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celling your soul: no app for life Paperback – October 28, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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About the Author
Joni Siani, Media and Communications scholar, has been working as a social scientist, dynamic lecturer and higher education instructor throughout the Boston, Massachusetts area for more than 12 years. Siani began her relationship with the media as an international radio and television personality throughout the 80s and 90s in Miami, Great Britain, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Boston. She has covered the world of pop culture as a journalist and entertainment reporter interviewing rock, film, and television stars, along with newsmakers and political icons for more than 30 years. The exponential shift in technology and the relational effects of our personal development, our interpersonal communication and our global society has been the focus of her current research within the exciting and growing field of Media Psychology. Siani explains, “Every decade has had the luxury of a slower adaptation to the technological advances introduced to our society. However, for those growing up in the digital age, human interaction changes instantly. With each new technological trend, kids and young adults are expected to know how to behave, yet each new trend lacks any guidelines and protocol. We are now seeing some unintended consequences. It’s time to address the issues with an honest evaluation.” Siani has a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Newbury College and an M.Ed in Psychology from Cambridge College in Massachusetts. Siani was born and raised in a musical/theatrical family in Staten Island, New York. She is a single mother raising a teenage son just outside of Boston. Celling Your Soul: No App For Life is Siani’s first book.
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Rather than delete from her digital to do list a problem too big, Joni the instructor candidly illustrates how an individual with an idea posesses the power of thought provoking study. As a mother; her from the trenches observations back up the process with exposure to both real world, and reality world experiences, and their unintended consequences.
An excellent example is relayed in the story of the crying baby who years ago would be handed a set of car keys to jingle, or a binky to pacify them. Today's little one is handed mommy's I-pad to play with. What's the difference if it keeps them quiet? The pacifier has "an expiration date", the I-pad, or cellphone has "no such social pressure to wean off it".
For the first time a look at the digital divide through pre and post internet observations, analyzed and assimilated into a no frills, but qualified assesment from those who never saw it coming, and those who know nothing but. Joni's teenage students discuss openly their dependancy on Facebook, Twitter, and the 21st century methods of communication that admiitedly leave them feeling "all thumbs".
For parents it is a behind the scenes look at a virtual reality sub-culture, for teenagers a calming reassurance that you are not alone, and that you don't need a cell phone to be alive, aware, or loved. So as to paraphrase from my youth Turn OFF, Tune OUT, and Drop IN!
This is the period in our lives, on and off, where we try to work through some of life's most important questions. Some of these are: "Who am I"?, "How do others see me?", and "What are my strengths /weakness to work on in order to move through the unchartered waters ahead that are deepening as I move away from the shelters of family and school?". So much to work through experientially and cognitively -- juggling where the teen/young adult has been (family of origin), where they are now (peer group), and where they wish to go (dreams/aspirations).
Siani presents theory and moving examples on the importance of various multiple "moments" in her students lives when they seek to engage with one another, and the damage that can be caused, when technology is jumping at light speed and simultaneously being absorbed. Consider how long the FDA takes to approve one hugely important cancer drug that has already been vetted by European scientists for years. But our children are the unintended lab rats for how the brain will respond (and self-esteem and the ability to become self aware) when one is able/pushed to communicate with everyone else, simultaneously, in 14 different ways/games at a 24 hours break neck pace.
If you still think the above is an exaggeration read the student testimonies from the heart about how they are just coming to terms with a tremendous negative impact after the fact -- after walking the walk on virtual ground in the newest digital age and then wishing there had been warning labels or guide posts on much of where they had been.
This author shows that like many things (i.e. guns and the bible- my example), it is about the way it is used, in what context, and what it is or is not trying to replace. Siani reminds everyone of what is core for key developmental growth (and thus basic human need) and helps turn the volume up on the threat so it is less likely to be silent in your presence. She also provides a roadmap of where to go proactively from here whether you are reading the book as parent, healer , educator, or child.
I have recommended the book to dozens of colleagues as well as good friends. People read with 'different glasses on' and thus, of course, will take away different things from this book. But I believe that minimally one can not help but get a very needed 'wake up call' for some aspect of our offsprings' lives on the need to preserve/protect critical time periods/"moments" from being run over by ones and zeros. It is also 'hard to miss' with even a casual read of this important work that more detailed guidance is called for (screamed for) in regards to our children, who are in the process of maturation, on what it means to be intimate. That intimacy and the learning that exists inside an interaction is very much about the the process (not just the content). That how things transpire with those to whom we care about will add up over and over again to eventually play a big part in the foundation of who we all become and how we evaluate our selves (and thus also what we strive to do in life).
The very strong conclusion that Siani reaches from very different sources, pulling upon big smarts and native gifts with this population, in my mind is akin to basic physics: "One can not be in two different places at the same time" . One can not both be 'personal enough' with others to work through so many questions and issues, while mostly convening in a very impersonal/non-cozy medium. It would be like training our troops for war or our chef's for the kitchen with videos alone; smell, touch, tears not hidden, facial expressions not missed, and the INABILITY to hit a button/fire an 'anonymous email missile' when conflict arises are some of the many interpersonal non-replaceables.
It is so hard, and yet achieved by this author, to help us understand and believe in a 'digital threat', right now, to crucial needs for this population when so much of our culture is being 'digitized' many times having only valuable outcomes (BUT there is no 'warning scream' ever present to watch out for the 'digital components' that can 'go nuclear').
Because it is also challenging in a review to get across this book's vital message about the threatening/damaging aspects of digital life most especially (but not exclusively) with certain populations, I shall conclude my comments with a short vignette below. I hope that a 'picture gleamed' from my brief story is worth a thousand more (and better) words so that anyone interested in staying current for parenting in the next decades in our country (whether a parent or not) would read and pass on this new book.
As a clinical Psychologist in the Boston area I sat with a suicidal patient fairly recently who was 19. He began to tell me how he felt lost in his 100's of Facebook connections, and for the first time in his formerly very happy life he felt numb all together. He said, "I can't even find my tears". No matter how many hours he spent (100's) on the computer he just: "Couldn't feel like he was really known/understood by anyone, and was no longer sure who he was or even wanted to be outside the digital world". I was about to ask him a question when a text came through on his phone and he immediately looked down reflexively and sent one back. He then looked up, apologized for disengaging with me, and stated: "My girlfriend really gets mad if I don't have a good reason for not responding pretty soon". I said back immediately : " I think your life , your immense suffering, and the joy and peace I want you to find again is good enough reason for me". He then started to cry and the FULL human connection had begun.
Steve Freilich, Ph.D.
But Joni does not fall into such an easy trap. This book is well-researched, immensely readable, and of great value.