Sunday, October 4, 2015

#Being13 in 1978: "It's a Heartache"

The original selfie, Woolworths' photo booth, 1978

What was it like #Being13 in 1978?  A few words come to mind including awkward, unpopular, pimple-faced and theatre-nerd.  But, was it all that bad?

Certainly 13-year-olds today are feeling the same anxiety at not being part of the popular crowd, suffering mockery by the class bully, and exercising their individuality in the face of potential rejection. I know.  I recently raised two 13-year-olds, a daughter and a son (now 16 and 14). 

But, with the advent of the Internet, and our digital kids unprecedented access to influences via the omnipresent smartphone – with selfies, Snapchat and sexting - this generation of 13-year-olds are faced with a whole new array of angst-ridden challenges, including FOMO, “phubbing” (phone snubbing), cyber-bulling and getting enough “likes” on Instagram.  They have grown a new appendage – a constant companion that connects them 24/7 and begs for their attention.  Where we used to put combs in our back pockets, they put phones.  

My memories of #Being13 are more than a bit foggy. Luckily I have two hand-crafted scrapbooks filled with photos that bring me back; all due to my sentimental dad who inspired me to chronicle my life using snapshots, glue and magic markers (and affirmed by Kodak's Times of Your Life commercial, “Do you remember baby, do you remember the times of your life?). The photos are fuzzy and the pages worn, but the memories live on – my first overnight school trip to Washington D.C. and visiting the Capitol, our family vacation to Hershey Park, my sister and I riding the Super Dooper Looper five times and gorging ourselves on chocolate, lots and lots of camp photos, and the National Honor Society Award ceremony (caption reads, “My most embarrassed look!”).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Growing Up with “Dr. Google” – A Prescription for Stress or Empowerment? Digital Daughters Weigh In...

Your 14-year-old daughter tells you that she is worried about a dry patch on her elbow, a sore on the tip of her tongue and a bent eyelash that hurts when she blinks.  She has been Googling her ailments, and fears the worst.  You: 

A. Call the doctor immediately.
B. Tell her that you will use your search engines to diagnose her ailments and get to the bottom of them all.
C. Tell her not to worry.  Let her know that while these small ills are worth looking into, they are probably also worth a giggle, and they will surely go away.
D.  Call 911! 

For every lump, bump, rash, pain, pimple and bruise, kids today have constant access to an always on-call “Dr. Google” – an omnipresent option for self-diagnosis.  But, is the ability to search the Internet’s health sites a good thing for our adolescents – offering them helpful information, self-awareness and self-diagnoses - or are we raising a future generation of hypochondriacs?

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Summer’s Media Tsunami Over the Way Women Speak: 4 Camps – Who Are You Bunking With?

Whether it be an Amy Schumer parody, an NPR thoughtful “trialogue,” a linguist, doctor, student or an ex-Google executive’s take, this summer’s media tsunami over whether the way women speak affects how they are perceived continues to splash up on our shores.  But like sand in your bathing suit, why is the issue so irritating and why is it creating such a rash?   

We’ve obviously hit a (vocal) nerve.  We all want to speak in a way that inspires confidence – that compels others to listen.  To build rapport, to gain consensus, to be civil in our discourse, many women (including yours truly) use uptalk, filler words (so, like, ya know?) and apologies as a more humane way of communicating.  But the fact is, for better or worse, the way we speak does affect how we are perceived.  Today’s verbal fashion trends – vocal habits including filler words, up-talk, vocal fry and incessant apologizing -- are contagious and pervasive.  They weaken our speech, making us sound unsure, and yes, maybe even incapable.  

Suffice to say, I am fascinated by this summer’s voice-patrol-mania, the abundance of coverage, the positions taken, bragging rights, and the breadth of outlets that are making this issue their feature story.  With my own #sayitlikeyoumeanit mantra and blog – I’ve had my ear to the sand, tracking the coverage.  

So, who is winning the media war over the way women speak?  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Only Screen for Summer?

Day two.  Post an awesome sleep-away camp adventure.  And, along with my two-shades-browner, one-inch-taller son, I find myself once again disturbed by familiar unwanted guests in the house, albeit of the virtual nature.

Two days ago we made the hike up to New Hampshire’s breathtaking white mountains to pick up my fourteen-year-old, Jake, and already I am yelling at him to turn off his video game.  I know many of you have been wrestling with those oddly realistic animated sports stars and beckoning monsters for weeks now (weeks = eternity), and are desperately seeking some kind of remedy to get your kids off the screen, outside and on the move.  If only there was a Vitamin O (“Keep in reach of children”) that would mentally orient our kids O-ffline and O-ut the door.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average kid, ages 8-18, spends more than seven hours a day looking at screen media.  Yikes!  Of course, I am no Luddite, but for summer, the only screen kids should really use is sunscreen.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Like, Hire Me? Why the Way We Speak Matters and What We Can Do About it

In the words of Joan Rivers, can we talk?

This week’s print and social media tsunami over whether the way women speak affects how they are perceived made me want to post #SayitLikeYouMeanit all over Twitter (which I actually did a bit of)!  It was instigated by former Google employee Ellen Petry Leanse's commentary for Cosmopolitan over the “permission word” “just,” and a piece in Fortune, “Like, Totally Don’t Talk Like This to Get Ahead in Business,” The coverage has been passionate, dissenting and informative.

The fact is, for better or worse, the way we speak does affect we how we are perceived.  Verbal habits including filler words, up-talk, vocal fry and incessant apologizing (See Amy Schumer’s "I'm Sorry" parody) can weaken our speech, making us sound unsure, and yes, maybe uneducated.  Whether you are giving an oral presentation, interviewing for a summer internship or a job, meeting with a college recruiter, or engaging colleagues at a meeting, sounding self-assured and speaking articulately is paramount to being taken seriously.

The good news is that none of these disfluencies are pathological (although hearing five “likes” in your colleague’s or child's every sentence may seem so).   The way we speak - women and men alike - is behavioral and we could all use a little more awareness and intervention.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

“My Mom is Like…Whatever!” - Life, liberty and the inherited teenage right to speak with conviction (but can we reduce the number of “likes”? And, are we to blame?)

It is the right of every teenager to find their parents exceedingly annoying and embarrassing.  And, as parents, it is our duty to have a thick skin and to stay the course, giving them the assist, the emphatic push, the knowing advice when they need it – and even when think they don’t.  But nothing is more irritating, and met with more eye-rolls – on both sides – than the verbal correction.  

I have two teenagers of my own – one independent, tolerant soul, and one green with mortification at my mere presence in the company of his peers – and both with their own verbal crutches.  I often have to bite my tongue to not constantly correct their likes, ahs, ums and ya’ knows.   (e.g. “Ya know, mom, I can’t even believe you brought the dog to my soccer training and had to have every player like pet her?”)

The truth is, teenagers make for enlightening and heady company.  I love being around them, even if they’d rather I made myself scarce.  But the way teens communicate with all of those “likes, ya knows, totallys and whatevers” gives me pause.  Where do they get this post “Valley girl” lexicon and why is it so pervasive?  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Behind the Screen: Digital Daughter, Teen Mentor and Superstar Lauren Galley

Lauren Galley, DDA, Teen Mentor and Founder of Girls Above Society

Like most girls today who are growing up tethered to their tech - connecting and socializing via the screen - many of my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) have been profoundly influenced by experiences with cyber bullying, sexting, text dating, FOMO and the like.  I'm honored to introduce you to my DDA Lauren, who has not only risen above and beyond her own middle school tech nightmare, but is doing something about it in a really big and meaningful way…

Meet Lauren Galley, teen mentor and founder of Girls AboveSociety, her non-profit born out of her own personal angst-ridden experience and a desire to help girls everywhere cope and thrive in our digital world. 

Back in January, Lauren and I met on Twitter (of course!) and I continue to be blown away by her dizzying schedule, pure dedication and unending list of accomplishments. At age 20, she has just finished her sophomore year at SHSU and is pursuing a Masters in Psychology. Lauren is a TEDx Speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, Official Ambassador for Secret Deodorant’s Mean Stinks Campaign, and just wrote a book, “Kissing Frogs:In Search of Prince Charming.” Most recently, she is working on a course in cyber citizenship for the Texas Education Agency,

I asked Lauren about social media, social anxiety, the importance of speaking articulately and with confidence, and her generation’s future.  Here's what she had to say...

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ephemeral Text vs. The Hand-Written Letter

New Yorker Magazine

Heyyy hand-written letter…I’m sry 2 hear of ur passing, but u r just way 2 time consuming & I’m not even sure I remember how 2 print.  U r, I’m afraid, SOL.

Last week, I visited my mom with my orally fixated golden retriever puppy, Maisy. Unprepared with a bone, ball or her favorite dismembered stuffed hedgehog, we headed to my old bedroom in desperate search for a toy - of any sort.  Ultimately, we found success in the dusty-curtained cabinet above my dresser – although not the kind we were looking for. Along with my sister’s mighty super ball collection, a copy of Chaucer's “The Canterbury Tales,” a dental award statue and the tassels from my siblings’ high school graduation caps, we uncovered three shoeboxes filled with old letters, negatives and a few photos. Treasure!

Among the letters – written by family, camp friends, school friends and old boyfriends – were a pile from my dear old dad (I miss him every, single day). Penned in the early 80's when I was a teenager frolicking at sleep-away camp and performing at summer stock theatre, his letters, written on unadorned white paper, were neatly tri-folded into recycled business reply envelopes (“waste not, want not!”).

My eyes welled up as I read his jaunty prose, and I was reminded of his great wit and teasing.

Dear Audrey,

It is too quiet, we miss you but the young swan must try her wings, so!!!  We are looking forward to your letter telling us about the luxurious accomodations, gourmet vittles, heated tile floor in the “Jane,” and the good looking males across the way.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary Says it Likes She Means it!

Are you excited for #HillarysBigAnnouncement?  Whether or not you are a Democrat or a fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton, she IS the first female front-runner for the biggest office in the land.  

Hillary Rodham Clinton is surely the expert at "Saying it Like She Means it!" and was profiled in my Top 10 Female Role Models and Communicators of 2014.  As a powerful and passionate advocate for girls' and women's rights globally, Clinton has often said that there cannot be true democracy unless women's voices are heard.

Clinton is using social media to announce her candidacy and although she is a 67-year-old baby boomer and a grandmother, you can be sure that she will be capitalizing on all social channels and digital marketing tools to convince us - Gen X, Y, Z, fellow baby boomers and The Greatest Generation" - as to why she deserves to be our next president.  It will be the most digitally-fused election to date.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Speak like a Leader - Digital Daughters on the “Like, Ya Know” Syndrome: Panel Presentation, April 28th!

When it comes to our teenage girls, there is a new verbal fashion trend of epidemic proportions – like, ya know, um, ah, I mean, whatever, ya, I can’t, I can’t even…

In preparation for my upcoming panel presentation on how to “Say it Like You Mean it,” I reached out to my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) to ask what they thought about the “like, ya know syndrome” and other verbal habits, their pervasiveness and potential downfalls.  I was curious about the girls’ level of awareness and whether they wished they could get rid of their own involuntary verbal tics.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

An All-Ears Solution to Date Night

My friend Valerie was telling me how she frequently brings a book to dinner with her husband as he’s often distracted by calls, emails and texts. She feels silly sitting at her "table for two” with no one to talk to.  Really?  Is this what date night has come to?

Here’s an addition to restaurant etiquette that I think would do us all a world of good.  The Opérateur de Cellulaire. (Things sound better in French, and they are exemplary when it comes to luxuriating in a leisurely meal).  Yes, in addition to the Maitre d’ who looks after our dining experience, and the coat check person who attends to our jackets and umbrellas, we need a responsible individual to chaperon our precious cell phones. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Give Them Roots, Wings and Virtual “Busy Signals” – The Greatest Generation on the App Generation

What does The Greatest Generation think of the App Generation? 

Upon surveying her friends, my very wise 80-year-old mom explained that when it comes to social media and cell phones, there is a wide range of understanding, but almost a unanimous opinion…they are concerned. 

We may giggle along with eSurance’s commercial where to save time, Grandma Beatrice literally posts her vacation photos “on her wall.”   But there is some brilliant truth, and several layers of insight, when her friend declares, “That’s not how it works.  That’s not how any of this works!”

How does it all work?  Or, is the better question, “Is it all working?”  When it comes to parenting and texting, my mother is especially concerned. 

“Why do Amanda and Jake need to text you from school with every little thing?  How are they suppose to make any of their own decisions when they are wirelessly tethered to you?”

We all grew up in the age of corded phones, telephone booths, busy signals and collect calls.  If we needed our parents, we could connect, but it took some effort and we often had to wait it out.  But, now our text-messaging enabled smartphones offer instant gratification.  And, knowing that our teens have a phone, literally in their back pockets, alleviates anxiety for both parents and kids.

No doubt, we are living through a sociolinguistic transformation brought on by the ubiquitous Internet.  Not just a media culture shift (radio, TV, computer, Smartphone), but also a communications culture shift where the majority of us are texting junkies, and use hash tags and smiley faces to communicate.  With our digital natives as the experts at putting all of these new communications tools into practice, we are, fortunately or unfortunately, compelled to follow.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrity Speak's Contagious Influence, Like, Ya' Know?: Three Excerpted Interviews with Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham, and Caroline Kennedy

It should be a party drinking game. Take a drink when you hear a celebrity say “like,” “ya’ know,” or “I can’t even!”

Turns out, the same celebrity role models that influence the way we look and act, also influence the way we speak.  Even those we admire most are riddled with verbal crutches – like, um, ya' know, whatever, ah, so, I mean, I can’t even!

These disfluencies are contagious and most everyone I know in Generation X, Y and Z is guilty of the "like, ya' know" syndrome. But, in order to present our best selves, we should speak to mpress.  

With this is mind, here are three excerpted interviews with Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham and Caroline Kennedy.

I love singer/songwriter and “New Girl” actress Zooey Deschanel, but this interview made me think, maybe she should be renamed the “Like Girl”?

Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 12, 2011, on writing the theme song to “New Girl.” 
There were theme songs I had like in mind as like inspiration, like, I love the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter. John Sebastian wrote that, from The Lovin' Spoonful. I really like love that sound, so I like wanted something upbeat that really felt like a theme song. Like the theme song from Mary Tyler Moore felt really like upbeat and like gets you ready for a show about someone who is um ya’ know taking on a um like a new um life.  So, um so yeah, so that a was basically my ah, my inspiration, musically, um I wanted something uplifting and then when we went in to produce it, we sort of thought like we wanted to have like a Lovin’ Spoonful type of feel to the production, so ya…

Monday, February 9, 2015

Growing Up Female & Social - Part II: What Teens Wish We Understood

Our parents had it so easy…a letter was theirs to be sneakily read, a phone call, to be eavesdropped.  But we live in a world of pinging secret text messages. Codes, acronyms and apps never to be translated – or even known.  It’s another shift.  A new vocabulary with apps that are missing vowels (tumblr), and acronyms that are meant to leave us out of the story (PIR: Parent in Room).

Where is Benedict Cumberbatch (a.k.a. Sherlock, Alan Turing) when you need him?

Welcome to the new reality.  But what feels like a tidal shift to us, is just a new software update for our teens.

When I bring up teens and social media with my friends, we share the eye roll; the heavy sign; the shaking of the head.  And, inevitably, one of us gives voice to the old lament – the refrain of generations past, “What’s to become of kids today?”

In this, “Growing Up Female and Social - Part II,” I reveal my Digital Daughter Ambassadors answers to what they think we don’t get about social media and what they would like us to know.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Growing Up Female and Social – Survey Says…

Digital Daughters
It’s 2015, and our kids are 'gramming, texting, Snapchatting, tweeting and streaming.  

The distracting noise level on social channels is amplifying while the length of thoughtful prose is diminishing. 

Don’t despair…

Social media and its octopus-like tentacles that reach out and poke our kids – cajoling them to “like,” “follow” and “post” – are intimidating, and worrying, especially when new apps crop up like weeds.  But when I looked to my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) – tweens, teens and young women from around the country – to get insight into how they were managing with the proliferation of ways to communicate (text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, Tumblr – and face-to-face), I found a lot of wisdom.

My very unscientific questionnaire of  “Growing Up Female and Social” is just an ear to the ground.  But I am already hearing echoes, and they offer important insights on what a diverse group of girls, my DDAs who hail from New York to Pennsylvania, Maryland to Minnesota, California to London, England - really think about social media, how they use it, and why they love it so much.

Here are some initial insights from the questionnaire, showing our girls to be wise to both the downfalls and upshots of social media.