A Brave New World Where We all get Left Behind

In this uber connected 24/7 world we are living in, those of us that use social media either for professional or personal reasons often forget that not everyone else plugs in like we do. While a large swatch of Americans have access to the internet, that does not mean everyone who does is tweeting, Facebooking, Google Plusing and thinking about their Klout score. For some it’s just a place to check email, apply for a job and maybe look up something.

Lately when talking to my Dad during our weekly chats, we have been talking more and more about the impact of the internet and social media on our daily lives. He recently asked me to explain Klout scores and was blown away by the concept and asked a simple question that really stayed with me…what about those who simply are not a part of this brave new world?

Well sad to say they get left behind. As our dependence on social media grows, in many ways it’s a good thing but in many ways it’s not. In some ways the digital divide is closing, turns out some of the heaviest users of Twitter are African-Americans. Which I can attest to and not because I am black! I often joke, I have two twitters that I am a part of, mainstream and Black. Sometimes the two clash especially when I make a tweet that someone who is Black or familiar with Black culture gets as a joke, yet someone who is not takes way too seriously. For me it’s all fun and games but really it isn’t.

While it’s commonly assumed that if one chooses not to be connected and heavily involved in social media, money or lack or resources is the chief barrier. Well my non-scientific study says that’s not true at all. Among the low income families I serve, many have home computers (often through Rent a Center, but that’s another post), and now that cell phone technology has grown it means one can even have a pay as you go smartphone which of course provides access. While there are clearly parts of the US that don’t have great connections thus limiting access, the truth is not everyone wants to be connected.

One of my oldest friends is an on air-person in the Chicago radio scene and has been for years, yet he has no Facebook or Twitter accounts. In fact he has been adamant with his employer that unless they just demand that he get them, he has no intentions of doing so. I asked him a while back why, and he told me privacy. Lately B’s decision has been in the back of my mind as Facebook goes through yet another series of changes. How much are we giving up to be connected?
I am starting to slowly think that the price of this 24/7 connection may be higher than any of us think, yet we won’t realize it until it’s too late. In the old days, one could be relatively anonymous online, but more and more we are being asked to reveal ourselves. In some cases there are very good reasons. Yet depending on who you are, revealing your inner self can have deep repercussions. Does the boss really need to know you are a member of the BDSM scene? Yet if Mark Zuckerberg has his way, frictionless internet experiences will have of us all knowing way too damn much about each other.

Yet the price you pay when not connected is pretty damn high! Depending on what you do for a living, not having a Klout score can hurt you, and in order to get a high score you have to be a heavy user of social media. Some months back, I did a little experiment, I attempted to give up Facebook for a month, and it failed. Why? Turns out party invites, and other ways of connecting are all done on line especially via Facebook. Just this past weekend, we went to celebrate a friend’s birthday…how was the invite and plans made? Facebook. Gone are the days when we just pick up the phone for many of us, at best, we might text.

There really are no answers, I can’t imagine going back to a world where all shopping must happen in a store, or research at a library. In recent months, I have taken some of my online interactions, off line and met up with people who really may turn into good friends. That said, I admit even I am starting to grow uneasy at how much of myself is revealed and known online by people who really don’t know me.

In the end maybe we are all getting left behind, some by choice and some by being a part of this brave new system where the entry price is higher than any of us can truly understand and won’t understand until it’s too late.

Women Talk…The sexy or not so sexy pot

One of my all-time favorite films is Pulp Fiction, I admit I am a pretty big Quentin Tarantino fan…can’t explain it. In Pulp Fiction there are a few lines by a minor character Fabienne that when I saw movie 20 years ago, didn’t really register but as I grow into a chick of a certain age, these lines totally resonate.

Fabienne: I was looking at myself in the mirror.
Butch: Uh-huh?
Fabienne: I wish I had a pot.
Butch: You were lookin’ in the mirror and you wish you had some pot?
Fabienne: A pot. A pot belly. Pot bellies are sexy.
Butch: Well you should be happy, ’cause you do.
Fabienne: Shut up, Fatso! I don’t have a pot! I have a bit of a tummy, like Madonna when she did “Lucky Star,” it’s not the same thing.
Butch: I didn’t realize there was a difference between a tummy and a pot belly.
Fabienne: The difference is huge.
Butch: You want me to have a pot?
Fabienne: No. Pot bellies make a man look either oafish, or like a gorilla. But on a woman, a pot belly is very sexy. The rest of you is normal. Normal face, normal legs, normal hips, normal ass, but with a big, perfectly round pot belly. If I had one, I’d wear a tee-shirt two sizes too small to accentuate it.
Butch: You think guys would find that attractive?
Fabienne: I don’t give a damn what men find attractive. It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.

My reality is that I have not had a totally flat belly in years, oh for years I could suck it in and voila, she was flat. But ever since my unfortunate umbilical hernia and the resulting double hernia repair surgery sometime back, it’s become clear that I and the flat belly will never know each other ever again. Even when I have lost weight and gotten down to some small number, the belly is there. She is fucking magnificent; she is a fucking pot belly!

When I am in a good mood, I revel in this belly, I marvel how I have seen her stretch to accommodate the womb and the humans it’s grown, one of whom now stands 6’4 and resides 1300 miles away at college…I think fuck, my body is powerful. Then I have those days when I am trying to find something to wear and all I can think is why are you in my way? Since apparently no one other than the makers of maternity wear assume that woman can ever have a pot belly. Never mind that men’s clothes seem to allow for a little man girth around the middle, so a guy can have a little pooch and still look sexy as hell but with women’s clothes we either appear pregnant or everyone knows we have the belly.
Yesterday was such a day for me, as someone I know through work decided to ask that nosy question, and I had to let him know, sorry I am not expecting. Mind you the guy doing the asking had a pooch; maybe I should have asked him when he was due.

Part of making peace with myself is learning to love me in all my stages and shapes and that means trying to accept the body I currently reside in, but I have to be honest, it’s rocky at present. I have been forcing my midsection into various pieces of containment devices, Spanx, hell I even put on a girdle contraption the other day to force my lovely pot into submission. When will I learn?

Yet it hit me last night, that for many women once we sail past 35, start creeping towards 40 or dash past 40, that are bodies settle much like our minds. Some of us are graced with lithe dancer/runner bodies that can give birth to 4-5 kids and still deflate back down, but many of us don’t have it that way. Shit, it’s why almost every woman I know owns at least one piece of Spanx.

I am starting to think as women we need a movement to make the belly sexy, demand that clothing designers allow for some girth around our middles. Since as I have learned going up a size in clothes rarely helps since then then the top is literally falling off my shoulders. Big asses are sexy, so I say let’s make potbellies sexy!

Today’s post is part of an occasional series I want to do on women’s stuff, I am toying with the idea of maybe even talking about issues of sexuality that affect women, the good, the bad and the in between but wondering how regular readers may take it. Feedback and thoughts would be appreciated.

Whose job is it to help?

When I decided some 15-16 years ago I wanted to work in the social services sector, I was still a pretty idealistic 20-something year old. Granted my own path had been rocky, after all I was married at 18, a mum by 19 and headed towards divorce court by 20 but in that idealistic way that is a defining trait of the very young, I thought it would be great to help others. Sure, the pay sucked and I actually left the beginnings of a career that most certainly would have been far more lucrative but being someone who does good in the world at a very basic level was very important to me.

My first gig in the helping realm was actually as an Americorp Vista, serving as a community organizer to an area on the far north side of Chicago where noon day shootings across the street from the office were the norm. That agency in many ways was very similar to the agency I now serve as Executive Director, an agency that offered a wide array of services to locals and did a lot of good in the lives of the people it impacted. For the first time in my working life and considering I started working at 14, I had some experiences under my belt, I felt alive in my work. Sure the local gang bangers were none too pleased about the work we were doing and I admit I often sprinted from the office to the el station, as it was not an area for leisurely strolls. My love of being in the helping profession was cemented.

Over the years, I have worked with all types of people though the bulk of my work has been spent dealing with homelessness , but pretty much there is not a population that I haven’t served either through direct service or as an administrator. But I am about to tell you a secret that most in the social service/human services realm know all too well. You get burnt out and this work makes you look at people in a very hard light. For all the great individuals you serve, there are many others that make you wonder why?

Often times people think of social workers and other related allied professionals as being open minded and liberal, after all we serve people in the need. Yet over the years, I have seen more and more colleagues become rather conservative politically, generally settling down and ending up as Republican lites or Libertarians. It’s a secret we don’t share but really it’s the work that changes us.

Recently both online and offline I have ended up in discussions where people outside the profession have shared with me that they feel the government should do more to help people. For some reason I have been stuck on the thought what more should the government do to help people, better yet what is the government’s role in helping its citizens. Look, I am hardly a bootstrapper; I have freely admitted on this blog that in my early adult years, I needed assistance to live. I was thankful for that help at the same time hating it and glad to be done with it. A few years ago, when our income nosedived we needed medical help as mini me needed some health issues addressed. I swallowed my pride and applied for state healthcare, I am thankful that we were able to address both our health issues thanks to that help. I no longer receive it as I no longer qualify and actually have no insurance coverage at present. Since a real policy that actually covers things starts at well over a thousand bucks a month here and past experience with high deductible policies is that they really aren’t worth shit when you are paying out $400 a month yet still have to pay for all your care until you hit that deductible which never happened. So I am praying and gambling when it comes to healthcare and hoping Obamacare gives me some real options I can afford.

There is a place and time for government assistance , but the longer I work in my profession I often wonder what about the role of people to make responsible choices? A few days ago, I ran into a former client, she just had a new baby and we were making small talk about my agency which many locals are starting to realize is in economic distress like many non-profits, these days. Somehow in the course of this casual conversation, my former client mentioned her age and I was blown away, all this time I assumed her to be close to my age and was stunned to learn she was only 28! Our conversation ended and I was struck by the fact that had I made different choices I could have been her, 28 with 4 kids and very little money. The fact that my first marriage was a disaster and a disaster early on is probably the biggest reason I am not my former client. That coupled with the fact that government assistance while helpful was so meager that even as a youngster I realized that working was far more beneficial financially that receiving assistance.

I think for many in social services where our delight at serving others turns is when we see people who could make better choices, not make them because they believe social safety nets either through government or local non-profits will always be there to assist. Yet those of us in my field have seen our resources stretched beyond belief and frankly as an administrator, I find myself making logical choices that years ago I never would have considered possible.

Let me make it clear, I am not saying roll up the assistance. In fact there are certain areas where I feel the government should be involved, like healthcare. I think healthcare needs to be handled by the government or heavily regulated so that access is just that accessible. Right now what one gets varies so drastically by state and while I know Obamacare will make things better, I fear it won’t be enough.

Food and shelter, I think everyone must have access to food, but are SNAP benefits the best for all? In some areas, I could see some type of government ran cafeterias where people can go and eat, shit this might even create a few jobs and feed people. Now I admit shelter is a tricky one, right now we have a plethora of programs through HUD and while it can take years to get assistance most commonly through Section 8 housing programs. I admit the fact that one can live in their Section 8 pad forever is one I have always felt conflicted about. One of the reasons waiting lists are so damn long is often times once a person gets a place they can be there forever. There is a not a bottomless bit of housing so it creates a traffic jam if you will.

Clearly we should always have assistance to help our most vulnerable, those who physically or mentally can’t work and kids, but it’s the folks in between that often leave me scratching my head. Of course the current economic downturn is another issue since full employment is simply not available for many which means we need another tweaking of the system. I mean 26 weeks of unemployment benefits may not be realistic anymore when it can take a good year or more to find a job.

I wish I had the answers, and today’s post is more a vent but at the same time I strongly believe that if we want our government to do more than all who have the ability and are of sane mind and healthy body also need to do something. Responsibility is a two way street and sometimes we all have hard choices to make for the greater good of the whole.