Yesterday, I posted an image Janna took over the weekend to my social media circles, and I was surprised to read this morning how concerned some were over what I thought was a joyous image of young Black females in the urban core being involved in a connected electronic Age.  The action was happening on LinkedIn, and here is that discussion — I don’t know if you can read it by default, or if you have to be linked to me first or not — and here is the image that started it all:

This is how I textually framed that image in — 140 characters on Twitter — that was then propagated to Facebook and LinkedIn:

Because I don’t have permission to publish everyone’s thoughts from the LinkedIn side of this story, I will publish my responses there that I will try to frame within the context of the conversational flow that took many ebbs and turns.

My first reply was in response to a concern that children are becoming disconnected from the world by falling into a technological void, and not a real universe of substance:

When I first saw the photo of the three young, Black, children on a train together in the Newark, NJ area, I was both surprised and pleased. Surprised because in this area of the world, smartphones are rarely seen in those hands, so at least having the technology available and in hand gives them a larger chance to know the world beyond their culture and immediate neighborhood. Just by being connected online, they become greater than they are alone, and that makes them more intra-connected and less evolutionarily dependent on the whims of the power majority: They have their own voice.

Because, like Twitter, LinkedIn doesn’t let you endlessly rapture on, I had to continue my thought in a follow-up to my own reply:

Pt. 2 — As for blurring the lines between personal and professional lives online and at work and at home that’s a done deal. There no more public vs. private protections against the self — especially in the marketplace of ideas. I agree parental supervision and teaching are paramount moving forward, and the danger to not paying attention to the world around you when you’re out alone in the world is a bad thing, and let us all hope those young women are able to take the next step into true cogency and security without getting wounded along the way. 

Then someone made a point that connecting is fine as long as it is socially real and not virtually false.  I said:

You make a good point about learning, but having an internet connection today is key in making sure the essence of your life and learning are protected and propelled into the future. The way to not be disenfranchised is to participate and be aware and to learn with others even when the disadvantages of birth or society or cultural expectations can be blockades to moving forward.

Some minds changed on reflection, and the conversation turned to editing and context and framing arguments and thoughts — and how difficult and limiting that can be on a social media platform where there are character limits on expression:

Context is everything, and one of the hard things about posting online is getting cut off by character limits on LinkedIn! My wife took that picture yesterday on the Journal Square PATH train into NYC. She, like me, was surprised, but delighted, to see such a unique thing: three young Black children connected to the world beyond their station. That is, unfortunately, an urban core rarity, and not often a reality. My wife also told me that, to the right of the photo, the parents were there watching their kids and they had another, younger, child with them in a stroller. So the parents were there and active and watching their back so they could enjoy reading on their smartphones.

Yes, LinkedIn made my reply stop there, so I had to add a second notion to complete the thought:

Part II, Again — Yes, I agree education is one excellent way out of the poverty of any station or location. Through drive and divine imagination, we can all become something else, something other than what others believe we are destined to be, and that is a rare gift we can give our children and others we must care about. There are elements who don’t want certain people to be connected, or included, or brought forward into the decision-making world, and that cheapens life for all but the few in the current power majority. 

The idea of context was an important thought express, and the conversation twisted and turned a bit, and I concluded my argument with this:

Yes, “context” was multi-planed for me… here on LinkedIn where I keep getting cut off, the missing parents from the photo, and the social and cultural aspect of the product in hand. Internet Access should be a basic human right, but that’s a dangerous notion to those who want to repress the foreign and the unfamiliar and the unwanted. 

What a great morning, and what an excellent and insightful and involved conversation on LinkedIn!  That, is the real power of social media networking, but you better head over to LinkedIn right now and start reading because some comments are already being deleted by those who wrote them after being notified I was writing this article.

We test what we think we know against the reality of other, thoughtful, like-minded people.

Maybe we find common ground, and perhaps we do not — but when a simple photo can bring forth such great passions and imaginations, we all win in the final analysis of being!


  1. That’s a good conversation you had on LinkedIn. When I took the photo, I too, thought it was a unique and wonderful moment to share. I was aware of the parents being right there next to them,and they were very involved with their three girls the whole trip, but I understand nobody else would know that unless they’d been there with me, so your point about context and framing and editing is something right and important to always keep in mind. The whole story can never really be told or understood unless you were really there.

    1. Thanks for sharing the picture! I think it is very alive and necessary.

      Knowing what happened is an interesting thought moving forward. What is real and what is not? What has been cropped out to affect our understanding? Are these editorial decisions done with malice, or do they help condense an image into something more meaningful?

      1. Hard to say. Even if you include everything in the frame your camera is capable of capturing, there’s still everything else that’s there, and active, but unseen by the viewer in the end.

        1. The movie director Alfred Hitchcock made an interesting, if not tangential point, about this sort of thing. He was active in the days when the movie studios made all final cut decisions on a movie. The movie studios would often go in and re-edit a movie to suit their needs, not the director’s vision.

          So Hitchcock would edit his movie in the film camera — meaning, he would only shoot scenes from one angle — so the only choice available in the editing booth was what he actually shot on film. He knew how his movie would look before he started shooting. He didn’t need multiple angles or extra takes. He stayed in control of his whole vision by leaving no other available context — other than his own — in the end.

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