Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Internet is a Public Place

There was a drunk driving accident here in Charlotte recently. Some peoople died. The underage driver who is claimed to have been driving drunk had a web page at MySpace.com. Nothing unusual here, many people put up web pages on these community services. Shortly after the accident a reporter at the local paper found the MySpace page. There was profile language boasting of drinking whiskey and smoking pot. There were pictures of whiskey bottles. What this person posted about himself is going to make his life more difficult. It seems that some people will post anything. The poster's seem to think that only their buddies will ever see what they write.

I see the results of this thinking all the time. The Internet is suposed to be raw and unfiltered, but then people are supposed to have brains. Just because it is offensive, or stupid, is no reason not to post something, but you have to remember that your mother might see that photo.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Permanent Solutions to Temporary Problems

Occasionally young people manage to kill themselves. What makes it especially hard to take is that there never is any explanation for why they made this particular choice. The explanations, if offered, are horribly inadequate in part because they are always temporary problems. The nature of youth is such that just waiting around until you get older solves most problems. Life can be extremely frustrating for a 16 year old. The things which make life frustrating for teenagers will improve just by getting older. You can tell young people this but they do not seem to get it. I think teenagers, no matter how bright they are, are trapped by their sense of time.

What is your relevant time frame? It is part of the natural language that we are born with. It is what defines what feels like forever. If an event, say the Earth’s revolution around the Sun, will continue for longer than your relevant time frame then for you that event will continue forever. In a few billion years the Sun will change into a red giant star but that is so far in the future it does not effect your thoughts on how to live your day. A newborn baby only knows now. There is no past, there is no later, there is only now. When someone or something moves out of the baby’s vision it is as if that object never existed. One of the first roles that parents play in a baby’s life is that they are the people who always come back. An infant’s relevant time frame is the current moment. As the child grows it’s sense of relevant time expands slowly. This sense is more felt than known. It began before you knew any words. It is not associated with that part of your brain that understands words. It is a sense or feeling that lies underneath conscious thought without being part of it. Even an 8 year old can talk about what he wants to be when he grows up. The child knows there is a future but it is not known in the same visceral sense as the present. The child does not feel the future. A benefit promised to a child next week will never make her feel better about giving something up today. The relevant time frame to an adult might be his own expected life span. The relevant time period for a parent might extend into the lives of her children. Having achieved the teen years of age what one feels to be a relevant time period does not extend much beyond tonight. The 16-18 year old people can talk about planning for college or getting work next summer but they are thinking about it, not feeling it. Next year is beyond what feels like forever to them. It is beyond their relevant time frame. The more intelligent they are the bigger the gap becomes between the future they can conceive of and the future they can feel. It is this gap that traps young people and can prevent then from seeing the illogic in a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In their hearts it is not a temporary problem.

A breakup with a girlfriend, a fight with your parents or a humiliation of some sort at school are some of the types of situations that can make you feel bad. What you want when you feel emotionally damaged is to feel better. You want the pain to be over. Emotional pain, heartache if you will, heals in time just like physical pain. You know this; a 16 year old knows this. Knowing something in the thinking part of your brain is sometimes not enough. The young persons relevant time frame may not extend far enough out to see the end of the pain. ‘My life is over’ is a common refrain. These thoughts are based on the feeling that today’s emotional pain will go on forever. This is the point where the trap is sprung. The pain will diminish but if your relevant time frame does not extend far enough then the pain will feel to you like it will go on forever. The relevant time frame for a teenager is so short that today’s frustrations can feel like they will last forever. ‘My life is unbearable and it will never get better’ is the thought he may be having. So do you act on this feeling and do something you can’t undo or do you recognize that things will get better if you are here to experience tomorrow. Tell someone what you are thinking about. Decide to live one more day. You can do anything for one day. Most of all think about what you are doing. If you can see the time sense trap for what it is you will make it. It is said that the best revenge is living well, sometimes it is just living.