My Mom is in Facebook Purgatory.

October 7, 2009

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She’s done it twice now: Requested to be my friend on Facebook.

The last time she tried was years ago — sometime when I was probably a sophomore in college and therefore way too cool to be friends, let alone Facebook friends, with my mom.

And then last week, out of nowhere, after years of peaceful, not being Facebook friends (punctuated only once or twice a week by a comment from her about the fact that I refused to be her friend), she did it again!

So, my mom is in Facebook purgatory — that feared place where you get no answer from your friend request. She’s just sitting on my requests page. And I’m leaving her there. Until I make up my mind what to do with her, at least.

This time, it’s not because I’m too cool for my mom. Now I realize that she’s probably too cool for me. No, this time, I’m leaving her in Facebook purgatory on principle.

What principle? The one that says: That is just not what Facebook is for.

Now, I’m aware that Mark Zuckerberg would probably disagree with me, seeing as how he opened Facebook up to everyone and their Mom (literally) not too long ago. And it’s not that I think that was a mistake. It’s that I never thought my mom would join — or anyone’s moms, for that matter.

I’m aware that my this post makes me immature; I know it makes me seem like I have something to hide. (I promise, I really don’t.)

You see, I am of the (only) generation that remembers what it felt like to get that college email address and finally be able to join Facebook. It was a big, fat deal to a high school senior. It was liberating. It meant you were really in college now (even though you still had 2 months left of high school).

This goes against everything Jeff Jarvis says about the free and open internet. But, I’m not in opposing the fact that anyone should have a Facebook, I’m just in opposition of my Mom using it to figure out just what I’ve been up to for the last four years in college.

I’m not paranoid, I promise. I have a Mom who spent most of her life as a reporter. She wants to know everything about all of her children, and she will find out. She once found my sister at a hostel in Florence, drunk at 2 am. Seriously, my sister walked in the door (tripped is probably more like it) and the Italian guy at the front desk says, “Dana? Your mo-zer ees on thee phone.”

Like I said, that is just not what Facebook is for. It’s not for networking, or job-hunting or growing a virtual garden. It’s for friends — friends that I would not keep in touch with otherwise, friends I can’t see everyday (and, yes, it’s for tracking who’s getting married  and who dropped out and who’s dating and who broke up).

Facebook is for not forgetting birthdays and petitioning your school to have Stephen Colbert as your graduation speaker. In the words of another recent college graduate who finally accepted his mother’s friend request this summer, “it’s for picking up chicks.”

But, with the way things are going, it looks like I’ll have to give in sooner rather than later.

They say there is no privacy anymore, that headhunters and college counselors will find your facebook no matter what restrictions you’ve put up — and not hire you because of drunken pictures of you in Vegas or at a highlighter party, or drinking wine on a metro in Paris. They say that the world is online and online is open and you’d better open up to it or you’ll be left behind. At least, that’s what they’re telling us in J-School these days: Be public, be open, be linked, be your own brand.

Yes, it looks like I’ll have to open up, to be public and to let even my mom be my facebook friend.

–Eventually. She’s staying in purgatory for now.

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My Dad does my laundry.

October 1, 2009

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I probably shouldn’t admit that. Especially online, to the 25 people who read this blog.

But there it is — the really hard thing about insisting that I move out of my parents house as soon as possible.

(The other really hard thing about it is that I have absolutely no expenses right now — except for shopping and lunches at Matt’s. And those don’t count.)

As soon as I decided against taking out another $50,000 in loans to go to Medill last Spring, and that I’d come to ASU — in Phoenix, where my parents live, where I  have a bedroom full of stuffed animals and soccer trophies and porcelain dolls — I immediately insisted that I would NOT be living at home.

Then, my potential roommate lost her lucrative nannying position and I decided to wait to move out. Rents are too expensive alone.

Then, I started to get used to my Dad doing my laundry.

And now, I’m realizing what that really terrible Sarah Jessica Parker movie was about (the one with Matthew McConnaughey where he’s 30 and won’t  move out of his parents house.) It’s just so easy!

I have only one excuse for this that might make me seem a tiny bit less like a 22 year-old baby: I have the best Dad in the world. (I know everyone says that, and I’m sure you mean it too, but mine is really the best.)

He quit his job when I was a baby and has been a stay-at-home — cook dinner every night, make lunches every morning, put side ponytails in our hair, coach the soccer team, drive us to swim practice — Dad ever since. When my sister and I were kids, my Mom would come home from work to find my Dad cooking with painted fingernails. His big nails were so much easier to paint than ours.

Now, as I’m finding myself with more work than I’ve ever had in my entire life (yes, I know I thought that after high school and then after college, but I’m serious now) — I have to admit it, it’s a huge relief to have a back-up to my alarm clock when I turn it off in my sleep, coffee ready when I get up, and it’s really nice to have someone to do my laundry.

I know this can’t last forever. I know that I have to move out sometime soon. I know that, in the end, I’ll have to do my own laundry again.

But there is one consolation to this inevitable future: My Dad’s really terrible at doing laundry.

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Phoenix in photos.

September 28, 2009

Unlike a lot of my fellow graduates, I had the distinct pleasure of working for my favorite publication in town this summer, the Phoenix New Times.

As a result, I never left the house without my camera.

Here are some things I saw of our city that haven’t been published yet.

First, it’s a favorite out here: the farmers’ market.

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Obama paid a visit to our city this summer. It quickly became about healthcare. There were protesters — but there were more supporters.

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Then I started graduate school and we were assigned neighborhoods. This is a taste of mine — along Camelback between Central and 7th st.

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I graduated in the worst year ever.

September 25, 2009

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It rained on my graduation day. No, poured.

It was an outdoor ceremony in May.

We all thought it was rather ironic, considering the already manic state we were all in.

After all, we all agreed, we are graduating in the worst year ever.

There’s a scenario that keeps re-playing in my life since my graduation last May.

It happened to me earlier this week at a Starbucks in Paradise Valley mall.

I was next door getting my bridesmaid’s dress fitted for my sister’s wedding (which is in about two weeks now), when I went next door, ordered my skinny vanilla latte, and heard someone kneeling behind the counter say, “Lauren Gilger!” He stood up and I realized it was a friend of a friend I knew from high school.

“Hey! How’re you doing?” I asked.

“Oh I’m good,” he said. “I pretty much work here, go to the gym and hang out at my apartment,” he laughed as he said this…probably because he graduated from Vanderbilt four months ago.

“Well, at least you’re not living with your parents again like me!” I answered.

That scenario, has replayed at least a few times a month since graduation in various places — a bar or two, a restaurant, a store.

I took an English class my sophomore year at Fordham called “Early Upward American Mobility.” We read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and learned why we all think the way we do. It’s like “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” is engraved on our collective conscience. In the words of The Jefferson’s, in America, we’re all about movin’ on up.

It’s been our story, our drive, our ethic since the beginning.

On the first day of that class, I’ll never forget it, Prof. Ed Cahill told us that every American generation since the country’s founding has been more successful than the generation before. Until ours. And it’s not only that we will not make more money than our parents, it’s that we cannot — the growth will have topped out.

This was before the market crashed last summer and made this all obvious.

Right now it seems that every driven, articulate, hard-working, intelligent person I know must be checking to see if they’re diploma is really there on the wall every few minutes. I have a friend who worked as a dog-walker and on-the-street canvasser in Manhattan all summer after graduation, another is waiting tables in Scottsdale, probably reciting french literature in his head, and another is cocktail waitressing at a bar near her parent’s house. I have a friend who’s interning for free at a theater in California and spending her saving’s on rent and another who’s working at Best Buy and applying for every open engineering position anywhere.

A few of us went to grad school right away and are trying not to burn out, and just about everyone else is signing up for the LSAT or GRE right now.

Should we all just give up now and accept the fact that we are way overeducated in a job market that is only shrinking?

I don’t know. But I do know that Ben Franklin would say, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Let’s hope so.

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Len Downie Week

September 18, 2009

Downie speaking to a packed room at the Cronkite School Monday.

It’s been Len Downie Week (as I’ve been calling it) at the Cronkite School — especially for the grad students. And it’s gotten me thinking.

Len Downie is the former executive editor of the Washington Post and he is a serious big shot in the journalism (and political) worlds. He edited Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate; he guessed the name of Deep Throat on the Third try; he oversaw the coverage of every Presidential election of the last 17 years; he was in charge when Dana Priest broke the story on Walter Reed. There’s more.

This week, we got to hear from Len Downie on Monday morning in Tim McGuire’s class on the future of media, we had lunch with him (and the entire Cronkite faculty) later that day, we covered his speech that night in the First Amendment Forum, we got to ask him one-on-one questions in our skills class on Wednesday morning and we heard from him one last time — about Watergate! — on Wednesday night when he introduced a showing of “All the President’s Men.” Whew.

What was amazing about this week was not just the record of this editor, or all of the President’s he’s talked to or the ground-breaking pieces he’s overseen — it’s also the difference between everything he represents about journalism and everything we, the grad students, have ever experienced of it.

This is a man who famously stopped registering to vote (and stopped having political views, he said) the day he became editor of the Post. He literally didn’t vote for 17 years. We all had trouble removing our political views from facebook. (That reminds me, I need to do that.)

The generation gap is not just because of age, I don’t think. I think it’s also about the way we think about journalism. If we all write for ourselves (like I’m doing now), who’s going to keep us honest, unbiased journalists?

Funny I should ask that of you, because I actually asked that of Mr. Downie Wednesday. His answer was absolutely amazing — though it made perfect sense and shocked no one in the room. He said that the public simply wouldn’t buy it if we were trying to pass off our opinions as fact; he said that credibility will still matter — even in a world where information flows freely (literally) and there are no rules.

Amazing. Optimism after a career in Washington. Optimism in the face of what most people think is the great decline of journalism.

One thing they must be forgetting, those Debbie Downers, is that there’s a difference between newspapers (which are certainly declining quickly) and journalism.

I’m going to go remove my political views from facebook now.

To begin with:

September 15, 2009

Phoenix.

Journalism and Phoenix.

22 is a good age to be and Phoenix (to my surprise) is a good place to be 22 in. It’s an even better to place to be a journalist.

After my family moved here from Oregon when I was about 12, I spent all of middle school and all of high school hating Phoenix. I didn’t want to move and, after we did, my beloved dog, Trixie (yes, I know it’s a stripper name, but my sister and I didn’t know that when we were kids and named her that), died of Valley Fever. I resented Phoenix.

In high school, where I attended Xavier College Preparatory and my 1989 VW Cabriolet didn’t quite match up to the BMWs and Mustang’s in the parking lot, my reasons for hating Phoenix grew more complex. It had no center and it was too sprawling. I remember using the phrase “wannabe L.A.” a few times.

As soon as I could, I left for the Big City — New York City. It took four years before that Baz Luhrmann graduation song phrase became true for me: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.” And now, there are some things about Phoenix that I find most heavenly — the quiet, the lack of winters, the palm trees, the up-and-comer (who’s so up-and-comer that no one’s discovered us yet) status.

We’re like Brooklyn 20 years ago. (I just hope we don’t turn into Brooklyn today, where a studio costs $2500 a month and every guy you pass on the street is waring tighter pants than me.)

So, maybe it was New York, maybe it was my optimistic post-graduation stupor, but I’ve discovered in the last few months that this is, if you look at in the right way, the best time to be in Phoenix. Kind of like it’s the best time to be going into journalism, if you’re dumb enough (like me and all of my fellow grad students downtown) to think of it as an opportunity and not a pink slip.

In any case, they’re both on the edge of change. And if you stick around through the crappy part, you’ll be the ones to choose where it goes next. I’ll keep you posted.