Choose Wisely: Social Media Can Be Friend Or Foe

Lots of friends are leaving or at least cutting back on social media exposure. There’s too much negativity, too many lies, too much sales and not enough meaningful interactions.

And I get it.

I have learned things about longtime friends that I do not want to know. For many, it is a window into the soul that tells me that I have been frighteningly wrong about the hearts and world views of many.

Then there are the people who provoke feelings of inadequacy because their lives look so perfect. They’re buying cars and taking expensive trips you could never afford. Plus, there’s always someone peddling something. That high school friend who ignored you for twenty years until she decided to sell 31 bags comes to mind.

Social media can be downright annoying and sometimes hard on your mental health.

But there is good too. Facebook and Instagram have given me access to all sorts of people and information that would otherwise be much more difficult to find.

That’s why I am careful of how I cultivate my feeds. There are some people who I unfollowed years ago because I know their contribution to my world is detrimental. They bring stress and negativity. They don’t earn their keep because they only point out the wrong without offering solutions. They have nothing good to say about anything.

I like people who can be realistic, who talk about the bad but encourage intelligent dialog. These are my people.

I follow some news organizations that report fairly and thoroughly. I belong to groups and pages that provide me with beautiful images, inspiring words, book recommendations, travel ideas, vegetarian recipes, mid century advertising, home decor ideas and all the other things I find interesting.

I know which pages have followers with useful comments and which pages to avoid the comments. Blocking trolls and scammers is easy. So is unfollowing a page that you don’t care for anymore.

In other words, I manipulate social media to make it work for me.

Instagram seems to naturally attract a more positive audience than Facebook so I’m starting to dwell more there.

If you don’t believe me, follow CBS Sunday Morning on both platforms and study the responses on each. Say they post a story about visiting a national park. On Instagram, the comments will mostly be from people saying how much they love that place, want to visit, vacation memories are amazing, etc. On Facebook, that same story is loaded with complaints and people who blame this president or that one for something totally unrelated. It’s like they’re just looking for a soapbox to vent whatever asinine thing is on their mind.

People really can take anything good and mangle it into a travesty.

All the same, social media has given me a chance to connect with people I have met once in real life. If not for social media, I wouldn’t have taken the Ford Tri-Motor airplane ride last year. I wouldn’t be anxiously awaiting the West Virginia Book Festival where I will finally get to meet author William Kent Krueger this fall. I would not have found the Apple Seed storytelling podcast that has brought me great joy.

The Whole 30 would be much harder if not for social media as it has helped me find great recipes for black bean meatballs and realistic ideas for batch cooking. I may never have found the British version of the sitcom Ghosts!

Cousins scattered across the country would be mere names in a family tree instead of friends. A quiet coworker who loves her cats, flowers and rocks would just be a nice lady I chat with briefly. The man I connected with in a fascinating conversation about race while standing in line at a historic house would just be a memory.

This book! I saw a review in a book group and knew it was for me. I’m halfway through and it’s wonderful!!

HOW would I get all my ideas for random road trips? Sometimes they send me to get a grilled cheese sandwich in a great diner two hours away only to discover a neat abandoned theater and country roads that feed my soul. You never know where one simple tip will lead!

So yeah. Social media can be terrible. But my life is richer thanks to social media. It’s all about how you choose to use it and who you allow to have a voice. Not everyone deserves space in your head so they certainly don’t deserve space in your social media feed.

Choose wisely.

Writing About “The Other Half”

Yesterday took me to Columbus for an Ohio Bankers League Marketing Forum. It was a much needed break from routine and opportunity to gather practical ideas and inspiration.

We had a terrific moderator who started the day by leading us through a series of exercises to get the creative juices going. One exercise involved choosing from a set of writing prompts like “write the lyrics of a bad rap song” or “that day in Paris.”

I chose the prompt “the other half.” Here’s what I wrote:

The beautiful young man lives in the lap of luxury. He moves gracefully through a world of his own design. His meals are served on silver platters and exactly to his liking.

His days are filled with activities that soothe his soul. His day is occupied with studying nature, practicing yoga, long naps and other forms of self care. He is a man of means with seemingly unlimited resources and the cost of his extravagant life is of no consequence to him.

The young man is demanding of his staff yet forgiving of their incompetence. This can be a source of frustration but he chooses peace over anger, zen over impatience. Being a man of privilege affords him perspective and he chooses kindness when possible.

He is the other half. He is my cat.

So that’s what I wrote and I was pretty pleased with the results given that we had just a few minutes to pull it together.

Yesterday was a timely reminder that writing can and should be fun, at least part of the time. Most of what I write is utilitarian and the creative parts are often rushed. I really want to prioritize making writing fun again.

By the way, the writing prompts came from “642 Things To Write About” by San Francisco’s Writers Grotto. There are tons of books and websites dedicated to writing prompts so there’s no shortage of inspiration to help you get started.

Are you a writer? Is it fun or is it painful?

Carter’s Motorcycle Shop

Today it’s owned by the 9th Street Gang Car Club. Back in the day, it was Carter’s Motorcycle Shop. Located near the Winslow farm where James Dean spent his formative years, it was a favorite hangout of his.

The car club keeps it looking like it did in the fifties. Notice the Indian Motorcycle sign over the door.

Jimmy’s uncle Marcus Winslow gave him his first motorcycle which he purchased here. He was just fifteen at the time.

That bike can now be viewed at the James Dean Museum in Fairmount. It’s one of two on display.

If you go, you’re welcome to pull into the parking lot for pictures. You’re also very close to the Quaker Church he attended, the family farm he called home, and the cemetery where he is buried.

Annual Rituals

The first quarter of each year is defined by three rituals for me.

The first is that I become preoccupied with work at this time. There’s a big project on top of my regular work and I tend to think about the job a lot. The other eight or nine months of the year I focus on separation of work and home but this becomes less and less a priority as the weeks drag on through the winter months. It’s the nature of the beast and I have no regrets or complaints. It’s just the rhythm of my year.

Then there’s the No Spend Challenge that I do each January. This year it stretched into February as well. It’s designed to keep me happy at home, staying healthy and using the things I have. What did our Greatest Generation grandparents teach us?

Use it up, make do or do without.

The money I save in the winter helps pay for adventures the rest of the year. It also promotes rest and a sense of quiet.

The third ritual is that I take a long weekend trip as soon as my project goes to the printer and as soon as I can dig myself out from under the non essential work that piled up.

This weekend was that weekend and it was exactly what I needed. I didn’t go far and my destination wasn’t exotic. Heck, it wasn’t even as warm as home. But it was quintessentially American and it was a solid start to adventure season. It was good for my mental health.

I haven’t felt like myself in some time. In addition to making you tired, causing you to gain weight, messing with your voice and cholesterol and causing the worst brain fog, the thyroid toys with your mind and emotions too. I saw glimmers of the old Brandi here and there this weekend. She pops up sometimes when I’m out adventuring and it’s a relief to know there’s hope she’ll come back to stay someday.

I’m home now and am starting an eating plan meant to help my thyroid. After all, my body is attacking this little gland. The least I can do is stop calling it names for being so useless and start trying to help it through better nutrition. Ha! It’s no wonder it feels like it’s not even trying. I’m mean to it! Expect to hear more about this another day.

There are lots of stories to tell from this trip through eastern Indiana, checking off my list a few things I have wanted to see for a while.

In case you’re thinking that Indiana doesn’t sound very exciting (I know you are because nearly everyone I know looked at me funny when I told them my plans) know that you are wrong by my standards. It doesn’t sound exciting but this area is defined by lovely countryside, small towns, friendly people, interesting history and lots of the things I enjoy. There are so many old churches, Carnegie libraries and vintage signs, it was a feast for my eyes and wandering imagination.

Friends, I read a quote from Bob Ross this weekend that supports part of my worldview. You know the PBS painter with big hair and a gentle voice who inspired a nation to paint? He said “Beauty is everywhere. You only have to look to see it.”

Right on, Bob. Right on.

Come back and I’ll tell you about some places I went and my observations on the world. It’s true. Beauty is everywhere. There’s something interesting to be found everywhere. You only have it look to see it.