Monday, July 28, 2014

A Social Media Overhaul: Facebook

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I use social media. I've made some changes on Facebook, and so far, I'm pleased with the results. 

This isn't a judgement of how you use social media, and I'm not trying to send any hidden messages about individuals and their status with me. This is just what I've been doing and I share it with the sole hope that it might be useful. 

I find that using Facebook is a lot like the concept of Defensive Driving. That's a weirdly harsh term, but it simply means being proactive and taking personal responsibility for what happens. I only have control over what I do, not what others do. If I want a better Social Media experience, or want it to be more useful, it's my problem to solve, not someone else's. 

Overhauling My Friends List

I've been looking at my friend list and changing the status of each person based on my relationship with them. If I only know them from work, or I've only met them once, and Facebook isn't being used actively by either one of us to build a relationship, but for some reason I feel some connection is useful, then I make them an acquaintance. This allows me to control which posts they see, so their feed isn't clogged up by any personal posts I might put up. I also don't see much from them unless I go looking for it.

If I can't remember my connection to a person or place them in my real life at all, or if there is just no use of facebook for any active contact from either side, I unfriend them.  I don't like that word, but there it is. Not everyone is my friend, and I feel it is a powerful word that has maybe lost some of its power because of FB. Somehow I got up to over 900 friends and I just don't think I know that many people as an actual friend. I also unfriend people if what they post consistently makes me feel stressed, worried, judgemental, mad or any other negative feeling. (Note: The act of unfriending comes after a very subjective qualifying analysis, and includes assessing whether or not they show up in my feed due to other connections, whether I'm seeking them out, whether or not I have other ways of contacting an individual and a certain sense from my gut. Also, since I know that some people are watching for me but they just don't interact a lot, and I get that, I'm not just slashing everybody all willy nilly.)

There are also settings I can check to make sure to I see everything someone posts. I use that primarily for family.

If you come to realize that I unfriended you and yet you still happen to read my blog and you're hurt and confused and want to let me know that I grossly misunderstood our relationship, please take the time to let me know so I can make things right. It's possible I simply hit the wrong button.

Controlling FB Apps and Ads

There are so many apps that many of us accept and install without really understanding what is happening. This happens when we want to play a game, take a quiz, register for a sweepstakes, look at a news story and in many other instances. When I went into my FB settings and went to my list of apps, I found so many that I had no memory of using, installing or giving permission to be in my list, but yet there they were. So, I went through and ruthlessly deleted anything that I couldn't place, wasn't using or didn't sound familiar to me. I'm not 100% sure how this will affect my newsfeed, but I feel better knowing that it's all gone and that a little less of my information is swirling around in the big petri dish of data that is Facebook. 

If a company puts an ad in my newsfeed and it's completely irrelevant to me, or I'm just sick of it, I can stop ads from that company. Sure, more ads will show up, but I can keep doing that and have some control over what I see. 

Also, if you get a game request from someone, you can now turn off all notifications from that game right in your notifications feed. I feel this is a more effective approach than asking people to stop sending the requests, because often they don't realize they are doing it.

No FB on my Phone

I took the FB app off my phone. That simply makes it harder for me to check FB on my phone. I have to go to the browser and actually log in if I want to use FB on the fly. That's a pain in the neck so I don't often do it. This change has helped me limit how much time I spend browsing my newsfeed, which means I have less of other people's life happenings floating around in my head. This is a good thing. Less information means less stress for me. 

These are small things, and probably my decisions about them will change and my focus on being in control will wax and wane. In the weeks that I've been working on this, I can say that I have found FB to be more useful to me for actually building relationships, both personal and business. I believe I have been able to be more discerning in what information I take into my mind, and I really like that. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blueberries and Another Cougar in the House

Can't you just about taste them? Yesterday morning, just as the heat of the day was really rising, but before it was unbearable, my friend and I slowly made our way down her stunning rows of berry bushes, picking and talking, and then she gave all that she gathered to me. Together we picked about 6 quarts of this goodness! I cannot wait to eat some with my very own homemade yogurt. Later, I will put some in the freezer, and others will become a summery dessert or muffins or something.

I will smile again as I enjoy the unique almost-sweetness of blueberries and think of this friend. For years, with few easy chances to see each other and about 30 miles between our homes, the warm embers of friendship have quietly glowed, waiting, perhaps, for this very moment. Always there has been joy at our brief, infrequent reunions, always a sincere hug and a few moments spent catching up. As we've put effort into spending time together recently, we've reconnected more deeply and found timely support and company for the kinds of days we are both having. That matters, to have friends who understand.

After berry picking in the sun, I went home to find Evan catching up on the World Cup. He managed to not know who won on Sunday until he had a chance to watch the game. I love that when he wants to, he can shut off the constant stream of information that bombards him. It's hard to be young in this information-saturated world, and I liked that he decided to keep the Sabbath in the way that mattered to him and then enjoy the game on his own terms. In case you're wondering, he was happy for Germany, and proudly wore his German Fußball jersey the rest of the day, but he admires Lionel Messi and wished that talented Argentinian could have had a happier day.

After that, the two of us began our exploration of the BYU website and got him registered for classes and into a dorm room. He wasn't sure he would go out for school this fall, but instead might go straight out on his mission. In the last few days, he decided to change his own stars and go for Provo. To see him moving forward is a big deal, especially under his own power. He feels good about the plan, and has even received what he feels is a strong spiritual confirmation of his decision. As a parent, I would want nothing else for him but feeling certain about his decisions. It makes such a difference when, instead of feeling blind, you feel guided. A life of faith can do that for a kid (or an adult).

So today, I have blueberries to eat, flights and hotel rooms to arrange, and all of that. On top of a full day of work, both professional and personal. It's all good. Moving forward.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Young Adult Fiction
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kate Rudd
You might like this book if you enjoy quirky romances, stories about teens in uncommon situations, or stories that engage the emotions as well as the intellect. You might also be interested if you liked the movie.

Okay, I have to admit that I really only heard about this book when I started hearing about the movie. There, I said it. But now I'm completely won over.

My favorite part about this book was not the story, though the story is lovely and unexpected yet predictable as soon as you understand what and whom it's about but, in spite of that fact, is completely engaging. It's about kids with cancer, but not in a sticky-sweet, rosy glow kind of way. Its about kids with cancer still living real lives and being mad and funny and brave and cowardly and sad and strong and normal, all at the same time.

It was not the characters, though each one was developed really well and I could imagine them walking and talking in the real world. There was grace and romance and care given to portraying how kids in this situation might truly feel, rather than just pasting teen faces on fake adult characters.

No, my favorite thing was the language and the pacing of the writing. Oh my word was this a wonderful book to listen to. I really want to get the book book so I can see the words and the punctuation and get the flow and word choices into my head in another way. I could see and feel the words telling the story while I listened and that hasn't happened for a while.

Yes, I love the way John Green uses his words. The combination of vocabulary, cadence and structure, well, it moves me. I have been struggling to listen to books lately, and I know it matters which books you listen to, but when I got into this one I realized I just need more words in my life. I need to read more, write more and listen more.  I listened to this almost in one day because I actually didn't want to stop listening.

I have missed words.

Thank you John Green for your beautiful, sad, happy story that reminded me.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Book Review: Wonder

Wonder by RJ Palacio
Grades 3-7
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd.
You might like this book if you enjoy stories about underdogs, people who must overcome challenges, or stories about dealing with disabilities.

My in-person, SSBC (Super Secret Book Club) chose this a couple of months ago and I finally just finished it. It's been a busy time for me.
In spite of how long it took me to listen, I loved it. 100%. Beautiful, touching, comfortingly predictable (it's a good story, I only say predictable because I really do want to believe in the core goodness of people), and well-imagined.

August, known as Augie,  is a boy who, because of a profound facial deformity, has never been to public school. This story tells about what it was like for him to finally go to middle school and have to live through the daily actions and reactions of those around him. The less-understood things we must face in life tend to bring out either the best or the worst in humanity, and this book covers both scenarios.

I think the author does a great job of creating the world of middle school and especially the thoughts and interactions of the young main characters. It's well-worth your time and probably would be a quick, easy read. It's only an 8-hour  audiobook.

Some in my book group were curious about my response because I have a disabled sister. She moves around earth in a wheelchair, and has since she was in her teens. I can't even attempt to say anything from her side of that life, but thinking about things from my side, with memories of watching her all these years, I found the book very touching and I did think of my sis. She is a wonder too. She inspires kindness and inclusion and I admire her greatly, just as you will August and the people closest to him.

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