Sawing Against The Stream

I listened to this excellent “Why Are American Teenagers So Sad and Anxious” podcast yesterday morning.

In one part, Derek Thompson discusses his “displacement” theory of childhood. Meaning as children and adolescents have spent more and more time on smart phones and other screens, there have been direct and indirect costs to their well-being. One indirect cost has been the “displacement” of play meaning much less outdoor activity with others. In the podcasters’ views, it’s difficult to underestimate the negative consequences of reduced play.

Then, in the afternoon, at mile 34 of my bike ride, I was rolling through the blueberry farms on Gull Harbor Rd. And right before hitting Boston Harbor Rd, there she was.

A 6-7 year old blonde girl who single-handedly is bucking the alone, indoor, screen life. I’ve seen her before in her backyard from Boston Harbor Rd. Her family’s compound is a chaotic mess of animals, hard panned dirt, junk including an abandoned bus, and more animals. Barefoot and dirty, if you only saw her in her backyard, you’d think it was Appalachia.

Yesterday, she was sitting on her driveway where it meets Gull Harbor Rd. Still barefoot, next to a chicken and a “Chicken Crossing” sign, she was sawing a piece of wood with a saw three-quarters her size.

The only thing that would’ve been better is if she was risking injury with a friend or two. I’m sure she has friends, but they were probably indoors on screens.

Osaka Says ‘Au Revoir’ To The French Open

The gist of the story

“Osaka, 23, . . . revealed that she has experienced depression and anxiety since winning her first major at the 2018 US Open and explained that speaking to the media often makes her nervous. She apologized to any media members she had impacted with her decision.

‘I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try and engage and give [the media] the best answers I can.'”

This is bigger than the French Open. Osaka is emblematic of a generation that struggles with anxiety disorders and mental health more generally. The question is how are employers going to adapt to their young, often anxious employees? The best course of action will hinge on the type of work. But it starts, in each case, with heightened sensitivity to the issue. 

In Osaka’s case, tennis needs her WAY more than she needs tennis. In 2020, she earned $50 million from tournaments and endorsements*. Osaka preferring Instagram to post-match pressers makes perfect sense because she can control the message and her social anxiety. It was painful watching her squirm under intense questioning about a poor performance in a previous tournament. Professional tennis “powers that be” should start thinking about how athletes can leverage their social media to increase their and their sport’s popularity. The post match presser is analog, social media is digital. Osaka isn’t saying she doesn’t want to interact with fans, she’s saying she just doesn’t want to do it live right after matches. 

When professional tennis comes to ask me what they should do, I will be brief. Always accommodate. 

*I suspect Osaka’s mental health challenges and transparency about them make her an even more popular endorser of products. I also suspect she’d forego many millions for peace of mind.

The Problem With ‘Self Care’

Self care is a concept, a lucrative subset of a 4 trillion dollar wellness industry, and a red-hot social fad that doesn’t do anything to address the underlying issues of why so many people are burned out at work and seriously anxious about an ever-growing list of things.

Because of the money now associated with self care, the purveyors of it have a vested interest in NOT helping resolve the underlying issue of frantic busyness that defines so many people’s daily lives. Granted, some of that frantic busyness is explained by people trying to eke out a living with too few jobs that pay a livable wage, but a lot of it is the result of social contagion. I run on the treadmill of life because you do.

We will mute the clarion call for self care when people will themselves to get sufficient sleep, eat healthy food, and be physically active.

My university is a classic case study in the ridiculousness of self care. All of a sudden, despite my colleagues’ tendencies to overwork, the leadership is talking about the importance of self care. We are like seriously overweight people who think we’ve found the miracle diet, but in this case, we’ll be fine if we just make time for a warm bubble bath at the end of our frantic days. And don’t forget the candle.

I predict all of the self care talk will have no medium or long-term effect on how faculty live their lives. But on the plus side, more bubble bath and candles will be sold.

Thursday Required Reading

1A. The Resentment That Never Sleeps. Rising anxiety over declining social status tells us a lot about how we got here and where we’re going.

1B. Why So Many Men Stuck With Trump In 2020.

Sociology y’all.

Given your intellectual nature, no doubt you need more reading, but take your time with 1A in particular with its numerous substantive links. And seeing that you haven’t submitted it yet, I suspect your EDUC 205 exam is still a work-in-progress. 

Monday Required Reading

1. What Happens When No One Invites You to Their Pandemic Pod?

“We have lost the everyday distractions — the small talk at the school drop-off and pickup line, the banter at the office, the often tedious networking events. ‘We were able to avoid the fact that we were lonely before this because we could stay busy with a whole bunch of people.'”

2. Trends in anxiety among adults in the United States, 2008-2018: Rapid increases among young adults.

“The results from this study suggest poorer mental health in the US in terms of increasing anxiety overall and among most sociodemographic subgroups over the past 11 years. These findings should be considered in conjunction with other data that show increasing mental health problems of other types (e.g., depression), as well as the role of anxiety as a precursor to or indicator of severity of co-occurring mental health problems. Focusing resources on reducing anxiety, especially among young adults, is a cost-effective clinical and public health approach to stemming the tide of this problem; this would set the foundation for a healthier society in the future, as young adults age and adolescents reach adulthood.”

What resources mores specifically? 

3. Sea swimming is ‘amazing’ for mental health and menopause. Thanks to the Good Wife’s example, in the spirit of that video, I floated on my back in the Salish Sea near dusk last night despite less than ideal conditions. I can attest to the mental health assertion at least. And shouldn’t it be womenopause?

4. 8 Strategies to Improve Participation in Your Virtual Classroom. Teaching on-line makes me anxious! One week to go, wish me well.

 

We All Have Fears

The Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Southwestern Washington Synod.

“We all have fears of some kind. We can also have these fears in our lives as congregations. . . . We can have fears about the future, fear that our congregation will die, or not be relevant. Do we fear what our congregations might look like if they become more welcoming to our neighbors? Do we fear what our congregations will look like after the pandemic? Do we fear what our congregations might look like if others come and join us and help make decisions, and bring their gifts?

When we think about our congregational ministry, when we think about worship, will an openness to gifts of diversity in our congregations change what I feel is most precious? Will it mean we sing songs I don’t know or like? Does it mean I will lose what I know and hold most dear or value? Will I lose my place of privilege if we welcome others? Am I afraid of the future at this moment because it’s largely unknown?”

My sense of our congregation is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Major props to Wallschlaeger for asking the exact right questions.

Related. Last night on NextDoor (please remind me, why am I still a member?) someone reported on a Black Lives Matter protest. Since NextDoor has no journalistic standards, a certain hysteria quickly set in. Some of the numerous commenters said they regularly check the online County police scanner to learn what bad things are happening before leaving their home.

Let that sink in.

One of two things is true. A mostly unfounded epidemic of fear has descended upon the land or I’m dangerously naive of the many risks to life and limb.

Tuesday Required Reading

1. What if Some Kids Are Better Off at Home? Some will criticize this as an out-of-touch example of privilege, but that would be a mistake. Every educator should reflect on the “silent misery” of which Schroeder writes. More broadly, there’s a “less is more” outline for meaningful educational reform in her stories.

2. Watch Olympian Katie Ledecky swim with full glass of milk on her head. Hard to find a more dominant athlete in any sport. If I tried it there’d be broken glass on the bottom of the pool.

3. I’m Traveling, Even Though I’m Stuck at Home. What happens when Rick Steves is grounded?

“Travel teaches us that there’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

4. Money, Morality and What Religion Has to Do With It.*

“Some of the most interesting variations emerged when divinity and morality were juxtaposed with wealth. As the chart below illustrates, those living in advanced economies were less likely to link morality with divinity than those in emerging or developing economies. For instance, in Kenya — which had a gross domestic product per capita of $4,509 in 2019 — 95% said that belief in God was integral to being moral; in Sweden, where the GDP figure was $55,815, only 9% felt the same.”

I dig Kenya, but I’m siding with Sweden on this one.

5. Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny Explain QAnon. I cycled with Ben and Brandy Sunday evening. I dare anyone to listen to them and then argue the (dis)United States is not in decline. Are we even trying anymore?

6. Extra credit vid on epistemic trust. For the educators among us. And parents. And anyone that seeks to help others. I use “perspective taking” for “mentalizing”.

Thanks to DB and LG for #4 and #6.

Tuesday’s Required Reading

1. Eddy Binford-Ross, a high school journalist, reports on protests in Portland.

2. Whales Get A Break As Pandemic Creates Quieter Oceans. Silver lining.

“The drop in noise could be helpful for endangered killer whales that live in the area, known as Southern Resident killer whales, which rose to national attention two years ago when a mother orca carried her dead calf for days.

The whales use sound to hunt Chinook salmon through echolocation, much like a bat does. They also make a wide array of social sounds. Each pod actually has its own distinct dialect of calls. But ships make noise at some of the same sound frequencies as the whales.”

3. Why Some Young People Fear Social Isolation More Than COVID-19.

“It might be tempting to think that FaceTime and Zoom provide substitutes for in-person social outlets, especially for a generation of digital natives who grew up with smartphones. But, therapists say, talking by small screen offers no replacement for a calming hug and can miss the subtleties of a compassionate expression.”

All is not well. Eight percent of American teens attempt suicide each year. Is there a more telling, damning statistic?

4. An FBI hostage negotiator explains how to persuade people to wear masks. His insights are highly relevant to bridging most of our intensifying divides. Don’t you think?