Tag Archives: parenting magazine

Social media schizophrenia

I struggle a lot with how much I should merge my work and personal lives in the realm of social media. My ambivalence is reflected in the ebbs and flows of my participation. Sometimes I get really excited and follow, post or comment frequently; sometimes the whole thing feels like one more ridiculously unnecessary thing I have to do, and I boycott — sometimes for weeks at a time — in rebellion.

When I first started a Facebook page under my own name I decided it was going to be very much a personal endeavor — a way to keep in touch with friends for whom I have great affection but rare face-to-face interaction. I was going to keep my list of friends small and manageable. I was going to keep work — and professional networking — out of it.

Then I saw that my husband had four times as many friends as I did, many of whom are colleagues and clients. I started feeling frantic about my lack of popularity. So I shamelessly mined his list, sending friend requests to some of the people on his list who know me, too, and should therefore consider being my “friends.”

I feared that I was missing the boat, failing to take advantage of the organic process of building a community by sharing a bit of what you think and who you are and what you find interesting.

I initially got started on Twitter as an experiment. I wanted to learn what it was all about so I could figure out how to use it use it in my job. When Raising Arizona Kids hired a social media consultant to jumpstart the magazine’s presence on Twitter, I started focusing my attention there, working to build our list of followers and develop a valuable and reliable source of information for them. My personal Twitter account foundered, a neglected sibling in my attentions.

And then there are my blogs. Yes, I have two. I had this idea that I could post about goings-on “Behind the ‘Zine” for work and write more reflectively in my personal quest to be “Making Sense of the Pieces.” But when I started ramping up the frequency of my posts for “Behind the ‘Zine,” (especially after I decided to accept the Post a Day Challenge), I essentially choked the life out of my personal blog. It’s hard enough to find time to write one post a day, let alone two, when you work full time.

But it’s also becoming increasingly more difficult to separate the work from the personal. My work pretty much is my life. Much of my identify and personal growth is wrapped up in my experiences heading a magazine. And now that my two sons are grown, gone and fully self-sufficient, even my time outside of work is largely spent on independent writing projects that have spun off of interests and passions I am now able to pursue.

Intentionally or not, I’ve blurred the lines I’d hoped to draw in my social media presence. There is no logical way to keep these two sides of my life separate. And thankfully, most of the contacts I make through my work are really amazing people with whom I’d welcome a friendship, if only we all had 48 hours in a day.

Making something on the Internet disappear

Here’s an interesting twist on the warning that “once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.”

That’s something parents typically tell high school or college students who are posting pictures on Facebook that a future employer might use to judge their character. It’s not something you usually think about in terms of what a mother might say or write about her own child.

At 6pm Monday, well after our office had closed, I got an email from a woman we interviewed five years ago for a story about a behavioral disorder her son was experiencing. She had just published a book on the topic, so of course she was perfectly happy to talk with us about the topic, knowing that our article would help publicize her book.

Her son is now 16. She describes him as a “successful, well-adjusted student and athlete.” And therein lies the problem.

“When one Googles his name for sports-related information,” she wrote, “this article pops up. As you can imagine, it is uncomfortable for my son. I do not think it is fair that this information is under [his] name. Those years are behind him and I do not want his name featured on Google connected with [this behavior disorder].

“Would you please ‘kill’ this story so that it is no longer on Google? I have requested this of other articles and they were very understanding of my son’s privacy. Any help you can provide would be very appreciated. As a parenting magazine, I am sure you understand my dilemma. Please remove this story/kill the story and remove it from Google immediately.”

I absolute understand this woman’s desire to protect her son. I Googled her son’s name and quickly identified the problem. Page 1 lists his various athletic accomplishments. At the top of Page 2 is a link to our story.

But I had to think about her request for awhile. We published the story on this particular behavior disorder because we knew it would provide hope and guidance to other parents who found themselves in this mother’s situation. If we killed the story, that value was gone forever.

And, I have to admit, her request kind of got my back up. She wrote a book about it. Now she’s upset with us?

I had a meeting out of the office on Tuesday morning. Before I even got to work, the mom had called our office, repeating her demand to Operations Director Debbie Davis, who happened to answer the phone. So while I was thinking about what to do (between 6pm Monday and Tuesday morning, mind you), she’d gotten increasingly agitated about the situation and eager to see it resolved.

I’m guessing the real problem is that her son is upset with her. But that’s between them. Debbie and I talked about it and decided the right thing to do was to respect the son’s interests and protect him from embarrassment. So we killed the story, which is no longer accessible from our website.

But that doesn’t really solve the mother’s problem. We can block access from our site but we can’t control Google. For that battle, she’s on her own.

Putting boundaries on “reader engagement”

When we started providing online content in a blog format that allowed reader comment, we had to decide how quickly we wanted that feedback to appear.

Most news media entities allow comments to post immediately. The advantages of instant gratification and a “real time” dialog are important when the conversation is evolving with a real-time crisis or controversy. The disadvantages, however, are significant.

When you allow readers free access to voice their opinions about what you write, you’re giving people a platform to spread everything from (much-appreciated) thoughtful perspectives and interpretations to outrageous, uninformed and mean-spirited opinions. And you’re giving them a sizeable audience they wouldn’t have on their own.

As a company devoted to providing resources and support to parents, we didn’t feel the need to compromise appropriateness for speed. Comments on our blogs must be approved by the writer, or me as the editor, before they appear live on our site.

Never was I more grateful for that decision than yesterday, when I posted a brief blog linking to two articles I thought exemplified extraordinary writing under the deadline pressure of continuously unfolding events in Tucson. I wasn’t making any kind of political comment; I was complimenting remarkable writing.

A comment I saw in response this morning was completely inappropriate. “Vitriolic,” as Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik  might call it. Certainly ill-informed.

Thankfully, no one saw it but me.

Child development experts will tell you that out-of-control children crave boundaries. Out-of-control adults need them, too.