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Friday, April 6, 2018

The good and evil of social



In the spring of 2006, when I was just accepted to college, my high school senior classmates suggested I sign up for Facebook.com.  (Facebook dot com.)  Way cooler than MySpace, Facebook needed a .edu email address to join, and it was the cool new place for college kids to be.

By 2011, after collecting hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends, I grew tired of the superficiality of those internet connections.  What used to be life updates and real-time invitations to dorm events changed to shared news stories, memes, game play requests, and invitations to buy multi level marketing products I am definitely not interested in trying.

Facebook wasn’t a collection of friendships anymore, not really.  It was a collection of acquaintanceships, and when I realized that’s all they were, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to keep them.  Superficial relationships aren’t bad, but they also aren’t something I want to spend my online time on. I’d rather invest my time in something that invests in me.

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Here’s where it gets real.

Your social media activity triggers your body to release the chemical rewards your brain gets when you have positive interactions, when you accomplish something, or when sharing physical contact with another human.  When you have a positive interaction with social media, you get the same physiological rush that comes from interacting with people in real life without interacting with people in real life.  It’s basically the crappy, fake porn version of sex, but for your social life.

Call me traditional, but this doesn’t seem like a good thing.  The science behind the legitimate addiction people develop is real, and precautions should be considered to make the time we spend on social media thoughtful and intentional instead of compulsory and constant.  The key is to use these tools as tools, not as pacifiers, escapes, or indicators of personal worth.  (Awareness of your own addiction levels helps, too.)  I appreciate how Facebook helps me find interesting events to attend, how Instagram helps me learn most of my foraging skills, and how Pinterest helps me collect creative inspiration for my home, but once my social media goals become social media-focused, I’ve missed the point.

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This past week, I joined The Plywood People for a talk about platforms.  Eric Brown, founder of Whiteboard.is, shared his thoughts on using social well and using it poorly.  Social media was originally designed to facilitate real life, not to be real life.  The goal of social was always to enhance real relationships, connect people who live far from one another, and to better the tangible.  If we forsake the tangible (real life) in favor if the intangible (social media), we’re doing it wrong. We’re missing out on the purpose of living.  We’re choosing hollow rewards over fulfilling relationships and experiences. And in that way, we’re actually contributing to making the world a darker place.

Focus on tangible wins.  Keep this in mind the next time you tap “Follow.”  Lives aren’t changed by retweets or drip campaign emails.  Invest your time wisely in something that invests back in you.

Friday, March 30, 2018

When friendships change

How to handle the reality of friendships changing


I never had much success making friends growing up.  We moved three times before settling in Georgia in 4th grade.  I remember ferociously praying for a best friend friend, but instead I got bullied on an off until senior year of high school.  It wasn’t until college that I met girls (and guys) who truly cared about me. They invested in me, shared with me, challenged me, and ran around campus dressed as ninjas with me (yes, we were those freshmen).  Spending time with them changed me and how I related to others for the better, and being with them was my new home. Finally, I started to feel secure in my friendships and in the community we had.

Senior year, Lydia, one of my core friends, started spending more time with a different group.  She was finishing up classes for her major that year, and she naturally became closer with the folks in the same courses.  Logistics be damned, I quickly became jealous and internalized the hurt. I reverted back to my middle school mindset and couldn’t understand why Lydia didn’t want to be my friend anymore.
Years later, Megan was a new girl at work.  She was the exuberant kind of person you instantly love.  The time we spent together was always good and deep and real, and when she got a new job at a different company, I was certain our friendship would transcend the situation.  She seemed to agree, and her verbal invitation to a rooftop dinner party (date and time TBD) kept me hopeful. Soon after, she stopped responding to my texts. I was perplexed and crushed.
Around the same time, Jasmine and I were in a tight knit tell-each-other-everything small group together and in an awkward group shift, our third member separated from the group and just Jasmine and I were left.  I reached out to her to see what her thoughts were and if she’d like to keep getting together. Despite my repeated messages, she didn’t respond for an entire semester. I’ll spare you the embarrassing details, but I did not handle it well as I waited.

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I always thought adults didn’t have to deal with the emotional baggage of friendship break ups, but I’m just now starting to identify and explore my struggle and how I can do better.  Here’s where I am so far.

Social media presents this idea that we’ll be friends forever, but that’s not true.
I was in one of the first groups of Facebook users, and back in 2006, it was a place to connect with friends.  But people aren’t time capsules. They change and grow. Never before has humanity had this social media glue to keep people together when they’d naturally fall apart, but the glue isn’t strong enough to maintain deep relationships in our transient, short-term society.  Long distance, new commitments, and shifting interests make a difference to friendships that Facebook can’t completely bridge.

You don’t deserve people’s attention.
This is a harsh one, but hear me out.  Placing expectations and demands on the time and attention of others isn’t love.  If that’s your main idea of friendship, you’re not being a good friend. Yes, committed relationships are worth fighting for, but if the other person has already checked out or has other opportunities they’re moving toward, don’t allow yourself to be someone who holds others back.

If you place your worth in the people around you, you’re gonna have a bad time.
It wasn’t until I admitted and owned the struggle of my past friendship vacuum that I realized I needed to figure out how to fill the need with something that isn’t dependent on others.  As much as I joke about needing handcuffs so my friends can’t leave me (never out loud, of course), life is change that doesn’t ask for permission. Finding security and love within myself and other stable places (family, faith, nature, etc.) is proving to be one of the best antidotes to my white knuckled grip on others and their opinions of me.

When someone no longer wants to invest in the friendship, know when it’s time to let go.
When my friendships changed, I interpreted it as rejection.  This led to feeling devalued and worrying that something was “wrong with me,” which bred insecurity I still carry now.  Don’t do this. Don’t fixate on where to place the blame. Don’t grasp for reasons that might not be there. There’s no nice way to put this, but sometimes people just aren’t that into you, and that’s okay.  You’re okay. Every relationship is not meant to last, and obsessing over the ones that are sunsetting could keep you from seeing the sunrises. You have value and goodness and beauty to share with the world.  Not everyone’s going to recognize it, but the ones who do are absolutely worth your time. The ones who don’t simply aren’t.

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Self awareness has been the first step to recovery, and If you have any other wisdom to add, I am all ears!  I have many years ahead of me still (I hope), and I’m sure I’ll go through plenty more ups and downs. My goal is to treat others and myself with grace and understanding.  To release control over my life and to not strive to change the things I have no power over. To be thankful for the friends I do have and to not waste my time on the people who aren’t interested in a two-way relationship.  In the end, that's the best way I can respect myself, and I hope my true friends keep me to it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Recommended with March

In the spirit of the super-early spring we've had here in Atlanta, here's a song I discovered recently that makes me want to walk in the woods or drive with the windows down.  If you're a Mumford and Sons fan, you're going to love it.



And now for some links worth sharing...

I absolutely love this.  What you say to yourself, in your mind and in secret, is so important.  Check out these 18 quotes that will change how you treat yourself.

Here's what fruits and vegetables looked like before we domesticated them!  Banana, is that you?  And dang, carrots and corn have come a long way!

This Korean indie film about an elderly couple looks so sweet but poignant.  It's called My Love, Don't Cross That River, for heaven's sake.

YES:  A Stanford dean on adult skills every 18-year-old should have

On the impact of giving positive feedback ~ "It’ll make our virtual neighborhood an overall better place.  One kind word at a time."

These photos of homeless people are stunning.

For a healthier and happier body: Wellness trends that are (actually) worth your time

Yes, yes, yes.  What teen magazines should really look like.  Oh my word, how I wish society could get a grip on making the world better instead of making money by selling what sells.

And for something a bit lighter, this corgi loves to take showers.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Most Dangerous Writing App



I did something brand new this week.  I opened up the most dangerous writing app and spent 5 minutes writing down my stream of consciousness.  I had 5 minutes, and I had to keep typing or else all progress would be lost.  This is what I wrote, heavily inspired by Jeff Goins' newsletter, which I read religiously in 2011.  It'd be hard for me to articulate why, but I think it's important for me to publish this here.

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Here we are, together, reading through my writing.  I'm not really sure what I'm doing or why I'm doing this, but I want to be a writer.  I want to be good at it.  And I want people to read it.

The trouble is, I'm not always sure what I have to say.  What value can I add to the world that hasn't already been churned out by hundreds, thousands of others.  Thousands of other writers who've been doing this for years.  Thousands of people who are better than me.

And I know what they say.  There's always room at the top, and nobody ever starts there.  But isn't the space at the bottom just too saturated?  Can there really be a place for me at the table?

And I know what I need to do.  I need to practice.  I need to put myself out there.  I need to find people who will critique and suggest and build up and tear down my work.  (It sounds so professional and "together" when I call it "my work.")

And so, as I move forward into the uncertainty, into the fear, into the insecurity, I must keep writing.  Because I believe that deep down, I am a writer.  I suppose, I hope, that I just haven't fully blossomed yet.  I hope that some day I'll cross that invisible line.  Someone will tell me, "Lindsay!  You're a writer now!"  And I suppose that's what I've needed to hear this entire time.

I've needed someone else to tell me I'm a writer.  Or maybe, I've wanted someone else to tell me I'm a writer.  Maybe, I've just needed anyone at all to tell me I'm a writer.  Maybe I can tell myself.

That's what I'm going with.  For today, at least.  Because as I remind myself (sometimes), Van Gogh told us that when someone tells you you're not a painter, by all means, paint to shut them up.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Internet famous


When anyone talks about the spotlight, it's usually to say "I don't like it" or "I prefer to stay out of the center of attention."  Just like how you never hear anyone saying "I love getting presents!" you never hear anyone saying "I love being in the spotlight."  Except for celebrities, I guess.  And except for me.

Since I was a little kid, I've loved having people's attention.  I performed puppet shows for my parents growing up and I loved watching the home videos of the puppet shows when I was older.  I managed and acted in our high school senior talent show.  I performed in a few Directing Class scenes in college, and I was really disappointed when I was passed over for our college plays and musicals.

When creative social media platforms came on the scene and I noticed how much influence (and money) bloggers were getting, I yearned for that reality to be a part of my life, too.  I read tons of posts about how to hike my follower count.  I churned out posts three times a week with the main goal of creating shareable content.  I analyzed and agonized over what I could be doing differently, how I could better present myself, and how little luck I was finding.

Then, my BFF Millie would share with me how frustrated she was with the curated (fake) feeds on Instagram and I noticed most of the blogs I followed repeating themselves and each other.  I got to the point where every new picture of a coffee cup* in a beautiful setting made me roll my eyes, and if that's what I had to participate in to be internet famous, I wasn't sure I wanted it anymore.  I started to rethink what kind of contribution I was making to our internet society, and then I came across this piece "When Instagram Influencing isn't so Glamorous," which firmed up my gathering suspicions.

I think it's important for me to verbalize this.  Gaining and maintaining a constant, eager following takes resolve, work, and creativity I'm not willing to devote to this goal anymore.  As I've grown older, I've gravitated more toward one-on-one conversations and repetitive visits to my same favorite coffee shops, and I've turned further away from content for content's sake.  What I was creating wasn't benefiting others and it wasn't benefiting myself.  It's time to regroup and to shift my vision.

The life I have around me, however curated it is or isn't, is more valuable to me than the possibility of being internet famous.  And in fact, upon further introspection, I've been able to put more of a framework around what it is I really do want: to be an expert in my field, a mentor, someone people go to for guidance or nurturing.  Ultimately, what I want is to be respected and admired, and I don't have to be famous to cultivate those things.

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*Check out Delete to Feed to join me in donating meals to Americans in poverty just by deleting food photos on Instragram.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Minimalism in practice: social media


I wish I could pay someone money to opt out of ads in real life.  So far, no one's made an ad blocker for that, but Black Mirror makes me think it won't be long.  In the meantime, I fight the man by blocking every Twitter and Instagram account that advertises on my feed.  Yes, it takes time and yes, it's actually made a difference as far as Twitter's concerned.  I'm sure it's not likely, but I really hope someone at Instagram HQ starts to notice and blacklists me from ever receiving ads again.  I go to these apps for what I've subscribed for, and I don't want anything else invading that space trying to sell me something I don't want.

2017 was the Year of the Podcast for me, and one of the podcasts I consumed religiously was The Minimalist Podcast.  I've always loathed clutter, and it was so affirming and validating to find a group of people who agreed with me and my frustrations!  I think it was their episode about technology (or maybe this one about creating) that started to change my perspective on social media clutter.

It showed me I was contributing to it.

I was making the internet more cluttered.  I was filling it with content I thought people would like with the goal of wanting them to like (and follow) me.   I wasn't offering anything of real substance, I was playing the game to win, not to give, and what I posted reflected that.

As much as I'd love to have the perks that come with being internet famous, I've uncovered that it's more important to me to stick to my values about value.  I know I won't always get it right, and I know there are plenty of ways to define this, but moving forward, I want my contribution to matter.  If I don't believe my content will give value to others, I won't publish it.

Going one level deeper, I do want to reflect on how this newer perspective can lead to being overly critical and even afraid to speak, share, and create.  In fact, I already have internal struggles with what my voice is and what I should be saying, but I can take the time to figure that out and build on top of this new foundation I'm setting.  Regardless of how my voice evolves, I know Value will be one of the core pillars of my online presence.

Be the change you want to see in the world, even when it's something as trivial as what's trending on Twitter.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Recommended for February



Hello again.  Having skipped January (unintentionally), I'm back this month with a few more interesting, encouraging, and beautiful things.  Keep an eye out for a few other written pieces in the next few weeks.  I've been mulling over a few ideas I've been wanting to put to paper, and I think February is the month to share them.  Without further ado...

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"True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don't need to regularly escape from."  Take your self-care further.

A beautiful reminder that vulnerability is valuable and courage is worth it.  (This guy is totally worth following on Twitter, by the way.  He's one of the legit Christians out there who I think everyone should be listening to regardless of their faith.)
If you love travel and minimalism, you'll appreciate these minimalist hostels.  That shipping container hostel can get as low as $7/night!

One of the few newsletters subscriptions I like keeping in my inbox is The Hustle.  The folks there write short bits on business and tech news in a way that doesn't bore me to death.  They recently wrote a post about how to write well and in their style.  Have a look at that and see some of their regular content here.

Stay warm out there, Northern Hemisphere friends.

I came across The Wondersmith this month, and I am in love.  She is a kindred spirit of some part of my soul, and I am so excited to show her to you!  She creates magical events for strangers who happen upon her whimsical invitations.  Her Instagram is such a visually inspiring treat, and you can check out her events page for more captured details of her creations.  (The moment I have a spare $100 laying around, I'm going to throw it at her patron page!)

Local Milk is another blog I've been inspired by lately.  As if having a gorgeous kitchen and a love for Japan doesn't make me excited enough, the girl lives in Chattanooga!  The epitome of cool.  One day when I'm rich, I'm going to go on one of her small group travel retreats.

To wear

To buy
To read