Change is good and social media isn’t the devil

Despite the fact that social media has become a part of the fabric of our daily lives, I am always amazed at how many people continue to believe that online communications are not quite “real”. Instead they chide people to plug into their “real” lives or assume that online connections diminish “real” life. There was a point in time when even I questioned whether or not my online activities were healthy and would occasionally attempt to unplug so that I could plug into my “real” life. However I have had a change of heart, I am now convinced that online spaces while different than offline spaces are just as valid as online spaces. In fact I wonder why so many of us feel the need to choose between online or offline spaces, both can add value to our lives and both can be problematic and neither one is inherently better than the other, rather they are just continuum’s on the journey called life.

For the past dozen years, social media has been the lifeline that has allowed me to navigate living in a white space as a non white person. In my daily real life where there are few people who I can relate to on a deeper level, connections made over the years via discussion groups in the early 2000’s have given me a safe space where I can be myself.  My online village literally has seen me through my 30’s and now through my 40’s; many of the connections formed online have become trusted friends. I won’t even go into the number of professional connections made through my online village which would be impossible to replicate in a small rural state.

No, after fighting it for years, I recently had to admit that my online world was as important to me as my offline world, equally real and equally valid.

Yet just like in the “real” world, the online world can be problematic if not managed well. If we put in too much time at our jobs and don’t take care of ourselves, things start to feel unbalanced and we get out of sorts. Frankly if we give too much of ourselves to any one area, project, or person without balancing things out, it starts to not be a good look. Thinking back on when the almost 9 year old was a baby, I was out of balance…she was my day and my night, for almost four years, I never slept longer than three hours at a stretch…this is parenthood. I wouldn’t have dared to call her not real but as someone who has also seen another child to adulthood, I know that eventually it all balances out with kids and one day you start to reclaim the balance by making time for yourself. Hell, one day you are eagerly asking them to hang out with you.

Sure,it is possible to spend too much time plugged in but I like to believe that we humans are smarter than the machines, we eventually find our balance. But in a world where think pieces abound on how we are ignoring our kids based off some looky-loo’s 5 minute snapshot into our lives, it’s hard not to constantly question whether we are too dependent on our gadgets. As someone whose schedule allows for a great level of flexibility there are times when I am with my kid, looking into my screen juggling emails but the alternative is that she could be in after school care while I am trapped in my office until quitting time. Instead  I can run an organization and be there for my kid.

This past weekend, I had several exchanges with a few different people in my real life who are not regular users of social media, they admitted that they were amazed at the frequency at which I use social media. It’s always an awkward moment when someone comments on how often I use social media, one that I used to feel embarrassed about but that I now embrace. Yep, I do use XYZ network regularly, as someone who straddles the introverted/extroverted line, social media is the greatest thing since bacon or red velvet cake! I can talk to people when I  feel the need to yap and when I am tired, I can power down without the awkwardness of hoping you get the hint that I am tired without feeling like I am hurting your feelings. My only rule these days around social media use is to allow myself 10-12 hours every day where I am unplugged which is how I balance both sides of my life, similar to how I rarely drink caffeinated coffee after noon time.

Speaking of social media, why all the hate for the selfie? I admit, I was late to the party and since I will be participating on a local panel next month where we will be discussing selfies I won’t say much but let me just say that I love selfies. I never saw a picture of myself that I liked until I started taking pictures of myself. I was reminded of this after looking at a few pictures that were taken of me over the weekend and cringing. Despite what many think, selfies can be very much a tool in the empowerment tool case and not just the visual evidence of a world gone narcissistic.

Change is hard and in a Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter world it can seem that the world has lost its center but without change we don’t grow. So I am embracing the change and even learning to see the beauty within myself at the same time.

 

It’s too dang much! Why I am on social media overload.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Digg, Reddit, Fark, Stumble Upon, Formspring, Tumblr, and the list goes on. I suspect most of my readers know what these are or have at least heard of them in passing but if not they are all some form of social media communications. I must confess that lately I find myself wanting to just yell “Enough already!”

Seriously with each new thing in the social media sphere it seems the old rules of communicating are going out the window and new ones are in and while change is part of life; lately the speed at which we are seeing this change is quite perplexing for a simple gal like me.

Let’s take a looked at Linked In for instance; Linked In is social media networking for professionals where the idea is that you amass a number of connections also known as your network. This network is comprised of folks you work with, have worked with or have known in your career. Ideally say when you are looking for work or opportunities you can tap into this network. Yet I joined Linked In several years ago and frankly I am still perplexed at how the shit really works, oh I get what they say but no I am talking reality. I heard a joke about Linked In sometime ago that resonated with me, that Linked In is really just Facebook for folks with jobs, a place to say yep I got work what about you sucka? Oh, I know I am being cynical or maybe the sad fact is I am just getting old and less willing to adapt.

Yet just the other day I was listening to a radio piece discussing the use of sites like Linked In when job seeking and the piece talked about how important it is to have a good headshot up. Uh? Say what? Well it seems that not putting up your photo is just wrong but you need to have a good photo so much so that some photographers are now specializing in headshots for use on social media sites. Well regular Jane and Joes may not get jobs but if nothing else for early adapters who are mastering these new forms of communicating they are able to create work for themselves.

Seriously, all jokes aside as I have been getting price quotes for upgrading this labor of love also known as my blog, I have been blown away by how damn expensive it is to jazz this site up. Let’s just say the cheapest quote I received was $1190.00. Yep, almost $1200 to pretty the joint up! Now I understand folks work hard for the cheddar but I will admit I figured a site redesign might cost more like $500-600 not damn near $1200 on the cheap end. Yet in getting the quotes I was struck by the fact that all the designers are pretty much self taught. I mean last time I checked there are no colleges offering majors in WordPress Blog Design, but for those with the interest, time and know how well shit the sky is the limit apparently. Hell one designer was so busy their assistant contacted me to say they weren’t even taking new clients until late in May. Wowzers!

Even the blogosphere itself is filled with folks who if they are willing to adapt and work these new technologies to amass a following can turn that following into cold hard cash. I am not talking nail money, kids I am talking quit ya job and make social media your new career. The Walgreens Corporation recently had a job listing for a social media director, the key requirement was 1-2 years of successful use of social media and the gig paid $100,000 a year!

I know for many of my readers social media is a respite in an otherwise busy day, a time to take a few minutes for themselves but get back to their life at the end of the day, yet more and more folks are making social media their life because they see the power and money involved. I won’t lie I would love to see this blog grow and create income but due to the fact that at the end of the day I believe more in the art of writing and less in the art of promotion I suspect my fortunes may not lie in social media though a girl can hope. This week I learned that I am pretty much doing everything wrong with an eye on growth but its okay because I will continue to be true to me. Though I have one request, can we stop creating so many damn social media outlets? Seriously let’s just issue a moratorium on the creation of new social media programs so the rest of us can catch up.

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