Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The New York Times ran an article on cyber bullying.

Here is a cool news item. A young woman who is bald from an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata is the reigning Miss Delaware, according to the Huffington Post.

The Mamasource newsletter had a discussion on middle names. Much thought usually goes into first names, so how did you decide on a middle name? Does your child have a middle name?

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of California-Hastings law school did not have to grant official recognition and funding to a Christian club that excludes gays and nonbelievers, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Associated Press ran a poignant article on end-of-life care in the United States. AP also ran a story about a possible medical breakthrough that could help women determine when they will have menopause. That way, they will know when they will run out of eggs.

The Dallas Morning News covered a sad story about the plight of undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States. They outperformed their U.S.-born counterparts, graduated at the top of their class, and some even attended IVY league schools like Columbia. But they can’t get a job because they do not have a social security number.

In related news, the Dallas Morning News also did an excellent job covering the nuances of the immigration debate and the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The newspaper illustrated the heartbreaking cases of a Yugoslavian, Mexican and Cameroon refugee — all professionals and most married to American citizens with children — facing deportation.

RIP: Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia died yesterday at the age of 92. Here is a Daily Kos diary on it.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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The New Evil: Formspring

When I was younger, maybe around 10-14 years old, my parents often drove us to visit with our grandmother, who lived in Tijuana, B.C. On the way, we always stopped at a JC Penney that I loved to visit, because their bathrooms had anonymous gossip written on the wall. Girls asking for advice about relationships, and other girls offering advice. There was also the salacious gossip and inevitable curse words. I never participated in it, but I LOVED IT.

Formspring is sort of like that, but it hits a little closer to home. It is a social networking site that has become the next new thing with the teenage set. However, this is not like MySpace or Facebook, because the whole point of this website is to post gossip, ask inappropriate questions (a lot of them sexual in nature), talk carp about people, and spread rumors. All anonymously.

The questions could range from the innocent, “do you have a boyfriend?” to the not so innocent, “how many guys have you had sex with?” To the downright mean, “you’re a f-en whore and guys just use you for sex.” Again, all anonymously.

Recently, there was an article in the New York Times that addressed this new phenomenon. It mentioned something that I wasn’t aware of. Apparently, users can choose not to accept anonymous questions, but most ignore that option. And some Formspring users say it is precisely the negative comments that interest them.

I found a quote by a high school freshman the most telling and disturbing:

“Nice stuff is not why you get it,” said Ariane Barrie-Stern, a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City. “I think it’s interesting to find out what people really think that they don’t have the guts to say to you. If it’s hurtful, you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t really mean anything.”

That was the same thing Karina told me a couple of months ago when I found out about her Formspring account. She came to me with an anonymous comment she received and asked me for advice on how she should answer it. The comment was mean, referencing her (barely there!) acne. There was comment, after comment, after COMMENT, about her skin – all anonymous. I wondered why she would care enough to answer someone who obviously had so little self-esteem that they would hide behind a computer? She said, “because it’s fun.”

But, what of those young people who are not as strong as Ariane? Or, as strong as Karina? What if a comment goes too far?

Jezebel recently posted on this very topic, and I think the last paragraph of that story is what we should all keep in mind:

So again, why is anyone, young girls especially, subjecting themselves to this? Because they want someone to care enough to ask about them, and to validate that they matter. And unfortunately, for young girls, too often mattering means whether or not boys want to fuck them, or how much girls think boys do. And there’s not much out there in the world to tell them any differently.

Keep a vigilant eye on your child’s internet exposure. Ask if he/she has a Formspring account and take a peek. You may not like what you read, but I guarantee that it will open the door to some honest communication.

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