Intersect: a fresh way to say you’ve been where and done what

Last month a friend of mine pointed me to Intersect, a new web site for sharing stories.  After I spent a little time surfing around the site, reading stories and FAQs and getting a feel for the general vibe, I posted my first story.  And just like that, I was hooked.

The idea behind Intersect is straightforward: wouldn’t it be neat to share what happened at a specific time and/or location, without needing to know who else was there or make arrangements in advance?  Stories posted are tagged with a date and time.  The ones you post are added to your storyline; if you find someone else’s story about an event that you attended, like a concert or sporting event, you can borrow that story with a click of a button and incorporate it in your own timeline.  The site makes it easy to search for stories from an intersection of place and time, as well as to create your own from text, photos, videos, or any combination of the above.

I love Intersect CEO Peter Rinearson’s description of how the concept came about:

The idea for Intersect came to me while watching my daughter play lacrosse. I was among several parents shooting photos on the sidelines, and it struck me that other parents were getting shots of my daughter that I’d never see and I was capturing images that other parents might want. Wouldn’t it be great if we could trade photos in some really easy way, even with strangers, and without prearrangement?

It was May 10, 2007 at 4 p.m. The location was Mercer Lid Park, built above Interstate 90 on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle. Shouldn’t that be enough information to let me share with other people who were at that same intersection of time and place?

Intersect was born that day.

Stories can be shared with the general public, restricted to circles of Intersect members that you define, or kept private.  While they do require a place, you can be as specific or as vague as you are comfortable with sharing.  As they are posted, they are added to your storyline in correct chronological order, so you don’t need to go back later and juggle dates to make them all line up correctly.  Unlike Foursquare or Facebook Places, which tell people where you are right now, Intersect lets you say that you were somewhere last week, or last year; you don’t need to reveal your current location to people who might take advantage of the fact that you’re away from home.  The Intersect staff offer some tips for walking the line between keeping personal information private and sharing stories with an interested public.  On the other hand, if you don’t mind sharing events simultaneously as they unfold, there’s an app for that too.

With an abundance of websites where we can share media and personal news, why choose Intersect?  There are a number of features that I find really appealing.

I like how it’s easy to upload photos to your photo pool and create a story from them.  I also like the flexibility around how long a story can be.  Sometimes you want to write a longer story to accompany a photo; sometimes a sentence or two will suffice.  Facebook is pretty strong in the photo sharing department, but writing anything longer than a short caption feels clunky, and most of it ends up hidden.  Intersect provides a cleaner-feeling combination of story and exposition.  You can even assign different profile pictures to different points in time, and then see how you’ve changed over the years.

The way stories can connect across time and place is a neat concept to me, and Intersect makes this happen transparently.  No need to hope your Twitter hashtag catches on, or to set up a shared folder and rely on word of mouth to get everyone invited to it.

Scanning back through a friend’s storyline is easy to do.  One thing I enjoy doing when I start following a new blog or Twitter feed is skimming back over the past several dozen entries to get some background for what’s been going on in that person’s world.  With Twitter it’s hard to get to a specific point in time.  With Intersect, it’s trivial.

Initial view of a storyline's time selector

Time selector set to a specific range

The Intersect community so far has a welcoming, friendly feel, which is also a big draw for me.  People have commented on stories I’ve posted, sharing memories of their own about the event or place.  This really helps to foster a feeling of connection, underlining the core idea behind Intersect: we are connected to many people in many ways.

Here’s a fun video by cartoonist David Horsey summarizing what Intersect is all about:



The penny finally drops

I was standing in line at the grocery store one night recently when Dennis DeYoung’s “Desert Moon” started playing. That album has the dubious honor of being the very first album I ever bought with my own money, at the tender age of 12. I brought it home and popped it in the tape deck of the living room stereo, and then went into the kitchen with my mom and tried to act all nonchalant, oh, we’re just listening to some music that I picked out, no big deal, not going to act like it’s important to me that anyone likes my musical tastes… I don’t remember anymore how my mom actually did react to it–I think I was trying hard not to see her reaction because I didn’t want to know if she disapproved.

For most of my growing-up years, the primary motivator behind my choices was whether Other People would approve of them.  I was a chunky kid with brains, glasses, and braces. I didn’t know how to do my hair or makeup and I had no sense of style.  Junior high girls can be some of the most insecure creatures on this planet, and often the only way we know how to build ourselves up is to pull down others.  We do things that make no sense to adults because we think those actions will make us look cooler to the boys we want to impress and the girls we want to surpass.

In my struggle to not be at the bottom of the social ladder, I had this idea that anything and everything I did during non-school hours was going to get back to the popular kids and give them fodder for talking behind my back.  It wasn’t supposed to be cool to have a close family life, so I tried to push it away.  I scowled in family photos, and I sequestered myself away from my parents and sisters rather than risk someone catching me actually having fun with them.  Heaven forbid!  I’d be ostracized forever.

Yet, at the same time that I wanted my classmates to approve of me, I also wanted my parents to approve of me, and that was a tricky tightrope to walk. I wanted to be the kid who could come home and talk with her mom about what happened in school and what this boy said and what it all meant.  But I always felt awkward doing so, because what if she thought my worries were dumb?  So I damped it down, tried to pretend it was No Big Thing, just something I was casually wondering about.  Even now I sometimes reflexively hold back a bit when talking about my life, because it’s crushing to be told that something you’re passionate about is stupid, or worse, uninteresting.

With the birth of my son, it was as if the lens through which I viewed my childhood was twisted ninety degrees. I gazed adoringly at my tiny newborn, thinking Oh my god, this little boy is less than a day old and I already love him so much that I can’t believe my heart can actually hold all that love.

Followed by Oh my god, THIS is how my mother feels about ME!

And then Oh my god, I was such a little shit!

I used to cringe when I looked back at my younger years because of all the ridiculous things I did. Now I cringe as I look back and realize how I unintentionally hurt people.

When I was in fifth grade, my mom made a maroon blazer for me to wear for school picture day. She bought the pattern and the fabric and stayed up late nights sewing it.  The night before pictures, the blazer wasn’t quite finished when I went to bed, but when I woke up, it was hanging on my bedroom door.  What were my first words?  Not “Yay, Mom, you finshed it, thank you!”  They were  “…but it doesn’t have any buttons on it.”

Someday I’m going to get my own time machine, and one of the first things I’m going to do is jump back to ten-year-old me and smack myself upside the head.

I don’t know where that blazer is now, but I might dig up one of the old school pictures and keep it on my dresser as a reminder.  Because one day, I’ll be on the other side of that conversation.  I’ll be the mom who just wants to make sure that her child is doing OK. He’ll be the one balancing peer approval with parental approval and unthinkingly saying things that hurt my feelings.

We are the product of our accumulated experiences, and if I hadn’t had all the twists and turns that I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  I like the person I’ve become, but I wish there was a way I could tell fifth-grade or eighth-grade or eleventh-grade me to worry less about what my classmates thought.  It’s OK to love and be loved by your family.  They’ll keep doing it, even if it’s uncool, so you might as well love them back.


Taming my inner toddler

It’s started.  Kiddo’s easygoing first couple months of being a one-year-old are giving way to tantrums.  At the moment they’re kind of amusing, but I don’t expect I’ll see them that way forever.

For now, it seems to be little things that set him off, and there’s even some logic behind them.  The other night, he was playing with his shape sorter.  The circle and star are easy for him to fit through the holes, but that darn square!  There are only four ways to orient it, compared to the FIVE ways the star can be positioned!  And don’t even start about the triangle!  After a couple of unsuccessful tries I could see that he was getting upset, until finally he shoved aside all the remaining shapes and stormed off.  I tried to coax him back to work on it together with me, but he wouldn’t be consoled.  If he couldn’t get it easily, he’d rather do something else–anything else.

Suddenly I flashed back to earlier that week when I’d been struggling with a coding problem at work.  I knew what I needed to do to address it, but I could tell it was going to be a lot of work and I wasn’t sure my approach was the best way.  I was tired of scouring web pages, searching for a clearer explanation of how to do it.  Again and again I’d try something, only to find it not working the way I thought it would.  In frustration, I kept turning to something shinier and less stressful.  I got a lot of internet surfing done that afternoon, but not a lot of the work I was supposed to be doing.  I thought I’d long since grown out of tantrums, but it seems there’s a toddler lurking inside just waiting for a reason to throw a hissy fit.

Now that I’m an adult, I know how to get on top of my emotions, and most of the time when I get upset I can stop the feelings from overwhelming me.  But Kiddo is still very young and his coping skills are very immature (as expected at this age).  Some of the ways he deals with frustration are amusing to watch.  I try to stifle my giggles, because even worse than being frustrated is when you’re frustrated and others don’t take you seriously.  But sometimes, it’s hard to keep a straight face.

The other morning he was playing with his stuffed seahorse that plays music when you press on its belly.  Kiddo has gotten it to work before, but that morning he wasn’t pressing in the right place, and the music wouldn’t turn on.  In frustration he pushed the toy away and stood up, crying.  I tried to fix the problem by turning the music on and handing it back to him.  No luck; he was mad at the seahorse now and didn’t want to play with it.  In fact, he’d show that seahorse who was boss!  He grabbed it and threw in down into his toy basket.  Unfortunately, it bounced out of the basket and fell behind it, out of reach.

He stopped crying.  He turned to me with an inquisitive look, and calmly pointed to the toy, asking me to get it back for him.  Aha, I thought, he’s ready to play nicely again.  I retrieved it and handed it back.  Whereupon Kiddo picked up his tantrum right where he’d left off!

Then it clicked for me.  He didn’t want it back so he could play with it.  He wanted it back because he was trying to deal with these emotions, and the only way he could do so was to physically work them out.  Like when his push wagon got stuck and he couldn’t take it out on the wagon itself, so he started flinging around a nearby pile of shoes instead.  Or when he was upset about having to wait for his breakfast, and he wandered around the kitchen until he finally had to settle for just throwing himself down on the floor.

While I no longer hurl things (including myself) around anymore when I’m upset, I do understand how sometimes it’s not enough to sit down and get over it.  Sometime I too have to do something physical to bleed off the frustration and adrenaline that has built up in response to a situation.  Usually my husband bears the brunt of my verbal ranting, and that’s all it  takes for me to calm down again.  But I’ve got coping skills Kiddo doesn’t, including the ability to speak my feelings or type furiously in a chat window.

I fully expected that we would get to the tantrum stage eventually, and I figured we’d learn ways to cope with it.  What I didn’t expect was that my son’s tantrums would show me a few things about how I handle my own frustrations.


Back away from the bubble wrap

One thing that’s been really hard for me as a new parent is trying not to be overprotective of my Precious Little Angelkins.  He’s still a little unstable on his feet, he’s young enough that he doesn’t really know how to share or play cooperatively with other kids, and all his emotions are right there on the surface barely under control.  All developmentally normal for a one-year-old, but something that seems ripe for disaster when slightly older kids get into the mix.

The first time we visited the play area at the mall, I followed Kiddo around, teetering between wanting to protect him from danger and wanting him to explore at his own pace.  To me it felt like the older kids were running around with no regard for smaller or slower kids.  I was sure he’d get pushed or trampled or picked on, or worse.  But none of that happened.  Sure, he got bumped a couple times, and he fell down once or twice, and I did have to assert when it was our turn on the slide.  I had a few moments of alarm, but Kiddo?  He had a great time.  He couldn’t wait to go back.

I had similar feelings of trepidation as we prepared for a week with relatives in California.  We would be spending most of our time at the home of Kiddo’s three older cousins, and all I could picture was a four-year-old and a pair of two-year-olds zooming around excitedly, not realizing that Kiddo wasn’t as agile as them, not understanding that he doesn’t understand all the social niceties yet.

Boy, was I mistaken!  There were only a couple incidents where a parent had to step in, and in general all the kids got along well and had fun together.  Kiddo was happy to toddle around after them and play with all their toys, and they were great about sharing them.  I’d definitely underestimated how the interactions would go.

Being around the older kids helped both Kiddo and I learn some new things.  He learned how to get up on his feet all by himself, he picked up several new words, and he’s gotten much better at eating with a spoon.  I discovered that reading bedtime stories is even more fun when the recipient can talk about the pictures with you, and that you never get too big for snuggles (thank goodness!)  And I might have learned to relax a bit and tone down the hovering.

My niece and nephews are living proof that kids can and do survive the falls and pushes and knocks on the head.  They’re also a reminder to me that the majority of the world really isn’t out to harm my little boy.  I may not be ready for total free-range motherhood, but I can at least stop trying to cushion every blow and smooth out every anticipated frustration.