Death and Social Media: Facebook Friends For Life

Anders Nilsen. Big Questions.

It’s been said too many times that social media is changing our relationships and degrading our ability to genuinely connect with others, but all those “superficial” interactions take on a unique significance when social media meets death. In a totally bizarre way, social media enables us to be friends with dead people.

And for that, I’m very grateful. Continue reading

Why We Suck So Much: Millennial Malaise and Our Bad Relationships

photoI’m part of a lost generation, so despite all of the other things that I’d rather write about I’ve decided to sit down and write about being a fucking Millennial.

I’m ashamed already. Please, don’t rub it in.

Why write this now? Maybe it’s because I really AM that self-absorbed (but isn’t that some kind of birthright from being raised up in the 90′s?). Maybe it’s because I’m just upset and have been coddled and gold-starred enough to think that my feelings matter and should be expressed.

To be honest, I don’t want to contribute to the same shit that we hear all the time about 20-somethings having no clue about anything or the embarrassment of living a parent-dependent, 30-year-old adolescence. Neither is the motivation here to straighten out all of the contradictory things people say about us Millennials; that we’re altruistic yet severely narcissistic, that we’re the most educated generation to date yet we say our clothes are what set us apart from other generations.

The real reason I decided to write about my generational existence is because Aziz Ansari gets me, a CBS article rubbed me the wrong way, and lately I’ve been living as a severely underemployed,* single Millennial lady with a dual-title PhD. In other words, I embody a classic case of Millennial Malaise: educated but broke, smart but single, passionate but pretty lost, all in all. And like nearly everyone else my age, I keep asking, “But why?!?! WHY DOES EVERYTHING FEEL SO HARD?!?!” Continue reading

Fight or Flight? Don’t Go With That Flow

In the past few years of blogging I’ve written plenty about break ups, the upheaval and uncertainty that can follow in their wake, and I’ve optimistically chimed over and over again, “Things change. Something will happen.” Those phrases are meant to settle some fears and angst about the flux of life, the unexpected, perhaps even the undesirable, and make it at least more acceptable, more manageable, more palatable. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is my sense that, yes, things change and something will happen.

In response to such changes, I’ve previously referred to the Taoist notion of wu-wei, or effortless action. Simply put, when life is likened to a river with all of its rapids, eddies, and currents, I’ve strongly accepted the wisdom in “going with the flow,” and I’ve applied this insight to my life, especially my relationships. However, thanks to a handful of conversations with a handful of people in the past week, I’ve decided to nuance my appreciation of going with the flow, perhaps in multiple arenas of life, but especially in relationships.

Because sometimes, and in some situations, going with the flow is just too easy.

Continue reading

Person vs. Lying Robot: A Lesson In Ethics

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I’ve learned a lot this semester while teaching my first class in Medical and Healthcare Ethics. We’ve covered a range of topics that I hope to eventually make videos and write posts about, but one insight in particular has repeatedly been made apparent to me in my personal life: It’s inappropriate to respond to everything in the same way. Doing so not only increases your likelihood of responding to someone or some situation in the wrong way. It may also mean that there are some deeper things going on that are worth thinking about. For your own sake as well as everyone else’s. Continue reading

In Defense of Marriage: No Need for Love Here

In addition to the quick little video below that I posted earlier today on YouTube about the Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, it may be helpful to clarify a few more points that are worth keeping in mind this week (and hopefully beyond that).

The more radical progressives hesitate to give support to marriage equality because “marriage” – as a historical institution – has a pretty shady past wrapped up in the exchange of property, or more accurately, the exchange of people as property, or even more accurately, the exchange of women as property. In such relationships, there is a clear and problematic difference in power between a husband and a wife. But don’t be fooled. History and its influence on marriage hasn’t changed all that much. When marriage is defended these days as being between “one man and one woman,” such words are often still colored by rigidly prescribed gender roles that imply other “marriage-y”  things like “what he says goes,” or that determine “who wears the pants” and who “belongs in the kitchen.”So let’s be clear about at least one thing, gay and lesbian couples who want marriage equality aren’t really looking for those kinds of marriages anyway.

Continue reading

Take Your Present Back: The Past Is Not a Trap

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Yesterday was Daylight Savings and by springing forward we “lost” an hour. Perhaps your witty Facebook friends also updated their statuses by asking: “Where did the time go?!” I’ll roll along with serendipity because, as of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about time, how it shapes our lives, and how conventional wisdom on the matter can be a little misleading. The saying goes: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift; that’s why they call it the ‘Present.’” Sure. But there’s more to it than that. Continue reading

The Value of a Few Choice Words

letter writingYou know that great feeling when you are able to vent and finally get things off of your chest? Well I wrote a number of emails this week that were intended to be “strictly business,” but before I knew it that whole personal-professional line was blurred again and I ended up telling a few of my higher-ups what I really thought of them. Continue reading

Charles Darwin: Parenting Extraordinaire

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I don’t have babies but it’s never too soon to start looking for a potential partner to help raise them when I want them, right? In less contrived circumstances than that makes it sound, I shared a sweet, romantic moment with someone a couple of weeks ago when I told him, “I think that you would make a really wonderful father someday.” That may strike some men as too reproductively-focused in a way that seems weird, forward, intimidating, or just plain terrifying, but I meant it as a very sincere acknowledgement of his possession of qualities that I think it takes to be a good parent, and especially a good father. He actively listens. He takes good care of others. He’s generous, gentle, and accepting. And when it comes to social expectations of presumed gender roles in a heterosexual relationship, he’s man enough to say, “I hate it when I feel like I have to be a guy.” Continue reading

A Real Catch: Good Love is a Fish You’ll Know

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I’ve never really liked fishing. I can, however, appreciate why some people find comfort or joy in it. You can see beautiful scenery, be in nature, have quiet time to yourself, or make it a shared experience with others. I also like how the act of fishing can elicit a special combination of emotional states – patience, hope, apprehension, boredom, frustration, relaxation, excitement.

But for me it was always a different sort of thing. I remember a time when my dad took me fishing at a pond near our house. I was young and I cried over the thought of hooking a fish and dragging it out of the water, even if the intent was to toss it back. As I got older I maintained my own personal distaste for fishing as a sport. “What senseless trauma!,” I thought, “Poor fish, being tricked, tempted, and baited only to be rejected, consumed, or displayed as a trophy.” Thus, it seems that fishing is a complicated enterprise that can be experienced by different people in drastically different ways. There can be a mix of emotions, an array of objectives and goals, and for these reasons and more, maybe it makes sense that fishing metaphors are so frequently applied to romantic relationships. Continue reading

On Learning to Listen and Social Media Whores

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Figuring out how to cope with a terminal illness and deal with death has been the most present theme for me over the past week. My students and I spent a couple of days discussing these topics in our Medical and Healthcare Ethics class. After a colleague  mentioned in passing that his health was “not that great,” we spoke for nearly two hours over coffee about finding purpose in doing graduate work when you are faced with an unexpected and drastically shortened timeline. And, although this is a frequent occurrence, one of my closest friends and I talked even more than usual about what it means to live after a loved one has died. All of these conversations were punctuated by seemingly serendipitous finds of related videos and songs over a number of days.  It was one of those times when one’s attention is primed to pick up on such things more frequently and with greater ease. It seemed natural, then, to assume that I would write my reflections this week on such a weighty, important, and pressing question: How do we live when we really know that we are going to die?

But I’m not going to. At least not right now.

Maybe it was because I really do want to write about this question and these experiences, and perhaps also because I appreciate the gravity that can surround their consideration, that I found myself feeling quite adverse to the idea of doing so. From my own experience, I know that it is inappropriate (if not downright offensive) to talk to people about what they might be going through and how they should handle their feelings. In those situations, the most important thing one can do is just be present, sit with the experience, and listen. So I had a weird little moment when I thought, “Ugh. I don’t want to come off as that person.” And I totally blame Twitter and Facebook for my hesitation to write. Continue reading