Last night and into this morning, I've been answering questions about the My n of 3 project and my dissertation research on the IAmA boards of reddit, the social news website and image board. There were a wide range of responses to my project and my decision about leaving my wife and daughter for a year to do research.
There were three major themes:
Theme 1: "You're an a-hole" -- Several people responded very negatively to the fact that I am leaving my family to do research. My favorite of these (possibly in jest) came from someone with the screen name "grampa_smurf": "So you're a META-deadbeat?" with "META" referring to my contention that I am, in a sense, becoming what a I study. Others were more serious. "You should stay behind and study your own family," wrote Escendo. The most damning comment came from johnsmcjohn, who wrote, "Not a question, just an observation. If you ditch your family you're a dick. As someone from a broken home, fuck you. There will still be plenty of people to study when your daughter is an adult." These comments were hurtful to me, but also enlightening. I am indeed putting my family at risk, regardless of whether or not they support me.
Before I go on to Theme 2, I want to highlight a comment related to Theme 1 from someone on Reddit who preferred to remain yet more anonymous. It is a bit involved, but his person's father drove motor yachts while the poster was a child, so he was away a lot. This time, I had a question to ask: How did it affect his family? The poster (who I think is male, but I don't know) said that he feels he missed out on a lot of memories with his dad, but that it affected his mother the most. But it seems like it was livable. I responded that I may not be leaving as regularly as his father did, but who knows? Will I be able to get a job after I get my PhD that will allow my family to move together? I certainly hope so!
Anyway, on to...
Theme 2: "You're not really a migrant worker" -- A lot of people were skeptical about the comparison the My n of 3 project makes between my experience and the experience of most migrant workers. I agreed with these people that there are huge differences, but reminded them that the My n of 3 project will focus as much on those differences as it does on the similarities. Many also questioned whether the project will indeed put my family at risk comparable to the risk faced by migrant workers' families. I argued that, yes, I will. Though I am relatively very affluent compared to most migrant workers, our situations are somewhat reversed. A migrant worker from a developing region is relatively poor in the destination country but their money goes very far in the origin country. Whereas I will be relative rich in the destination country, but my income will be reduced substantially from the perspective of my origin country (the U.S.). I appreciated these challenging comments, because they drive home a key point I want to make with My n of 3 about the value and difficulty of making comparisons between one's own situation and broad patterns of human behavior.
A comment related to Theme 2 came from Redditor godin_sdxt, who was skeptical about the merits of my dissertation research. In the thread, godin_sdxt argued that my research explores a foregone conclusion and will not have broad impacts on society. I begged to differ. You can read our exchange here.
Theme 3: "You're so meta" -- Redditors are no dummies. They picked up right away on the self-reflective nature of the My n of 3 project. The word "meta" refers to something that is characteristically self-referential. For example, have you seen the movie Inception? Which brings me to my favorite post on this theme, and possibly over the whole Q&A, from Redditor fechisel:
"This is the most meta scenario I've ever heard of. A N T H R O C E P T I O N"
Another funny remark, punning on my IAmA title, "IAmA Fulbright scholar and anthropologist who will abandon his wife and daughter for a year to find opportunity abroad to study the families left behind by other people who go find opportunity abroad. AMA," came from Redditor arbitraryentry: "That's a lot abroads." A lover of puns, I felt the need to reciprocate.
Anyway, I'm still hoping for some questions about the "unanswerable question" I hope to address with My n of 3: "How far can we interpret our own decisions and their consequences for our loved ones on the basis of scientific theory, that objective amalgam of dry statistical results and cold logic?"
We'll see if I get any. Thanks for reading!
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