Life

No One Told Me: Babies as Social Currency

I would never profess to be a parenting expert and I also have never expected any of the parents in my life to know it all. They know a lot thanks to experience and have given me some great advice (in fact, I was just given an interesting tidbit about rice water today,) but there have definitely been things about having a child that no one told me. Every day I come across a little something new and unexpected. One of the things that has caught me out of nowhere lately is that babies are social currency.

Going out in public I’m not an unfriendly person, but I’m also not the person who will just start up conversations with strangers. Unless I’m on vacation. Especially in Las Vegas. And then I end up in a lot of random Instagram selfies with strangers. #truestory No, I’m friendly but I keep to myself. My mother was the chatty person and I didn’t inherit that trait. However, since having J I have had countless conversations in public. At first I thought that my baby was just a great conversation starter. People see cute kid, they comment, I comment back, life is good. It’s more than that, though. We are far, far beyond passing comment. I’m having full-on conversations with strangers now.

It starts simply enough. Someone sees the car seat or me fumbling with something in the diaper bag, they come over and comment about how cute my baby is. It’s true, J is cute. He also has a full head of jet black hair that is striking and adorable on a seven-week-old. The hair almost always leads to questions about said hair and how much heartburn I had to have endured while pregnant. Before I know it, I’m talking to some random woman in Target about parenting and being a new mom and usually walk away with advice, a hug, and in a couple of instances a new Facebook friend.

Fourteen years in this city and I’ve made more social contacts in the last two months than in the entirety of those previous fourteen years. It’s amazing. Forget Linkedin and Facebook. Babies are the new network. Or, rather, have always been the big social network. I’m just finally getting my special invite code and honestly? It’s kind of awesome. Thanks for improving my social life, J.

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Life, Social Media

Antisocial Media

I’m sick of Facebook.

The last few evenings have found me sitting at my laptop (usually on the couch with my dog-cat trying to head-butt his way into my lap and a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy in my right hand*) scrolling around Facebook hungrily. I felt like an addict seeking a fix while at the same time feeling bored. This feeling has repeated itself nearly every time and every way I’ve accessed the site and other forms of social media lately. I catch myself checking feeds almost compulsively and feeling empty after. Last night I hit a wall, though, and realized that I had finally reached the place where I didn’t even want to be on Facebook anymore. I got actually angry at something someone posted and it wasn’t even a post that warranted an emotional response. I just got annoyed and then angry and found myself calling this person stupid as I sat and talked to the dog-cat.

So much for kindness…

Maybe the person was being annoying and maybe their comment was stupid, and yes, my internal response was unkind and exactly the kind of thing that I am trying to overcome, but the reality is that there is also a lot of crap on Facebook that just wears people out. For example? Sad animal stories.  I have a lot of friends who are involved with animal rescue. I have been involved with rescue groups off and on myself, and my cats are rescue kitties. I’m not opposed to the occasional post about how and animal needs help or something heroic someone has done for an animal in need.  Instead of moderation, however, my feed is pretty much one shared link or video or page after another of tear-jerking stories about animals in need or who have been abused.  It’s like a never-ending sad animal Sarah McLachlan commercial for the ASPCA or something. The more of those shares I see the less of a damn I give—something that frightens me.

CHANGE THE CHANNEL!

CHANGE THE CHANNEL!

That’s not to say that all I see are sad story animals on my Facebook. There are other things as well and most of them wear on me, too. If it isn’t a sad animal story it’s a share of some fundraising thing for me to go donate money to someone’s surgery, school, disaster recovery, whatever fund. I’m a giving person. If I have money that I can spare and put towards helping another person I will do it, but just today when I looked at my feed if I had donated even five dollars to every “please help” link I would be blowing my entire paycheck.

Yes, I can hide those kinds of stories and shares, but even when I do something new pops up in my feed that is just emotionally draining noise. What happened to posting about your actual life or your thoughts on something? Don’t just post a link and call that communicating.  Don’t just post a check-in somewhere. Talk about what you’re doing? Checking into the gym? Awesome!  What are you going to do at the gym today? How are you feeling about it? Getting any results? Read an article that really moved you about the plight of an adorable shelter dog? Tell me why that article moved you so much. Think there is a fundraiser that I should help with? Message me directly and tell me why you think it’s a worthy cause. I get on Facebook to hear the stories and experiences of the people I consider part of my world. I don’t want a link. I want you. I want to be able to comment and interact with you about it, not just click a video and be depressed. I am sick of Upworthy, Viralnova, and whatever other content bullshit sites packaging half-truths for the social media diet. That crap’s mental junk food and it does nothing positive for anyone. It makes me want to post mean things.

It’s really hard to be kind when mental junk food is leaving you hungry and making you mean.

So what am I doing about this? I’m thinking about taking a break from Facebook for awhile, maybe a week or maybe a month. The break is mostly for me to clear my head because the reality is people aren’t going to change what they post no matter how much I wish they would. It’s going to have to be on me to seek out interaction that has nothing to do with sad animals or fundraisers. I’m going to have to go the extra mile and connect as a human being and not a mouse scroll. The change has to be with me. I can’t expect the change to come from anywhere else.

Let’s see where it goes.

*Yes, I know. This is not a gluten-free beer. I’m still trying to get the hang of things. If anyone has any great beer suggestions that are celiac-safe and I can mix with tasty lemonade please comment and share them with me. Otherwise I’ll just suffer a bit because I’m sort of a huge fan of Summer Shandy.

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Life

About Kindness

I have something of a confession: I’m a bit envious of people I perceive as happy. This is something that sounds generally weird to me, but over time I have started to realize that it is less weird and more just uncomfortable: a lot of people are a smidge jealous of those who they think have “better” lives then they do. For me “better” manifests as “happier”.

This isn’t to say that I am unhappy. I do have my challenges with depression as well as anxiety, but on the whole I am good with my life. We all have our moments, but I always feel this need and drive to compare myself to other people. Sometimes I will spend time looking through the photos of my friends on Facebook or just observing people in my life. One notable time I actually got my hair cut the same way as a friend I felt had it all together. Fortunately it was a style that worked for me.

None of these behaviors are exactly unhealthy, but they do me (or anyone else) any favors. Constantly holding myself up to this arbitrary yard stick always finds me lacking and I find myself consistently lacking I find myself getting mean. It comes out in sharp words and social media posts and it comes out in the way I treat myself. It cycles into a process of self abuse instead of self care and does nothing to drive me to improve.

I’m really tired of that, and I decided to do something different.

A better perspective is work.

A better perspective is work.

Last Friday I asked myself the question “what one thing makes me feel better about myself and the world?” It seemed like something impossible to answer at first, but then I thought about it a little differently and asked “when I feel my best, what is it that I’m doing?” The answer to that came almost immediately. I am at my best when I am practicing kindness.

I know. That sounds like a whole bunch of steaming, self-satisfying crap. I know, but I swear it’s true. I am at my best when I am actively holding myself accountable for the words that come from me and the actions that I carry out. I feel better and am more productive when I try to put something good into the world instead of just snarking about how stupid I think SE Cupp is or how I think the twenty-four hour news cycle ruined my former profession and made everyone idiots. It takes a lot of mental energy to be negative and to gravitate towards negativity. When I choose being nice and saying things that are more positive, when I step back from posting every quirky photo I take on Instagram, when I take a moment to think about the feelings of others I am a better person. I’m happier. I don’t feel jealous of the people in my world who have social media pages full of comments of people telling them how great they are because I let myself recognize my own greatness.

And I am great.  We all are.

So I’m undertaking what I am calling my own personal Kindness Project. I’m trying to make it a point to be more thoughtful about what I say, to listen more, and to offer positive and supportive words to the people around me. I’m choosing to not covet the “better” lives of people around me. I’m trying to overcome my own insecurities by smiling and focusing on the good.  It’s not perfect.  I did tweet some snark about things yesterday and I caught myself wishing I were prettier earlier, but I’m catching myself being negative and it’s making a difference. At the end of the day I simply want to be a voice of good and to be someone that the young folks in my life can look up to. We live in a world full of hurt, but it’s also full of good. I want to be on that side of the scale.

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Life, This World We Live In

#YesAllWomen

The world is a strange, horrible, and hopeful place.

On Friday night, twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree near UC Santa Barbara which resulted in the deaths of six and the inuring of seven others. The young man had posted videos to YouTube and participated elsewhere on the internet as an outlet for his highly misogynistic views. He had nothing nice to say about women and was very explicit about what he wanted to do with women–all women–because he felt that women had something against him. He said so in a video posted the day of the shooting.

I don’t want to give that man’s venemous thoughts or violent acts any more airtime than it deserves, but what is worth shining a light on is how the internet, that same place the troubled Rodger turned to spew hate, has turned the tragedy into a bold and brave moment of honesty–and has opened up a conversation about the uneasy subject of gender bias, violence, and discrimination in our culture.

It started Saturday night on Twitter in response to Rodger’s entitled comments about women. Women from all over the world began posting in profound 140 character blurbs marked with #YesAllWomen. The hashtag? A response to a recent internet meme where men complained that only a few guys were bad. The posts? Real-life, real-world stories of what women endure. The short stories began to flow rapidly and heartbreakingly, some simple musings on what the shootings revealed about society, some confessions of crimes done against them, some simple statements on how twisted the status quo is for women. A much-quoted one, and probably my favorite one from emily (@emilyhuges): “Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One. #YesAllWomen”

It’s been amazing to see how so many women are chiming in with their stories. So many of the experiences are hauntingly familiar, something women on Twitter have noticed, leading to supportive comments, retweets, and in some cases open conversation about what we’ve all endured and how we’ve all lived our lives in the shadow of this subtle type of violence. Not all the response has been positive, however. As I followed the posts ever so often women would start posting about the occaisional “troll” that popped up in the conversation to mock, belittle, or even threaten women using the hastag. But for every hurtful reply there were a hundred positive ones as men started to come forward and join the conversation, trying to understand what it must be like to live in a world full of double standard and institutionalized oppression.

It’s Twitter, a place cluttered with what often amounts to idle boredom and sometimes the accidental start of rumors, a service where life is boiled down to a handful of characters. It’s the last place one would expect to find the silver lining in a moment of horrible violence and tragedy, but in the shadows of hate that is exactly what has happened: truth and understanding has begun pushing its way through the blackness to shed light, to spread light, and (hopefully) change things for the better.

Here’s to hoping that that’s what we take away from this horror, that women spoke up and the world changed. Here’s to hoping that #YesAllWomen is the change our world needs. Let’s learn with hope and let the monster fade away in the blackness of his own cowardice.

I choose hope.

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