It’s crunch time in the academic world now with everyone racing to research and write final papers. I am quite behind on various things in that I’ve also had a magazine piece to rewrite and Veeka’s birthday celebrations. She turned 9 today, but we mainly celebrated on Saturday when I took her to Mud Island in Memphis (a big waterfront park) and then to the ballet. It turns out that the state transportation department chose April 12 to tie up two of the three freeways approaching Memphis for road construction, so we ended up detouring through the countryside to get there. We ended up in Mason, Tenn., where we munched at a famous restaurant known as Gus’s Fried Chicken, which gave new meaning to the words “hole in the wall.” Apparently all the foodies have been there, so of course we had to stop by.
Once we hit Mud Island (after getting lost over the river in Arkansas for a few minutes), we nabbed the last of the swan boats to rent before the whole place closed down. These are swan-shaped paddle boats in which yours truly had to do all the work in paddling about a small pond where a stiff breeze kept slamming us against a side wall. Then we changed into nice clothes at the visitor’s center, got some onion rings for Veeka to eat (I said she could have what she wanted and she chose that), then went to the Orpheum (a downtown theater) to see Ballet Memphis’ production of Peter Pan. Several of the dancers were attached to wires and spent most of the performance 20 feet in the air, thanks to the wonderful efforts of ZFX Flying Effects. And the sets by Beowulf Boritt were gorgeous – imagine the children’s beds in the first scene flanked by a 40-foot-long oval window that parts in the middle to reveal Neverland.
Then today was Miss V’s birthday. I sent her to school with 19 cupcakes with pink icing with gummies on top. We made them ourselves, as the store-bought variety has way too much sugar. She got an assortment of clothes, Barbie books and movies and other gifts including a CD on how to play the guitar from Uncle Stephen. Veeka likes anything to do with the movie “Frozen,” so I’ve tried teaching her “Let it Go” on her pink guitar so she will want to practice more. As for my part, I’ve been busy working on my two blogs and social media in general. One thing I had to critique was an interesting essay on the social and economic differences between the kids who frequent MySpace and those who frequent Facebook. I’d forgotten that Facebook began as a hangout for high school and college kids and that one had to be invited to join. And that Facebook was designed to look upper-class whereas MySpace had that that bling (showy, sparkly, brash) white-trash look. Here are two key sentences in the essay: That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.
I saw an example of this on Saturday when my daughter and I walked down Beale Street after seeing a ballet. (For non-Memphians, Beale is kind of like a 2-block Times Square filled with flashing lights, police, loud music, tourists, restaurants and musicians everywhere playing country, jazz and the blues.) Beale is all about lower class likes: the load noise, tons of people smoking and eating fattening, badly prepared food; the street entertainers trying to make a buck off their tumbling exploits and everyone teetering about with huge drinks in their hands. I’m not saying the rich weren’t there as well, but the place had that gritty feel.
The split in rich kids vs everyone else is pretty clear in Jackson where anyone who has an extra $6,500 a year sends their kids to one of several private schools, all of them not far from my home. My kid is a minority where she attends public school. She would not be in all the private schools, where the buildings are newer and there’s a lot of services available, ie Spanish classes for the very young. Were we to stay here, that would be one of the questions I’d be agonizing over: When, not if, to make the jump. Anyway, would like to know what the author thinks of MySpace being almost unheard of these days with Facebook grabbing the market.
A second piece on how blacks use Twitter was likewise intriguing as it was something I didn’t know. I’m curious about whether Hispanics and other ethnic minorities do the same thing. When you’ve got a small community, better interaction is possible. The 20K question is: where is the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the local TV stations on this? Are they busy trying to reach Memphis’ 60-percent black population with social media? We discussed this in class tonight and the answer was that the Appeal laid off their social media person some time ago, so no, their social media reach is pretty bad. Plus they have a pay wall that prevents you from getting even a look at their paper. Such a stupid policy. Give people several free tries a month and eventually they will shell out the money for an online subscription like I did with the New York Times. I disagree with the ideological bias of the NYT, but good journalism in west Tennessee is pretty scarce, so I get it where I can.
We also had to pick out an academic journal piece and apply the ‘uses and gratification’ theory (in mass comm research) to explain peoples’ use of social media. To quote Wikipedia, the Uses and gratifications theory is an approach to understanding why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs. So I chose a journal called Health Affairs and a 2010 article titled “Take Two Aspirin and Tweet Me in the Morning: How Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media are reshaping Health Care.” The author, Carleen Hawn, is a San Francisco-based business writer.
This fascinating piece (and I’m not usually into health reporting so for me to like a piece says something) is about Hello Health, a New York practice with offices in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village where the doctors do all their diagnoses and patient visits over the Internet. For a fee of course: $50-$100 per cyber visit, to be exact. Well, I can think of several ‘uses’ right off the bat, including speed of access to a doctor and time saving in terms of getting some meds to erase the symptoms. Most of us rank visits to the doctor as akin to waiting at the outer doors of hell. Unless I go early in the morning, there’s at least a half-hour wait. With one of my daughter’s pediatricians, the wait is more like an hour. I used to use a chiropractor who would run late herself – that was OK – but if we were more than 10 minutes late – we’d be erased off the appointment list and would have to re-book.
The article says most doctor’s offices are run like we are somewhere way back in the 20th
century, which doesn’t cut it in a social media-friendly era. Yes, there are concerns about patient privacy with so much going out over the Internet but on the other hand, if people have greater access to more medical information (including their own), there’d be less misdiagnoses. There’s places like Patientsite.org, which lets you communicate directly with your doctor (that’d be a gratification for me as it’s really hard to get through to a doctor with a simple question) and see your test results online. That’s good for those of us who have to take regular breast and pelvic exams. But can e-health work? Is a video a good substitute for an in-office visit? Heck, it works for scientists who work year-around in the Antarctic. Being able to IM or video-chat your doctor sounds pretty nice to me, especially if you travel out of the country and are in a place where not many physicians speak English.
We were also supposed to reflect on how we’re gaining an audience for our topic blogs. Mine, of course, is the one about single Christians adopting and if you click on the link, you’ll see a story from my friend Kathy Thompson on the barriers she met with in trying to adopt a girl from Ethiopia. The worst feedback she got was from her Christian friends who couldn’t get over her little girl not having a daddy. The fact that Kathy would at least be a mommy to this child (who had no one) was lost on these friends. As for a potential audience for that blog (and how I can meet their needs), I’m realizing that people need to hear the tough stories of how women who’ve ‘been there’ have worked out all the kinks and everything’s turned out OK. I know that lots of people aren’t crazy about the idea of single moms but it turns out that Memphis, the closest big city to me, was – as of 2010 – the Single Mom Capital of the country, helped by an enormous amount of under-18 moms. According to the Urban Child Institute of Memphis, 8,617 single mothers gave birth in Shelby County in 2009.
My target audience uses both Twitter and Facebook, which is where I send alerts, once I’ve published a column on adopting. I was contacted by a college student recently about this topic area and the questions she had are the ones I see that I need to address in the blog. They are:
-whether it’s biblical to adopt as a single parent.
-what I say to my kid when she asks why she doesn’t have a dad;
-most challenging, most rewarding aspects of adopting;
-how to respond to someone who says it’s ‘selfish’ for me to want to adopt. Sigh. I have gotten that sort of accusation. It’s not a question that married people have lobbed at them.
-how I wish churches would handle singles adoption. (Yes, I’d like them to wildly encourage it but that rarely happens. Again, the treatment towards couples is quite different).
So my major goal out there is to ferret out people for whom this is a dream (to adopt a child) but their church friends slap them down every time they mention it. I know, I know. Sounds medieval but I think most churches expect their singles to go and die somewhere after 30. Because they/we sure aren’t wanted inside their doors. I want to be a resource and encouragement for potential adoptive parents but first I need to get included on peoples’ blog rolls, invited to their conferences and included in their discussions. Sadly, if you see the speakers list for any Christian conference, it’s 99% male and 100% married folks. The CEO of one Christian adoption site told me to wait until mid-May re my request to get on his blog. Geez. I’m not like asking to be put in his budget, just on his blog.
This might be a long haul.