Thoughtful Process and Lesson Learned from a Painful Yet Beautiful Writing Adventure .
After this research paper I found myself being able “to formulate questions […] and evaluate the rationale behind the authors’ claims, be fact‐oriented, draw a conclusion, and take side dispassionately using a more logical mind rather than the emotional heart. This logical mind taught me vulnerability in a sense of having a more broad-sighted perception about a diverse and complex range of perspectives.”
Abdoul Aziz Sandotin Coulibaly
Writing on You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier was confusing. Yet, starting up with this research paper was much more of a struggle. I started off this research paper wondering what I was going to write about. One thing was clear: whatever I was going to write about needed to be related to the positive impact of Facebook on our society. I chose to use Facebook as my tool of reference and study because it is the social network I and many others mostly use.
My interest in the positive aspects of Facebook came from a Youtube video I watched in 2016. The video was talking about the idea of privilege and its content made me realize how much people fail to see the positive aspects of situations and keep focusing on their pain instead of doing something about it or seeing the benefits or the lesson learned from it. Similarly, with the increasing amount of bad critics that surrounded Facebook, I decided to work on a research paper that would actually focus more on the positive aspects of the medium. Therefore, I decided that I was going to “Unshade the Convenience of a Virtual Country: Facebook”.
Despite all the “Library Exercises” we had in class and all the sources I explored, I could not find something specific to write about. Then, since I could not find this topic on my own, I decided to do what I do the best: listen to people talking about their own research paper. One Thursday during class, I kept quiet and listened attentively to one of my mates talking about his own research topic and he mentioned the Pew Research Center Website — which apparently does a lot of studies about social media. I then decided to take advantage of this information: the argument I found there constituted strong evidences while starting up my essay.
Even though I had found the Pew Research Center Website useful, and that I knew that I wanted to answer the question of how Facebook impacts and even reshape the evolution of our modern society, it was still difficult to clearly structure what exactly I wanted to further explore. I then started wondering if I was going to add something valuable to the circle of knowledge — as a research paper was supposed to do. If writing about Facebook was also related to my usage of the virtual medium, so what are the benefits Facebook brings me? As an international student, who left his family for about two years now, Facebook helps me in dealing with things like homesickness, by facilitating the communication between me, my family, and my friends back home. Similarly to me, perhaps thousand and thousand of other international students feel the same way.
How would I know? I decided to conduct a survey with the broad network of African Students I was part of. The point on Facebook and the idea of intercultural adaptation was therefore going to be a point I needed to yield during elaboration of my paper.
After generating these ideas, I still struggled to find something unique to add to the little talk which was already happening around Facebook. One thing was sure, I was going to run away from the idea of self-confidence and self-esteem because these topics were usually common when it comes to social media.
I was seeking for new things, something people had little or no knowledge about. I started linking reading — one of the things I do best — and then “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes”, one of the readings we read at the beginning of the semester was going to open the door to the next point argument I was going to elaborate on. Even though, I did not like the reading because it was mainly focused on developed countries; I really like the point N. Katherine Hayles, the author was making about students with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD). Although it was inspiring, it knew something was still missing. It was around 1:50 in the afternoon when I was thinking about Hayles’ reading and at the same time I had my Engineering 7 class. On my way to that class, as always, I saw this blind girl walking and using a white stick to guide her way. On that day she seemed lost, but fortunately, someone was helping her.
Then, I thought, “she can not see; how does she use her phone? Can she use Facebook?” Immediately, I did have an epiphany. On the spot, I searched on Google: How blind do people use Facebook?
As my browser finished loading, smile appears on my face, I found what I was looking for. It was an article from the Washington post titled “How Facebook is helping the blind ‘see’ pictures their friends share online”. I just found the strong idea I was looking for.
As I was going through this process of generating ideas to talk about, it was important to notice that asking for help was something crucial and important in my process. One should take some time to be vulnerable and ask for help. I knew I was going to encounter what Anne Nisbet, professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, called “existential despair” in her Berkeley Writers at Work interview of Fall 2014. She described it as this time when a writer does not know what to write next or what to write about. I will say I have been lucky to get stuck and experience this “existential despair” because it lead me to ask for the help I needed.
I therefore had an appointment with Cody Hennesy, the librarian. He was of great help because he opened me up to resources and videos which were of crucial in working on my research paper. He also introduced me to techniques and critical questions I could even for myself in order to make my paper much strong.
In addition of all this, even though I encountered some difficulties, I have to acknowledge that at a certain point, writing this research paper exposed me to a multitude of intertwining thoughts that needed to be poured down. I find myself transferring the jumble of ideas and thoughts about my topic from my mind into a much manipulatable format: I choose to write on paper and then later on I decided to go to the computer screen. As a result, I had the freedom to cut these ideas off, restructure them, and build a specific set of ideas and topic sentences which followed a consistent and well-structured path.
In this process of asking for help, I found myself being also a presenter and a responder at the Chiang Research Festival. I was able to interact and share thoughts with unknown people and transfer this perception I had in my mind to theirs. From such experience, I found myself being willing to spend time reflecting on the ideas that I was myself talking about, while enhancing my understanding of the matter discussed in any types of sources I found later on. I was able to formulate questions about videos such as the one from Sherry Turkle and evaluate the rationale behind the authors’ claims, be fact‐oriented, draw a conclusion, and take side dispassionately using a more logical mind rather than the emotional heart. This logical mind taught me vulnerability in a sense of having a more broad-sighted perception about a diverse and complex range of perspectives from peers, teachers, classmates, other authors, and my SLC writing tutor. All of this lead to a reassessment of my own point of view whenever new or discordant evidence are introduced and evaluated. I have therefore been able to ask penetrating and thought‐provoking questions to evaluate my own ideas, the new ideas presented to me by these peers, and the ideas of the authors.
As a final point, I will say that progress mattered more than anything else while writing this paper. Each step was a small victory, something I needed to be proud of, something that was probably going to lead me to something bigger. This bigger thing was the understanding of my own topic. It was also my ability to share the knowledge I was creating with a broader audience. Moreover, my plan is to incite this audience to write and reflect back once they finish reading my paper; as I believe that writing need is similar to a contagious disease: once one person is in contact with it, this person feel the need of writing, so on so forth.