which begs the questions: Do all of those things add up to me? Or just a virtual me? If those things aren’t really reflective of me, then I should probably delete them, right? When did everything we liked, thought, breathed, and looked at have to be public? It’s like we’ve walked ourselves right into 1984, and Big Brother didn’t even have to force us into the Ministry of Love.

Don’t get me wrong — I think the power of the Internet and social media in general is incredible. It has allowed us to connect across time/space/culture in ways that were quite literally unimaginable before. I love being able to have a live face-chat meeting via the Internet with six other people, even while we are spread across four time zones.But I do wonder if having these capabilities actually means that we’re progressing…

It’s not that my interests, as seen in virtual media, aren’t real. I have read those books and I do like those shoes I saw online. And I DO feel connected to a larger community when I see how many other people have also read and commented on the same book or ask me a question about some article I posted. But my sincere  hope is that “the real me,” the one who writes in my little 5-year daily journal and is a sucker for crying at the end of feel-good movies; the one who dances in the car and at my computer and with my husband and sometimes even the dog; the one who really loves working with and for teachers and students; the one who adores Husband, family, and best friends… I hope that person will always be far more substantial — within and without — than virtual me.