Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tech in the Past Tense

Yesterday a telemarketer called my cell phone asking for Steven Smith. When she heard my voice, she immediately asked if I was "Mrs. Smith". I'm actually Ms. Smith, his daughter. After a brief conversation about my disinterest in winning a free cruise, I hung up and thought about all the times this has happened to me. I've been able to pass as a grown woman on the phone since I was twelve. Door to door salesman ask if my Mommy or Daddy is home, but telemarketers never imagine a phone in a teenager's hand.
According to my Facebook profile, I "studied" at Riverton High School. That's a lie. I'm there now. If there's a way to change that to present tense I've never seen it done. My college friends "study" at their school of choice. Millions of teenagers use Facebook. Still, it's built for adults, and it's not the only huge tech corporation to do that.
My post-Christmas family of six owns three iPhones, three iPods, and two iPads, all under the same iTunes account. We've spent most of our Christmas break deleting each others' messages and music. Since I'm moving out this year anyway, we decided it was high time I set up an account of my own.
That means selecting my own iTunes security questions. Here are some of my options:
What was the model of your first car?
What was your childhood nickname?
Who was your favorite singer or band in high school?
Who was your best friend in high school?
There were several more question options about things I did "as a child" that are still true for me. Security questions are designed to be hard to guess, but if you're currently in high school, anyone who knows you can figure them out. Even though teenagers are-quite stereotypically-associated with technology, all electronic device users are assumed to be adults.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sluffing with Style

My friends and I took AP Human Geography back in ninth grade. We were still in a middle school building at the time but had to take the test at the high school down the street. We were excused until fifth period, but the test got done halfway through fourth, so we took our sweet time walking back. There was a little donut shop halfway between the two schools, so we dumped our pocket change on the counter and bought some from the glaring cashier. You can read all about that here.
We thought we were so clever, eating doughnuts while we were supposed to be in class. Fast forward to last Thursday. We had an assembly during first period, the first of three that day. All we do for a half hour is wander around the gym and buy treats and trinkets to raise money for Silver Rush. We weren't doing anything in class and we'd already been excused for the assembly. Plus my friend Hannah hadn't eaten breakfast. So we drove around town with no particular destination until we settled on IHOP.

We ordered French toast from a waitress who didn't question us. Then Hannah and Esme texted their parents to brag and documented our adventure for posterity.

We thought we were so clever, eating breakfast while we were supposed to be in class. Someone-probably me-brought up the donut adventure and we joked about our ninth grade selves. Then I had a thought. "What if, three years from now, we look back and say, 'Remember when we went out to IHOP senior year and thought we were getting away with something? Yeah, we're so passed that now."

I did a school musical back in October. On Paint Day, the drama teacher realized we were short ten extension cords. My friend L'ren, who oozes trustworthiness from every pore,  was chosen to drive down to Walmart and buy some with his credit card.
I tagged along. Because, you know. Extension cord is heavy. We wandered around Walmart, trying to guess his middle name and carrying on a loud conversation about our "stolen" credit card. On the way back I realized how overhyped it was.
"A year from now," I told L'ren, "Running to Walmart for extension cord won't be an adventure, no matter whose credit card we're using. It will be running to Walmart for extension cord."

My brother's in ninth grade now. He replaced me. He can walk up to the gas station with his buddies, buy candy bars, and call that an adventure. I can't. The things we enjoy right now will seem cheap and ridiculous as we age. But that doesn't mean they are inherently cheap and superficial. For years, I felt "less" than my peers because I don't party and date the way some of them do.  Now I've realized that I don't have to. There's a time for everything, and the time for French toast and extension cords is now. These types of adventures expire before you know it.
So go party. Clock's ticking.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Silver Rush for the Win

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My grainy iPod photo
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Better picture lifted from twitter. My handprint's on there somewhere.
Some schools have football. Some schools have grades. Riverton High has charity. Between 1999, the year we opened, and last year, we raised over $900,000 dollars for different charities. That means my senior class got to tip the balance over one million.
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This is Zoey Spencer, one of the kids who will benefit from the money we raised. She sold over two thousand handmade reindeer necklaces during lunch to support Silver Rush. I've seen kids walking the halls with six or seven strung around their necks.

In three weeks, we raised $133,689.15 Inter Mountain Healing Hearts, a charity that provides "hope and healing" to kids with congenital heart defects. We counted it out to fifteen cents because that's our graduation year. Most of my senior class is bittersweet about the whole thing. Silver Rush is such a huge part of our identity as a school. We do everything we can think of for Silver Rush. Carrot grams. Cheerleader pie-a-thons. A male beauty pageant. Our motto is, "It's not about the money, it's about the change," but I suspect the real reason we love Silver Rush is the sense of unity. 
We're not from an enormously wealthy district. The most any other school in our area raised is $96,000 (This is the school that creamed us in football. Not that I'm bragging or anything). We succeed because we're passionate. 
Now it's all over for the last time.But you know what? We have the rest of our lives to be nostalgic about high school. Why spend our last year in some kind of pre-nostalgic haze? We've done good things today and we've got years ahead of us to do more. 
Live it up, Class of 2015.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Internet Paranoia

Because my generation is the first to grow up with the Internet, I'm never sure how much of the change I see is due to my age and how much is simply evolution of the online world. When I was nine, I played around on websites like Club Penguin, Millsberry, and Webkinz. No one on the Internet knew me as Erica. I was Linda, Cittly, Blanca, and a whole host of other names I don't remember. Using my real name would be like walking home alone from a friend's house after 8:30. That was practically begging to get kidnapped.
At fourteen, I started this lovely blog. As discussed in previous posts, I used my middle name partly to hide it from my mom (that didn't last long) and partly because I liked the thrill of the alias. For the next three years I sat through conversations like this.
"My sons all play sports, and Erica, my oldest, she's a blogger. She has this blog about teenagers who make a difference-"
"Actually, it's about ageism."
"Yeah, she gets opinionated sometimes. It's called ourvoiceteen-dot-BlogSpot-dot-com. Her name's Eliza on it. It's her middle name, I make her use it for safety."
Yeah, she developed this memory somewhere along the line. I corrected her every time she said it and she eventually stopped. But the words stay rooted in my mind.
I don't have a YouTube account, but my Google Plus profile lets me leave comments and make playlists and whatnot. My mom freaked out when she discovered this. "Your username is your real first and last name? Someone could find you!" Yeah, my last name's Smith. Good luck, kidnappers.
Most cases of rape, kidnapping, etc. occur with a victim who already knows their abuser. There are practical reasons for this. Why would a future kidnapper form an online relationship with a child who lives two thousand miles away instead of the kid down the road?
I've never heard adults cautioned to lie about their identities online. They use the Internet to work, shop, and date. Kids just want to play games. Really, pedophiles make up a small sliver of the population. A predator is more likely to prowl around an adult dating site than a kiddie chat lounge.
That's not the only problem. After a year of being Eliza, I sent a classmate a friend request on Goodreads. She responded with a "Sorry, who are you?" Five seconds later I changed my name. I sent her a request from Erica, she responded, and we all lived happily ever after. Fake names are fine for gamers and other communities where anonymity is the norm. But if you want your real and virtual lives to cross over, it just gets in the way.
My youngest brother's email account belongs to "Sam", his middle name. My other brother, Brandon Thomas, sent emails through some guy named Joey Claxon for a while. I made my account in seventh grade. My address is my initials, a common noun, and a number. On Monday, I went into the bank to set up a checking account. The banker laughed at me. "You can always tell how old a client is by their email address. At least it's not bad as some I've heard. I had a girl in here who called herself dancingfairy13."
I still have some accounts floating around with the name Eliza attached to them. Now that I've got a debit card, I have to change them all. No cashier will let a customer carrying Erica's card use Eliza's member discount. Some of them don't even have the right last name. Sure, my card says Erica Elizabeth, so I can probably talk my way out if it comes to that. But that's a headache I don't want to deal with. Does anybody?
It's one thing to call yourself dancingfairy13 on a gaming site, or some other community where anonymity is the norm. But there's no reason to do this with an email address. If you aren't cursed with a common name, just throw the real thing in there. It's easier for people to remember anyway.
I liked being Eliza for the last few years. I still sign things that way. But if I were to do it all again, I'd start blogging under my real name. Fake names might make you parents feel secure, but they do nothing to protect you from actual dangers and they'll come back to bite you later in life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Note

Hello, friends! Sorry I've been gone for a while. It's not that I don't have any free time, it's that I've been squandering it on Trivia Crack and Taylor Swift videos. Why pretend otherwise? Anyways, I thought I'd clear something up.
Look down. You'll see that I have a new name, Erica Eliza. My full name is Erica Elizabeth Smith.When I started this blog back in eight grade, I used a shortened version of my middle name in case my mom discovered my blog. Three days later, she saw me on the computer and casually asked what I was working on. The monitor's set back in a bank of shelves and she couldn't see the screen. I have some psychological difficulties that prevent me from lying. Once or twice a month I can manage a half truth, but this wasn't one of those days. So I told her straight up that I'd started a pro-youth blog.
Yeah. That alias didn't last long.
Since my blogger profile said Eliza, I started using that name for all my online accounts. It got annoying after a while. When I recommend my blog to people, I have to add a disclaimer so they don't get confused when they find this Eliza chick yammering on. I get packages in the mail addressed to Eliza. Last month, I nearly wrote the wrong name on a college application.
I've used my real name on one of my other blogs, Erica Eliza Writes, for over a year. Feel free to call me either.