‘Healthy divas & divos’ good for social media culture too

By Anne Collier

They’re “healthy divas,” not drama queens, people. Two very different things, the Wall Street Journal points out. The distinction and the reported emergence of this positive kind of diva in media culture might be a positive for kids who, when they have time for entertainment, lean toward the celebrity-watch variety – not to mention for online and school communities.

“Divas (and their male counterparts, divos) are everywhere today: at work, in social groups, in public spaces,” the Journal reports, and the list should include school and social media. Drama queens and “unhealthy divas” are narcissistic, high-visibility, and high-maintenance, “and the source of their narcissism usually is low self-esteem,” the Journal reports. “They are constantly trying to pump themselves up” and generate drama because its gives them a sense of power or recognition to be the source or center of the drama. Good for our kids to know, right? They probably already do, but it wouldn’t hurt for parents and kids to talk about it in the context of digital media and technology and help turn things around with a little social literacy.

As for healthy divas, they share the limelight and their gratitude and stand up for others, Journal reporter Elizabeth Bernstein says in this video conversation. They may get more attention than the average person, but it’s based on substance and merit. They’re “bringing a lot to the table” – talented, yes, and probably because they’ve worked hard (I’m remembering Malcolm Gladwell’s account of all the people who we thought “came out of nowhere” but who, before the spotlight lit them up, put in the 10,000 hours of hard work that mastery requires).

Pulling them all together, here are the characteristics of healthy divas and divos, according to the Journal:

  • Stands up for others
  • Has “charismatic intelligence” (not “Machiavellian intelligence”)
  • Shares the limelight (and their gratitude)
  • Is spirited, fun and positive

Look at that first one. Does that sound like an “upstander” – the bystander who makes all the difference by standing up for targets of social aggression? This is where “healthy divas and divos” can make a huge difference, by co-creating a culture of respect online and at school.

So here’s what I’d add to this subject besides the school and social media parts: Few people are or can be full-time divas like Beyoncé (who probably herself appreciates occasional breaks from it). But lots of people can be divas at times. Being a divo can be situational – really shining in a particular class or club, at an event or on a team or special project. Those, too, are opportunities for standing up for others, sharing attention, using charisma to get things done or promote a cause that benefits many people. Sometimes the charisma comes later, after we’ve done a little acting and strung together a few leadership situations, gotten a little practice. We can help our kids see that they can take the right kind of advantage of opportunities and situations online and offline – be “healthy divas and divos” at school, and co-create positive norms in social-media communities.

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