I’m breaking up with my iPhone (or at least making it sleep on the couch)

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

I feel a bit like Runny Babbit this morning.  I’ve had a bit of insomnia for several nights now – mostly due to the kids’ transition back to school, a sick puppy, and the stress of family life.  I’ve broken my own rule…  I have been checking my email, Facebook, sometimes even Twitter, multiple times each night.

I keep my phone at the bedside because it’s a reliable alarm clock – regardless of potential power outages, my phone has consistently sung me awake for years.  I put it on airplane mode because I find that do not disturb doesn’t work in all cases, and I don’t want the beeping or buzzing interfering with the little bit of sleep I get.  When I started freelancing for a client in a different time zone, my sleep habits changed.  Or were ruined.  You’d think having to type in a password, then turn the airplane mode off would be enough to make me stop to consider the possible consequences to my health.  I’m now checking email around midnight and at 3am fairly consistently.  This morning, I was unable to fall back to sleep, and actually ended up getting up to start my day.  NOT GOOD!

According to a news release today, I am not alone.  It seems that many of us struggle with the feeling of being always-on.  We have become so attached to these mobile devices that we don’t feel whole without them.  Image from sfgate.com

Image from sfgate.com

I am NOT in this age group and my smartphone is not this snuggly!  After so many lost hours of sleep this week, I have the sunken, black eyes of a zombie and can hardly speak in complete sentences.  And so, I’m ousting my smartphone from the bedroom.  I’ll buy a digital alarm clock with back-up batteries and will not look back.  Turns out, there are things that can actually wait until morning, but sleep is rarely one of them!  Socialmediaphobe needs a nap…


Facebook: Don’t Mess with My Downton (or Take a Deep Breath, a Sip of Scotch, and Review Your Privacy Settings)

Confession: I read past the spoiler warning every time.  So, when I signed onto Facebook Monday morning and was greeted by friends who’d seen Downton Abbey the night before and were shocked and saddened by the episode, I couldn’t help but do a bit of research.  My Facebook friends were kind and did not divulge the source of their grief – but I knew something big had happened and couldn’t wait until the full British version arrived (we do DVDs, not DVR) to see it.Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 12.21.52 PM

The Internet is so easily searchable that in 20 seconds or less I’d found out what all the fuss was about, felt my own dismay, anger, and grief, AND couldn’t share it with those in my household!  For the second time in a month, I wished Facebook didn’t exist (way to blame the source smphobe!).  It made me want to organize my Facebook friends into “people who watch Downton” and “people who could care less about a subtle, British, dialogue-driven series”.  With the U.S. launch of Facebook’s new graph search, finding this information should be easy.  With graph search, Facebook indexes data from personal profiles and status updates (i.e., places, photos, people, Likes, etc.) to make it searchable.

Many in the blogging and digital community are up in arms about the potential privacy risks.  I don’t see much room for debate here.  Facebook programmers are trying to find ways to improve their product, and certainly needed to improve their search function.  It’s not Facebook’s problem that your kid tried to hock black market pantry items to his friends or that your daughter has a mind of her own, fell in love with the help and ran away to Ireland to marry. Those are personal problems until one makes the choice to share on Facebook.  It’s our responsibility to check our privacy settings.  Facebook graph search will only index information set for the “public”, so now is the perfect time to review your privacy settings and talk to your kids (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE) about how future employers will query Facebook to vet job applicants.  If you wouldn’t write it on a billboard or wear it on your t-shirt, don’t put it on Facebook!  What I’d really like from Facebook (or iOS) is some sort of intoxication alert that won’t allow publishing on Facebook or sending Tweets that you may regret in the morning.

I’m on the waiting list to try the Facebook graph search beta. If I had it today I’d search for friends in my city who like Downton Abbey and invite them over this weekend for a Downton-style feast (and marathon, as the DVDs are scheduled to arrive Saturday!).

Reach Out and Ping Someone

Maybe it’s because I work from home. Or am busy with two young kids.  Or have technology at my fingertips.  Whatever the reason, I find myself both wanting to “reach out and touch someone” and NOT wanting (or having the time) to leave my house.  Does using a computer make me less likely to have meaningful relationships in the “real” world or does it make the “real” world more accessible?

Social media has given us opportunities to connect with people across the miles, but sometimes, I’m looking for an alternative way to have a conversation with my neighbor (for the love of Diet Coke, please please please stop revving up that Harley at 3am).  This story about a local HIV/AIDS support group that’s begun to meet on Facebook got me thinking about ways that people can find advice and support online.  How many people would attend support meetings but are embarrassed to discuss their symptoms, or have already taken enough time away from their jobs/friends/family and can’t spare another hour?  How many might volunteer to help at the local schools but can’t work the meetings into their hectic schedules?  People are out there, creating and maintaining support groups on Facebook (and on their own websites) that may not be the best place to a) disclose your identity or b) find professional medical advice, but do point to a variety of resources and help people connect with others like you.

Fibromyalgia support on Facebook

Aimee shares news stories, helpful tips, encouraging words, and pictures related to living with fibromyalgia.

Bereaved Parents on Facebook

Using Facebook to share resources.

There are many ways to share our experiences and tell our stories, and sometimes, just in the telling we start to feel better.


StorytellingI wonder if social media could be similarly effective in terms of recruiting and organizing volunteers for organizations?  How many of us who’ve worked all day have the time to go to a two-hour meeting on a week-day night?  Even if dinner and childcare are provided, it’s still time away from the kids, their homework, the laundry…  Surely there’s a better way that we can all get on the same page (or URL).  I’m itching to try Ning, which is a social networking site that allows you to control membership and privacy for a small fee (has anyone used it??).  I wonder what it might be like to have Ning-mediated PTA meetings??  This way, I can sip a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed, and tune in for an hour for a live chat in which we plan the second grade Halloween party…  Is this utopian vision of volunteering possible?

Social Media Math: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words x 100 Likes/Shares

It’s been a horrible technology day for me.  Spent 1.5 hours trying to configure my new work laptop to be on my wireless network.  I hate feeling like a complete dunce when talking to IT folk…  What’s the difference between WAP and WAP2 really?  The process required two diet cokes and a large slice of leftover pizza (it’s only 10:30am) just to keep me sane.  While I was booting, rebooting and waiting for support to get back to me, I was writing for this blog.  Somehow I managed to lose my work too.  First rule of thumb for this technophobe, always learned the hard way: SAVE YOUR WORK!

It’s W-week (as in wedding!) here… The big day is a few sleeps away and things are very, very busy, exhausting, stressful, wonderful, beautiful, awesome…  I was going to take the week off from blogging, but then, noticed a few people using social media to thank their firefighters and police officers on the anniversary of September 11, 2001, and was moved by it.

NYPD Facebook cover - 9/11/12

NYPD Facebook cover – 9/11/12

When was the last time you sent a thank you letter?  A genuine, personal letter thanking someone you’ve met for helping  you, for volunteering for your organization, for buying lemonade from your kid on the tree lawn, for taking good care of your mom when you couldn’t be there?    Thanking people using social media platforms allows you to be creative, public and personal, to encourage interaction, increase engagement and loyalty, and to create original, searchable content.

After Sally Ride’s death, singer songwriter Anne E. DeChant created a tribute video featuring her song Girls and Airplanes. DeChant’s video is an excellent example of a way to both honor and recognize someone who has touched your life AND create meaningful, searchable content, which further optimizes your organization for search.

So you’re not a lovely and talented singer songwriter?  No worries! Thanking one of your volunteers, or someone who’s done something kind for you on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, or a blog is easy, and it means giving “public” recognition for their dedication.  Your message will be seen not only by the recipient, but all of their friends.   Sometimes, thanking is as simple as “liking” them back or acknowledging their comments as DeChant does here:

Anne E DeChant thanks fans

With social media, and a little imagination, the possibilities are endless and potentially quite moving.  A video of an elementary school janitor cleaning the floors dutifully and interacting with the children; a classroom full of second graders looking eagerly at their teacher with hands raised; a small child holding a tray in the lunch service line – these are the kinds of scenes that would move people to like, share or forward a message, giving a simple “thank you” to the teachers and staff of your local elementary school a new, global reach.  It’s the ability to share these human stories that makes social media exciting.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use photos and videos.
  • Use a platform like Animoto to make a video out of photographs you upload, and set it to music.

    Personal thank yous on Facebook

    Personal thank yous on Facebook

  • Don’t just say thank you – tell your readers who this person is, what makes them special, how they help you or impact the lives of others.  Keep it personal and meaningful.
  • Design a badge and give it as an award, encouraging the recipient to post it on his/her Facebook wall and/or blog.
  • Retweeet regularly.
  • “Like” them back, and “likes” are even more meaningful when they are accompanied by comments.
  • Feature volunteers and the work they do on your own wall (be sure to tag them by name):
Volunteer featured on Facebook Page

Volunteer featured on Facebook Page

  • Write a feature story about them, or allow them to share their own story in their own words like this Diet Coke love story:
    Diet Coke love story

    Diet Coke is the netcar of the gods… Making this a match made in heaven (and, an excellent way to use social media to engage followers AND build a brand).

    For other great ideas, check out this blog.

    A thank you post isn’t complete without acknowledging those of you who like and share this blog regularly.  Thanks so much for your patience as I learn along with you!  Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, suggest topics, etc.

    This post is dedicated to all the fantastic friends who’ve listened to the planning rants, run the errands, and are otherwise helping me to survive W-week:  Nancy, Keith, Adam, Carolyn, Marj, Sheryl, Joe, Michelle, and of course, Deb.

Social Media-Mediated Relationships: Facebook Economics

There’s nothing quite like planning a wedding (in this case, my second) that gives you pause to wonder about our life journeys.  At a certain point, the details are all in place and you are more excited about the event than anxious – until the RSVPs start coming in (or not) and travel arrangements are made.  Then it becomes a strange mix of: “did we offend someone?”  “do they approve?”  “do they care less than we thought?”  “have we grown that far apart from former friends?” It’s this latter question that has me thinking today – I wonder if people change as much as we think they do?  Or if it’s more a process of becoming.

Does Facebook help or hinder our sense of self, and our relationships with long-lost high school buddies?  When I left my hometown in Canada to go to college in the States, I didn’t expect to lose touch with my friends as I did.  When I returned to visit my family, my breaks didn’t align with the Canadian university breaks and I never got to see anyone. This was before Facebook.  Before we all had personal computers with Internet access.  Maybe it’d be different today.  Perhaps I’d have stayed connected.  It took planning this wedding, and looking for old pictures to display at the reception to start to wonder about my long-lost friends.  And I remembered the laughter, the band rehearsals.  I can still hear my friend Jessica’s unmistakably distinct trumpet playing, and my friend Mandy singing “Misty” with the jazz band.  So, I looked Jessica and Mandy up on Facebook, and some other friends as well.  Now I see that Jessica has two kids, slightly younger than mine, but adorable.  I can see Jess in her eldest daughter so clearly.  In some ways, Facebook allows us to think we’ve reconnected, to have a window into the lives of our friends, without really connecting.  I know when her daughter loses teeth, but haven’t reached out to say: “Hi. I remember you. I think of you from time to time.”

One thing’s for sure, Facebook has helped me economize my friendships – for better or worse.  As a parent with young children, I don’t have the kind of time I once did to maintain social relationships.

It’s much easier for me to keep people updated on Facebook about major life events (first days of school, what kind of cookies we’re baking), and to use the “status” platform to reach out for and receive help and support, than it is to spend 30 minutes per week per friend on the phone to maintain those friendships.  As a result, I hardly ever talk on the phone anymore.  In fact, I talk to only two people on the phone, and only because they don’t use Facebook.  Has my life become lonelier and somehow less fulfilling because I’m not spending so much time with a phone glued to my ear? Hardly.  Instead, I am able to play with my kids more, to have a glass of wine on the back porch with my fiance once the kids are asleep for the night, to have infrequent moments of silence and solitude, while keeping my Facebook friends within reach.

So, if you find yourself spending more time at the keyboard than talking into an earpiece, don’t worry. Perhaps you are economizing too, or reaching out to friends over the miles (and saving long-distance charges).  There are many positive ways to use social media to develop, maintain, or grow friendships.

But… a little goes a long way.  Many of us can get a bit obsessed, even addicted to social media, and it can distract us from daily living.  Sherry Turkle, psychologist and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, cautions social media users against becoming perpetually distracted by their media devices.  Turkle is often interviewed by the media because of her belief (a popoular one among some academics) that social media/technology will negatively impact our interpersonal relationships.  I don’t find this to be the case, but I do safeguard my time with my family.  When I was growing up, we were never allowed to answer the phone during dinner.  The same rule applies in my own house (even to me) now – we don’t answer the phone/door/or smartphone alerts during dinner.  Or at times when we’re playing with the kids. Or in bed.  Or on Sunday mornings before we’ve had our coffee and read the paper.  Most of all,” Turkle says, “we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.”  With Turkle’s words in mind, I’m going off the grid for the Labor Day weekend – and encourage you to do the same (as soon as you like this post!).

Tantrum-Central: Using Prezi

My house has been tantrum-central this week – and very few of them emanated from my kids.  I’ve been pulling out my hair, screaming obscenities at my computer screen, and viewing several (apparently useless) tutorials.

This week I revised a PowerPoint presentation for the San Diego LGBT Community Center and used a new (for me) presentation tool, Prezi.  The original PowerPoint presentation was text-heavy, and the look was out-dated.  It was an un-engaging presentation; its message lost in its busy-ness.

Here’s the original presentation:

Here’s my Prezi version:

I’d never used Prezi before, or any sort of presentation software other than PowerPoint.  There was a fairly steep learning curve for me, but the most difficult part (though less time consuming) was embedding the Prezi into WordPress.  The only way to learn new software or computer systems is to dive in, fail, and keep trying.  And I did… A few times…  Though there was cursing, I experienced significantly less anxiety using this new platform than I did when trying new platforms even 11 weeks ago. Progress!