What would have happened if?

This New York Times article highlights the life and work of danah boyd, self-proclaimed “social media scholar, youth researcher & advocate.” What I like about this article is how boyd shares some of her personal experiences and how those tie into her work and philosophy — that youth going online is not only not necessarily dangerous, but can even be helpful. It can promote political awareness and advocacy. It can reduce isolation. It can save a life. In the article, boyd states that “At the age of 16, I thought I’d be dead by 21,” she said. “I lost 13 classmates to drug overdoses, suicides, accidents and a murder…The Internet was my saving grace. I would spend my teenage nights talking to strangers online, realizing there were other smart kids out there.”

To some extent, her story sounds exactly like the ones adults are terrified by — talking to strangers online in times of pain and trouble. But, for whatever reasons, boyd came out the better after reaching out to an online community.

I am around 10 years older than boyd, so did not grow up with an online world. However, she and I do share some similar experiences in terms of having a troubled adolescence. I wonder if I would have benefited from reaching out to others online, or if I would have been more representative of the general research which states that troubled youth are more likely to develop close online relationships and put themselves in danger as a result. Clearly, I will never know. But I do wish I had options to reach out to others when I was hurting most.

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How cool is "That’s Not Cool?"

There’s a new website — That’s Not Cool — sponsored by The Family Violence Prevention Fun, Ad Council, and the Office on Violence Against Women. It features pretty humorous, but somewhat cheesy, videos about “digital boundaries” — cyberstalking, sending nude pics (sexting), and other issues related to romantic relationships going digital. I really like this term, and hope to see more of it as adults begin to appreciate this issue.

One feature, “Pressure Pic Problem,” features the dilemma an apple (yes, a piece of fruit) faces when his friends pear and banana want him to get his gal orange to send nekked pics of herself. It’s interactive, sort of like a choose your own adventure game, so you can see how different situations play out.

Then there is guest video “What if?” created by YouTube celeb Brandon Hardesty. It discusses the difficult question “who to turn to” when faced with such pressures. And when I checked it out, it already had over 66,000 views!

All the videos I watched were silly more than funny, making me wonder who they will appeal to (get it? Appeal? See Pressure Pic and you will appreciate my lovely pun…). But I guess if they get anyone’s attention it is a good start to the conversation about how to set limits on communication in an era where we expect instantaneous responses and to be able to be up-to-date on EVERYONE’S business at the click of a button.