Can you find it on the Internet or through social media? I am unsure, but the time has come for each of us to examine in far more depth how social media can and cannot promote our psychological sense of community.
The second insight is the nature of emotional support. We know from decades of research the central role of emotional support, or the lack thereof, in people’s lives. As significant as the discussions on the nature of education and the nature of parenting may be, analyzing the nature of emotional support requires us to ask, among other things, what is the phenomenological reality of the excluded? What does a young mother feel when social pressure or administrative regulations force her into exclusion?
If I understand between the lines correctly from the hundreds of comments I received, it is a terrible feeling of shame, embarrassment, guilt and, worst of all, helplessness. It would seem that this is true of all excluded groups, be they young mothers, the physically challenged or minority groups. Our well-being is contingent on adequate emotional and social support. We cannot manage without them.
The flood of comments reflecting a perceived lack of such support and seeking, sometimes desperately, to achieve it through friendship requests, leaves me, once again, asking, to what degree can they be achieved through the Internet or through social media? Once more, I am unsure. But, are you asking yourself what the sources of your emotional and social support are and how satisfying they are?
The third insight is what I will call “living ethics.” In addition to my academic career, I work as an independent organizational and management consultant. The consulting language constantly talks about “engagement,” “empowerment,” “trust,” “respect,” “authentic leadership” and similar values. It is so easy to mouth these values. To quote Sarason again, however, “Agreement on values is easier to reach than agreement about the appropriateness of value-derived actions.”
So many of the media articles and the Internet comments about the photograph merely address “what” the authors felt should be done in education and parenting but fail to grapple with the much harder questions of “how” we should translate those values into actions.
Technology cannot answer this question. Personal example and role-modeling can suggest possible paths. My photo seems to have captured this for so many. In the words of a dear friend, “the reaction is so strong because the action was spontaneous and sincere and so clearly so. And captured in a photo. It doesn’t translate by words alone.” Who are your role models? What values do their actions convey?
The tsunami has not entirely passed. Requests and queries continue to arrive, albeit at a much lesser tempo. When I am asked, “What would you like people to take away from your photograph?” my answer is simple. Look at the tsunami and not only at the photo that triggered it. I know that there are additional insights to the three I have outlined above. I hope that triggering meaningful self-examination discussion and research on all of these is what this piece is all about.
Social media concept image available from Shutterstock