Final Post.

This FWT, beyond being incredibly rewarding in a personal and professional sense as I developed a keener understanding of myself and my skills and what I want to do career-wise, has brought me to explore several themes key to my future management of my own life: Adaptability, Dependence, and Balance.

I’ve had a hard time most of my life dealing with plans canceled last minute and unexpected difficulties tend to pile up on me pretty hard. Since FWT is a period full of nothing but the unexpected, usually completely removed from usual support bases, it can be especially hard. My last experience wore me down pretty good, and that was only replaced by a study abroad term that was even more difficult. So this FWT I made the conscious decision to work from a place of greater comfort. I was beginning to worry that I was not capable of working (functioning really) at all, so I knew I needed to take a couple steps back and really approach things in a manner that would give me time to reflect and grow. And in this way I have finally learned, adaptability is key. I have to be ready for whatever and able and willing to do many kinds of things. I tend to get too invested in a specific idea or way of doing things, and it can really freak me out when things change unexpectedly. Working from home this FWT really gave me a chance to address that. Because I was in complete control of my schedule, I could ensure some things could be standard or went the way I wanted, while gradually opening myself up for the unexpected and novel in different areas of my life. I established a consistent daily schedule that was easy to stick to, working 4 1/2 hours a day starting at noon, so that I didn’t have to get nervous about not meeting other’s expectations of timeliness and performance, something that always ends up dragging me down. And I took up cooking. Consistently trying new things every day and challenging myself to cook for a family of four, and doing it with my boyfriend’s mother, which was an awkward and unfamiliar situation that I had to force myself to adapt to and open up to, allowed me to overcome many of my fears that had been steadily growing about my own capabilities and value. A willingness and openness to change and not being obsessively committed to one idea or way of doing things seriously allowed me to take some of the stress off and relax some of my anxieties about failure.

As I wrote about before, having other people to help you with things can make life so much easier–and all your efforts so much more effective. However, I have a serious problem achieving balance in this aspect. I tend to be too dependent in my personal life and too distant and expecting too much from myself in a professional capacity. I stayed with my boyfriend and his family this FWT, which allowed me to exist in a comfortable and familiar space and also reassured me that I would have him there every time something when horribly wrong. It also, however, forced me to interact with his mother, something that makes me so, so anxious, because she is an “unfamiliar” person, even though I’ve been around her quite a lot. By taking just a gradual step of interacting with her through the process of making dinner, I learned valuable lessons of interpersonal collaboration. Which sounds silly, because she should technically be closer to a friend than a work superior and we were only making dinner, but this nightly interaction greatly helped me to extend more openly to my FWT supervisor and, gradually, to additional resources in my work environment. I need to continue learn more about how to manage my relationships and establish a better balance. It’s not fair to the people around me to dump everything on them because I refuse to open up in a public setting and end up with a bunch of pent up anxieties and difficulties. It’s definitely not healthy either, not for my relationships or for myself because this kind of lifestyle inevitably ends with me crumbled into a useless pile from feeling overburdened in the world and useless at home.

This idea of balance funnels into the most important aspect when considering my future: How am I going to live it? I want to be a mother, and I want to be able to dedicate myself to my home and my family. I want to be able to cook a nice dinner every night, like I did for much of FWT. I want to have the freedom to express myself and enjoy my life. I want a healthy balance. I am really bad, however, at actually keeping to such a thing. I get intimidated or discouraged, and completely give up on one thing or another until I come back around at it several months later feeling refreshed–only to experience some small failure and give up again. I’ve never dealt well with failure. Having an actually successful FWT this time around and in the process systematically reassuring myself that I can indeed be successful at things has, however, been a great boost to my confidence and my sense of endurance. I think I understand better now how to navigate the world in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve completely overburdened myself. Life is, of course, a work in progress, but I think I see now a path to my own success and finally understand how I can actually function as a worker and not just a housewife.

Stagnation

This blog post is definitely one of the things that I have thought about the most over FWT, but it is also the one I want to write least. It’s been a draft since early February, but it has taken me this long to finally piece it together because I find the idea–Stagnation, on a personal and political level–to be challenging in many ways.

One thing this fwt has made me question most is our ability as human beings to care enough to do anything about–no more than that, overcome our own ego, weakness, and self-consciousness long enough to do anything about–serious problems of bigotry and major flaws in way of thought in our society. Our treatment, as a society, collectively and entirely, of young black men is absolutely unacceptable. But how the hell is that related to my FWT?

Right before I started, IFD ran a story from a young black man named Nelson Moses Lassiter. Nelson used the interview to talk about a person experience that he felt represented a larger unaddressed problem within the LGBT community: A white man had said to him, “You’re really sweet, I’m just not into black guys.” And the internet had a huge problem with that. Sure, many comments were positive, supporting Nelson or talking about how that guy had thrown away a great opportunity over something stupid like racism or at least racial bias. But over and over over, in an endless stream of comments, people were personally offended. “How dare you accuse me of being racist for not dating black people,” “It’s my preference, like its your preference to only date men,” “On my grindr it says no blacks or latinos because I’m just not interested in that”

These comments are paraphrased, but they are not invented. This is genuinely how about 50 percent of the viewers felt, and from what I saw that number only skyrocketed after the video was shared to upworthy (a generally white medium? who knows…)

Managing twitter means connecting with people, and sometimes seeing it’s darkest parts. People are selfishly self-preserving above all else. Anything that challenges their own conceptions, that threatens the established values with which they are living their lives, that even suggests, “Hey you might want to rethink this” is an attack. People immediately feel personally challenged and threatened and they become truly ugly. I wrote before about weeding through the youtube comments for the “Mean Tweets” video. Reading through the comments for Nelson’s story broke my heart. These people weren’t funny, they weren’t mean, they were completely serious. They genuinely wanted to believe so dearly that there was nothing wrong with them or their choices that they were willing to say whatever it took to shift the blame away. And this is how we as Americans live. This is why we have these weirdly backwards policies on strangely specific things. This is our stagnation. This is why the governor of New York cannot even admit to being afraid for his own black son’s life without a full-out media assault. We literally can’t even get over our own convictions long enough to agree on the color of a freaking dress. How the hell are we supposed to handle real serious issues like race and sexism?

But you know….Driftwood does pretty good for itself.

Beyond the occasional hiccup in comments when it comes to race and trans* people, and the fact that women are horribly underrepresented and so as a result almost never watch the videos. Seriously, just a decade ago even the stories of white gay men would have been met with way more resistance than they are today. So that’s something, that’s progress…

For now, I do the only thing I can, addressing my own knee-jerk reactions, continuously assessing my own assumptions. Leaving room to question everything..Of course, this probably just makes me a person without conviction, but what can you do.

Myself as a worker

I wish I was a 1950s housewife. Which is maybe a really anti-feminist statement for me to make, but sometimes I just really wish I didn’t have to worry about being educated or getting a job and that my biggest achievement in life would be raising a hoard of beautiful children (something I do genuinely wish to do), and throwing really killer parties. I feel like I’m just way more equipped to spend 8 hours cooking and preening and cleaning and aligning everything into perfection for a two hour dinner party than I am for spending the same amount of time in an office. I’m pretty good at being domestic–otherwise, I’m kind of lazy.

But sometimes I wonder if there is a difference between laziness and fear. It’s easy for a woman to be a housewife. Maybe psychologically draining, but it’s something that we’ve been doing for countless decades. It’s something that there are clear guidelines and expectations for, its easy to fit into that kind of mold because there’s definitely an established standard for it. To work, and enjoy it, you have to figure out everything on your own. It’s different for every single person–what I want to do, how I want to do it, what I’m willing to compromise, what I know I need to succeed–These are all things I just have to figure out through trial and error. And that kind of process involves failure. And failure is terrifying.

But you know, so far this FWT I haven’t fucked up too bad. I fucked up the other couple times probably, but this time I feel like I really did well for myself. I was working from home, which was both good and bad. Good, because it was on my terms–less expectations to fail at, less pressure. Bad, because it made me even lazier. Not at tasks, I have done my work well, but at life. The laundry is unfolded, nothing is cleaned, I haven’t done dishes this whole time and just left it for others…I say I want to be a housewife, but here I am slipping in all of these domestic tasks because I am just sitting around in the house all day and feel like I don’t want to deal with it.

I really want to be able to find balance within myself as a worker. I want to be able to, and know I need to, provide for my family. But I also desperately want a family. I want to be able to spend time with my future children and spouse, and maintain a household that we can all feel comfortable in and proud of. I want to have my own hobbies and enjoy my life while being a wife, mother, and employee. But it’s like literally impossible, especially for a lazy person. My biggest fear is that I will never be able to get the balance right and just give up on stuff–I already do that, devoting all my free time to stuff like television instead of creative pursuits I used to treasure just because I can’t find the motivation.

At least this experience has felt far more like a step in the right direction than anything before it. At least now I feel like I am capable of being a worker at all, when I was beginning to fear that might not be the case. I just need to learn to adjust expectations. No body is perfect. Just expect the possible and be proud of what you do. That’s what this FWT has taught me.

Nothing beats having “friends”

I think I’m working hard to advertise these weekly stories. I have a tweeting schedule that I stick to (for the most part), I have steadily worked to improve my tweets, making them more engaging and clickable, I’ve adapted a couple strategies just to try it out, like throw back Thursday video highlights (not so successful) and a Valentine’s Day themed series of tweets (going okay I think). I am only managing one of several social media outlets for IFD, and it’s definitely the least prioritized one, but I’ve had fun trying to build it up to be a little more robust…

But none of my efforts can come close to the magic of a reshare.

Upworthy suddenly picks up one story–It gains 30,000 views, the same amount it gathered its entire first week, in one day. LGBTQ Nation (bless their hearts) shares anything and the viewer count doubles and I drool with envy over their double digit retweets.The HuffPost goes live and one tweet out from them is equal to my whole week’s worth of work.

So much of it is just plain random! I worked so hard to get retweeted by various organizations and barely see a spike. Upworthy picks it up just because they feel like it and the whole game is changed. Thank god this is a nonprofit–I can’t imagine the stress of having your whole livelihood resting on this unpredictable game.

But other things are manageable–relationships are built and maintained. Like the amazing wonderful saints at LGBTQ Nation who have reliably shared these stories for years and who have such an impressive and active following. That’s a relationship, a partnership that was built over time, through networking and reliable content. That’s amazing.

I’ve been thinking for awhile of wanting to create my own “space,” of building something from the ground up to serve a community. This unpredictable reality of digital marketing reminds me both of the difficulty and the actual possibility of such a venture. Life is so often out of our control. But things that I personally cannot do, there just might be someone else who can. Making connections is literally the single most important function of human life…Or at least that’s what I kind of think. If you have connections, if you have people you can rely on, people who can push and elevate you and expose you to different avenues that you never would have found or thought of on your own, you really can accomplish so much more than you would ever expect.

Friendships, partnerships, realtionships, alliances serve to make the unpredictable dependable.

Trying to communicate with Youtube

As I mentioned before, I theoretically study and am supposed to be becoming an expert in (…) the social languages groups use to communicate online. But I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I do not understand youtube.

One of my projects right now is to compile a list of comments from all the video stories that are fitting to be read of Jimmy Kimmel “Mean Tweets” style. Basically, I need people to say a bunch of simple, idiotic things about the speaker’s face or how they look like a horse or something just so base and mean that it makes reasonable people laugh because why would anyway ever say anything like that?

Instead, I am finding comments that shock me, but not so much in a baseless, funny kind of way

People keep saying shit about “male at a cellular level…” wtf does that even mean. That’s not even words. They seem to believe that if one were to take a blood sample of a transitioned Trans* person, the cells in the blood would reveal that person’s “true” gender–aka the one assigned at birth. Because God made it that way. For us humans to be able to stare into the depths of each others blood and determine as a matter of course, oh yes the person this blood came from was definitely a man! Please. Let’s smear your blood together with that of a trans* man and let’s see how easily you can tell the difference, even with technology (I’m no scientist, but there’s probably a reason there’s such a thing as “contaminated evidence.” Yeah DNA has sex from what I know from cop dramas but still come on just no.)

Why are people so angry all the time?

Why do they feel the need to tear apart a person’s identity using some twisted logic about their cells? The comment is the comment, in the words of South Park–the comment is the community and the audience, how you know what people enjoy, how to tailor the content, and most importantly it is the legacy of humanity–the pencil scratching on a desk that says “I am here.”

I believe firmly in an experiential world, in which people are not just consumers but cocreators, where the impact of the product on the receiver is the true creation, the shared experience is the most important part of media, or otherwise, consumption. Yet what kind of world are we creating with youtube comments? Or facebook ignorance? If the lived experience is the most important aspect of interaction, then what kind of experience is telling a gay black man, who is speaking from the heart about his experiences with racism in the LGBT dating scene, that he should just give up and date white chicks because they just love black men?

One solution is to say that these people are just internet trolls.

But most of the time the most bizarre comments come from those who really believe what they are saying, who are dedicated to these outlandish-seeming convictions. To intentionally stir up is one thing, this is a (though disputable) added aspect of experience creation–ostensibly, an effort to create an environment in which everyone is questioning everything, driven by their indignation, perhaps led to challenge their beliefs by the foolishness of the situation. But people who really believe the things they are saying, things that to reasonable people seem inane, what of their experience? It isn’t any less real. Nor any less valid. But it is dumb. So what does that mean? You can try to educate them, but this just turns into another form of flame war, that will likely only be fed by those who love to create them in the first place. Moreover, where does the right even come from to “educate” other commenters? Can someone’s opinion be wrong?

Anti-vaxxers, racists (both blatant and accidental), homophobes, truthers…Science, common sense, logic, human decency might rule these people just fundamentally wrong. But they believe themselves. Some of the worst offenders don’t even realize or consider themselves to be wrong, especially when it comes to racism and sexism. As one guy wrote, “Just because my grindr profile says ‘No Blacks or Latinos’ doesn’t make me racist.”

Right?

How do you study, respect, and appreciate open community dialog when it seems to have no respect for itself?

I should have made a tumblr.

I made a WordPress, because I wanted to engage with people. I’ve made three or four wordpress blogs for classes before–not even particularly trying to garner engagement, just filling class requirements–and I’ve always had plenty of views and at least a comment or two. From what I can tell, however, in the mere year and a half since I last blogged, WordPress has changed. The “pro” version seems to have really taken off, judging from all of the non-profit websites I’ve been viewing for my internship running on it, and I just suppose that means no one really sees it as a place for casual blogging anymore..So no one is looking for blogs like mine.

Also, my audience is probably all wrong for wordpress. I had a feeling going in, but I though I would at least get something…But everyone my age probably uses tumblr.

I didn’t make a tumblr, because I’m just not familiar with it. Somehow, the tumblr bandwagon passed me by without me even noticing until it was too late to learn with everyone else. I might be young, but I’m already afraid of the “new” thing, of change that I don’t understand well. I’m already getting stuck in my ways. Which is so bad for someone who wants to make a career not only in technology but also in researching and discovering that next new thing–idea, community, entertainment–and sharing it with other people. So I’m afraid of tumblr, because I’ve never used it before.

Of course, the same thing was true of Twitter, before I started this internship. But I think I’m doing pretty alright on that now. I think I’m capturing the “twitter” voice, and my engagement rate for my tweets has been pretty high. But going in to it, I didn’t even know that if you start a tweet with @ it doesn’t show up to your followers and you have to do the “.@” thing…

So that was difficult too, but I learned. I don’t know why I get so nervous about things I don’t understand well. It’s literally a part of my personality–it’s also what makes me so interested in research and immersion. I just feel like people don’t have a grounds to talk about something unless they really become a part of it and make an effort to understand the perspective of those people from an experiential point of view. (Of course, this can create a high barrier for me to engage in anything, because I always feel like I don’t understand it enough yet). Also…This is the whole reason I wanted to make a blog to begin with, so that I could actual talk to members of the online LGBT community in a casual setting so that I could better inform my methods of publicizing the stories in a more formal setting.  But nobody uses wordpress anymore…

I should have made a Tumblr.

Guys, am I bad at headlines?

One of my major duties with I’m From Driftwood this winter is to help prep the new video story for weekly release–BTW, new stories every Wednesday please watch if you want! Or even better, subscribe to the Youtube channel! Or follow the Twitter, where I desperately try to be engaging three days a week!

Anyway, part of this entails coming up with a couple options for titles for both the website and the youtube video (and even for HuffPost, where the story eventually appears).

Three weeks and three stories in and none of my titles have made the final cut. Guys, am I bad at titles?

I think a lot of the problem comes from my experience as a newspaper editor in high school. I was in charge of the middle pages, the ones no body cared about, read, or wanted to write stories for. So like every week 20 percent of the layout had to be headlines to make up for the totally lazy/disinterested writers who would always come up a good 200 words short of their guideline. In other words, in my mind, headlines are long–almost always the double line kind, and my favorite is Catchy Phrase: Long explanatory sentence. But my supervisor doesn’t seem to have the same taste in headlines…Like at all. The ones he likes are things I never would have thought of no matter how long I stuck with it.

Which I mean, is fine.

He definitely knows better–He’s been running this website by himself pretty much for so long now and he definitely has a feel for what appeals to his audience. And my last experience is almost four years old and for a print-based high school audience–totally different. So in other words I need to get better (or just learn how to write it the way he wants, the way that’s best for this situation.)

So okay. I already pretty much learned how to do the Tweeting in about a week (doubled my Tweet engagement rate even) so how hard can this be? It’s like basically the same thing even. And yet, for Twitter I was so easily able to find what basically amounted to a formula–put the link 1/4 through, end with 10 characters to spare, always include an @–yet I find all the advice blogs for writing headlines is just plain bad. 

For example. I saw one blog that claimed to offer me the formula I sought, but in the end it amounted to “5 easy ways you can save 20% on car insurance!” And I’m like really? That’s a scam. That’s literally all I think when I see a headline like that–and they’re always the ones that are sneaked into the awkward corners of a website with a fakely smiling stock image of an old lady. The whole thing just feels gross.

Am I wrong? Is this what headlines are now?

One of my major concerns comes with this idea of “Genuinity.” Like, capturing the true voice of a community and engaging with it in a way that is respectful and comes from a place of understanding. Not simply appropriating words and pretending I understand what they mean, but actually speaking/engaging in  conversation in a way that makes sense to the community that owns that conversation.

So, my question is, do I have to sell out to do it? What if the community represents something I don’t believe in–what if one of the core values is the idea of “fake?” Of putting a glitzy glam on things? Like buzzfeed or upworthy–are those bad communities just because they represent the desire to dress up reality? Is it a compromise of the genuine?

I’d say my supervisor doesn’t fall into that with his headlines–He consciously has made the decision on where to draw the line between “click-bait” and self-respect. And yet, even one of his headlines, this one about a Sikh man choosing to leave behind his religion, has drawn criticism, especially on Youtube, for the way it seems to equate his religion with his decision to come out and his anxiety in doing so. And I have to admit, coming from a privileged, white, Western mindset, that idea appeals to my brain–Oh, it was the turban that made him feel oppressed! This reaffirms my beliefs about turbans and conservative cultures, I should click it! When in reality, maybe I don’t know anything about Sikhism at all and I just want to feel like I can make some kind of knee-jerk judgment like that from the brief statement of a headline.

I wonder, is anything genuine in the digital age, or are we just hungry for the most exaggerated version of events we can produce in 140 characters or less? And what does that mean for me?

On the concerns of Millennial Interns: An introduction

So as it says in the about, this blog exists in part to fulfill assignment requirements from my college. But you know, beyond that I am a “media communications” or something like that major, so consider this blog my communication to you, other Internet people.

One of the “before you begin” bullet points was, “who is this blog for?”

A lot of people use this to mean fellow Bennington students, using it to connect with and share unique experiences for this brief period while we are all apart. But I thought I might do something a little more fitting to the things I study (?) and make this blog an outreach to anyone out there who might be college age, looking for an internship, facing the various crisis of our millennial generation, LGBTQ (As that is what my internship deals with…more about that in a sec), and in this way connect and extend my FWT (that’s what we call this mandatory internship period) experience, while I perform my own mandated self-reflection.

For my fellow interns/internship seekers/college students/college seekers, think of this blog as an advice portal. Hell, I’ve managed to somehow do this three times, maybe I have something to offer?? Also they let me into college for some reason maybe I know things about it?? Probably not. Oh well, we can chat anyway.

For the LGBTQ community, I am interested in hearing your voice. The things I claim I study, besides being overly big-headed and partially inane, entail something I call “Communication Spheres,” aka the communities we create, especially online, based on interests (anime or video games), commonalities and shared experiences (LGBTQ), and the like. What I want to be able to do with this kind of mindset about how connections work, is understand that all collectives are created and controlled–that they have their own rules and mutual understandings that are determined, actively and interactively, by members of the group, even if they aren’t aware they’re doing it.

Anyway, the point is this thing called “social languages,” which is used to describe how groups uniquely communicate within themselves (ie, how you can tell a person is super into Tumblr by the way they write comments), and also concepts along the lines of social psychology: Group norms and mores, how people interact, etc.

My study aims to understand these things through research and observation, and then convey them to people outside the group who have a vested interest in connecting with the members of that group. So nonprofit work, like I am currently doing, that seeks to engage diverse members of a loosely connected community, or some kind of new age advertising (sorry, using my powers for evil?? If you care to know, if I’m going to be super honest, my career goal is totally to work for SVU researching topics/communities/trends that they can dumb down and turn into one of their beautifully ridiculous episodes…Don’t judge me. <3)

Anyway, what does all this have to do with you, the members of the LGBTQ community?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I am currently working for the nonprofit org I’m From Driftwood, self-described as “The LGBTQ story archive.” In other words, I am striving to connect with members of this community. Wonderfully, IFD is already narrative focused, so I am already participating in the perpetuation of the kind of dialog I wish to craft, but I see no reason this blog can’t be a learning opportunity (as well as reflective) of its own.

Engage, if you so please, in narrative creation with me. Comments are open, you don’t even need to give an email, so please comment away! Ideally, nice little discussions can craft themselves out of the comment section (though I feel this probably doesn’t happen on WordPress very often), and perhaps I can pull out comments and incorporate them into my ongoing dialog of reflecting as an intern, creating a more rounded learning experience for myself. Of course, this is just a (very long) introductory post, so I don’t know if there’s anything much to say, so that’s okay too, I’ll try to be more interesting next week.