Social Media Makes the World Small. It’s Not That Deep

worldMy good friend belongs to the same dance troupe as the now-wife of my first lover, and has been for a year or so now. I know this thanks to some photos my friend has shared on Instagram. (C’est la vie.)

This past weekend, I went to a bar downtown and friended a guy who runs in the same musical circle as the childhood neighbor I’d play four-handed piano with on Tuesday nights after Bible study. (Just a happy coincidence.)

Just this afternoon at my day job, I came across the portfolio of someone whose name I immediately recognized from work I follow on social and creative media platforms. (Well, all right, then.)

I realize that these interactions pack a little less punch than, say, going to the deli or car wash and bumping into someone who just happens to be a friend of a friend of someone you used to know. However, these instances were just intimate enough that I’d be lying if I claimed that I wasn’t the least bit affected. But due to the modern web of social media, it only makes sense that these worlds would collide directly, and at times violently, into mine.

A few years ago, I might have viewed the above occurrences as chance, or maybe even a sign of the past being manifested as a present branching-off of a celestial event. I wouldn’t be the only one, either — perhaps you would feel similarly. With the wealth of exciting activity occurring in the universe this month that will continue to be observed from our vantage point on Earth, it’s only understandable. 

But let’s really think about it: Anyone can be found on the internet. As of March 2017, statistics suggest that at least half of the world’s population has access to the internet. Interactions such as the ones above are really not that random. It’s just that individually-drawn, personal associations are powerful enough in convincing people otherwise.

As for me, right now, I subscribe to the fact that the world is small as a result of the internet’s far reach — nothing more, or less. 

It’s kind of fun, fascinating, maybe even thrilling. But it’s also really not that deep.

Yes, You’ve Settled 

settled

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers

In 2001, I had a Samsung flip phone, a 5G iPod nano, and a Dell Inspiron laptop running a Windows XP operating system. That was all I could ask for, and as a struggling college student, it made more sense to hold onto what I had until it either snapped in half or melted enough AC adaptors to render it useless.

Soon after graduation, however, smart devices were experiencing a massive boom, so I decided to move onto something new. I totally could have got another flip phone, as they were and are still being manufactured. But for me, it was time for me to join the new and ultra-improved tech stream the whole world had found itself thrust into. And so I did, essentially trading three devices for one.

Now, new tech is one of those things that — while increasing exponentially — is at most everyone’s fingertips in the form of a smartphone. With constant release of new products, updates, and features, it can a challenge to keep up — but either you do, or you don’t. The choice, relatively, is yours.

This can apply to anything you can think of, from a film or music genre to a sex position. It’s great to know what you like — but being so sure runs the all-too real risk of being frozen in time. And not in a classic, timeless sense, either. More like a primitive relic.

I’ve been feeling this lately and have been making an effort to implement simple strategies to be more in tune with the outside world instead of humming along, ignorantly blissful within mine:

1. Listening to new music. This has probably has been the easiest and most accessible way to keep stay in the now, because — while I may question some of the latest trends in popular music — it gives me some insight into what is “hot” or “fresh”, therefore leaving me feeling somewhat hot and fresh. It’s also given me more insight into how my parents and other adults felt about Top 40 music when I was a teen during the late nineties. (Sorry, Mom and Pop.)

Today I stumbled upon Julia Michaels while reading an article from BBC that piqued my interest. A songwriter-turned-pop-artist, she reminded me a bit of Tove Lo, who I can’t get enough of. So I figured, why not give her a chance? Michaels’ debut mini-album “Nervous System” was released just this past Friday, and if you like pop music with a little twist, you’ll probably like this. (Saucy types, stick around for “Pink”.)

2. Reading articles from start to finish. Like, actually reading them and not merely reacting to a headline.

Cool story: I came across a Vanity Fair article on tonight’s Game of Thrones episode (look out for spoilers) and I had geared up to tell them off via Twitter based on my strong reaction to the headline via Google search. (I actually did, but deleted the tweet once I actually read the article. Oops.)

Say what??

Just saying, we’re all guilty of falling into sticky af clickbait and we should know better by now but, you know, we don’t.

3. Hanging out with people. Whether online or in-person (ideally the latter), social engagement is where the magic happens. Having turned 32 this year, I feel very “old” sometimes, and yeah, while not a teenager, my mind feels like me, which is as only old as I feel. And now the cliche phrase makes sense, whereas it used to be just words.

Sharing ideas, interests, coming to a common ground, etc. keeps the blood flowing to the appendages, as it were. Keeps the neurons alight and all that jazz. Going where people are may take a little effort, but more often than not, it’s worth it.

Don’t get me wrong: having that comfort feeling that makes you feel how you felt the first time doing anything is one of the best things out there. Like that cozy sleeping-in feeling on a rainy day, being comfortable is absolutely needed. Just remember that being too comfortable can run the risk of mental and emotional atrophy from staying in the same place for too long. 

Besides, new experiences are always out there, waiting for that first time feeling to be uncovered. Rarely will they be where you’ve been a million times before.

So get moving.

Life Lessons Learned from My Eyebrows

I have many running comments involving my eyebrows: “I won’t leave the apartment without putting on my eyebrows.” “[Such and such movie] was so sad that I cried my eyebrows off.” Et cetera, et cetera.

It’s true, though; my eyebrows have take a little bit of precedence largely because my face is the first thing that people tend to focus on.

In the beginning, everything I learned about my eyebrows was a direct result of Megan Fox. Transformers was the perfect summer movie of 2007. I will never forget it, giant soft drink in hand, cushy theater seats in an icy air-conditioned theater. There was nowhere else I’d rather have been than watching the first of four highly unnecessary Michael Bay films while still in the demographic to do so. 

And yet, while most everyone else was fawning over Megan’s body and hair, I was absolutely transfixed by her eyebrows. Their existence  literally changed life. I had to have them.

At the time, however, I’d been the guinea pig of one too many hair removal experiments gone awry, so that wasn’t about to happen any time soon. Now, ten years and some follicle recovery later, my eyebrows have taken a much more convincing center stage role on my face.

That said, there was a time where I didn’t really worry about that sort of thing – my looks, that is. While there was a conscious effort to look presentable as the occasion called for it, there was no obsession over it. I won’t say that I’m obsessed with my brows now, but I do care enough to actually try to not leave the house without them being defined, styled, what have you. (That somewhat-joke at the outset? Obviously based on truth.)

That said — I was in my sister’s wedding 15 years ago without eyebrows. I worked my first job (and other jobs thereafter) without them. I had a very active social life, rich friendships, and started dating my current long-term partner without them. I went to nightclubs without them, did spoken word and won awards of recognition without them, got a college degree without them. I may very well have started my career without them.

Sure, they may help me feel a little better about my appearance in general, but what will happen if there’s no more brow pencil and powder, or if my skin won’t take to microblading, or something else similar? What will happen when I am forced to work with what I have without any frills?Something to that effect is going to happen at some point, and I sure as hell wasn’t born to have bushy brows.

Like most people, I tend to fixate on things that really have no bearing on actual ability and worth. Appearance is nice and all, but it’s not everything. The energy and brainpower you bring to the table? I’d wager to say that’s everything. To quote Tori Amos (so sue me; I went on a YouTube binge the other day after she’d announced her Native Invader world tour), “You’re just an empty cage if you kill the bird.” The outside doesn’t matter if there’s nothing inside to keep it running.

Sometimes I have to remind myself what I’m here for, and while I may not always know, I can assume it’s for a far better reason than appealing to my vanity. Shout out to Wet n’ Wild’s $0.99 brow pencil and e.l.f. translucent powder just the same.

What do you think? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments, and as always, feel free to touch base on Twitter.

3 Things That Happened When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol

I feel that everyone has said this to some extent, but I used to be a pretty big drinker. I’m not sure if it was way to reduce social anxiety, a coping mechanism, or something to do to pass the time (or all three) — but whatever it was, it was getting to be too much in my life. And so, I stopped.

Of course it wasn’t as easy as that, but I was getting tired of feeling like crap. After a real heart-to-heart and realizing that I was poisoning my body, it was time to make a decision. If my body was so hell bent on rejecting the stuff, maybe it was time for me to consciously do so in return.

So I went for a little over 30 days without drinking. Here’s what happened:

1. I lost weight. I’ve been struggling to lose “the last 10” for years and have been on every restrictive diet and exercise plan out there – really. But nothing, I repeat, nothing broke the plateau more effortlessly than not drinking. I am now comfortably 5 to 8 pounds less than what I was, just by making that one change.

2. I lost some friends. Happy hour and bottomless mimosa brunches are not part of my social routine anymore. While I see some friends a lot less, I’m not upset by it, nor am I surprised. But I did have that moment where I thought, “Wow. Yeah, that actually happened.” See, you hear about it happening – and then it actually happens to you. I consider my friends to be my friends, and still love spending time together and sharing experiences when we can. But things are different, and it’s okay.

3. I saved money. So, rent is due today, and I’ve had the kind of week where I’ve been putting off looking at my checking account (you know the kind)… and I was actually positively surprised when I checked it this morning. Now, I’m not filthy rich by any means, but since drinking considerably less these days, my bank account has had considerably more in it, with relatively little effort.

Here’s a bonus point that goes without saying, yet ties into all of the above: I feel better overall. Right before I made the switch, I found that I was spending more Sundays in bed recovering from Saturday nights out. Monday mornings post-Sunday Funday were getting to be really taxing physically (water retention, brain function, dizziness), and emotionally (self-worth, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?”). Whenever it came time to tackle the work week, I was always unprepared. I felt like an imposter, constantly fighting the tides.

Sometimes it bothers me when people say, “Oh, I could never quit alcohol, I enjoy it too much.” I felt that way, too, except now I say, “I’ll have a club soda and juice”, or even sometimes, “….yeah, sure, I’ll have a beer.”

See, alcohol is not like air or water – we actually can live without it. When going out or hanging with friends, alcohol is no longer the default, or prerequisite. I can make the choice even when surrounded by it. I could absolutely live without alcohol – I did! – and I have a much better relationship with it as a result.

You know about a-ha moments, right? I had one recently when I was grocery shopping. The wine and spirits section is at the front of the grocery store I go to, very hard to miss. I used to buy a new bottle of vodka for the freezer when I ran out, sort of like when I ran out of toilet paper or soap. But more and more, with each visit, I found myself rarely heading to the section. It happened on its own, perhaps subconsciously. Perhaps it was time.

Sometimes I think that I’ll do it again – 30 days without drinking. But more so I think I’ll continue what I’m doing: that is, living a life that revolves around friends and family, not drink specials. I’m just looking to do and be, and all that jazz. I will have a Guinness at an Irish pub, or a glass of wine at a fancy dinner, because I know it won’t take me over anymore. It will, like my life, be about the richness of the people and the occasion, and not a routine that once took hold.

It’s Okay to Not Be Liked

Imagine you’re the new person at work, at school, on a kickball team, in a writing circle, acting class, whatever. Trying to fit in is one of those things that always seems to happen, and being the new kid on the block isn’t always fun.

But then I had the realization that not everyone had to like me, and I didn’t have to like them either — and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In any sort of group, there is a main objective. At work, it’s work, and at school, it’s education. In a creative workshop or on a sports team, it’s creating something or developing a strategy to win the game — and most of the time, that’s what people are focusing on, not whether or not they otherwise get along.

Sure, it helps to get along with people — but getting along is a lot more different than being liked. You don’t have to be friends with everyone in order to be able to come together and with the aim of reaching a common goal.

The thing is, people have boundaries, no matter how well you know them. You may have certain boundaries as well. But within those general boundaries are the common objective (whatever it is) and that can be enough. In fact, that is all that should be expected.

I mention this because often I feel that I go out of my way to be personable when I’m not in the general mood to do so. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that performing my role all that is expected of me, and that it is absolutely enough. While I genuinely like working with others, to collaborate, brainstorm, and communicate ideas — that doesn’t equate “being liked”. My worth and contribution isn’t based on anyone liking me. It’s based on what the function of my role and how well I perform it.

The energy I put into making sure people like me — the over-smiling, the over-laughing, the over-assurance — can be exhausting. It comes from somewhere natural at first, but causes internal strain and detracts from my true intentions. It is a habit I’m learning to break, my goal being to “work hard in silence, let success be the noise,” as the saying goes.

Long story short, as long as I work and behave with integrity, I am perfectly fine with not being liked.

If ever you feel the undue, self-born pressure to be liked, don’t. Not everyone’s going to like you — and that’s okay.

Carrie Bradshaw on Social Media

I want to apologize in advance because most every female blogger writes about Carrie Bradshaw, but you have to understand: this character has inspired some very strong feelings among writers. Like, strong economic, social, and political feelings. She’s ridiculous. She’s fictional. And that’s why, over 13 years after Sex & the City‘s season finale, a lot of people are still talking about her.

This begs the question — would Carrie Bradshaw actually have made it as a writer in today’s digital world?

I think so. Here’s why:

1. Sex sells and always will. I don’t know how many more songs about putting one’s panties to the side or if the vagina cleavage trend will continue, but this is the world we currently live in. Opening it up for discussion and debate to a wide audience, however, still takes skill and personality. Achieving Loveline, Savage Love, or Sex with Emily status might take more work if Carrie Bradshaw was just starting out — but sex- and relationship-talk definitely speaks to people, and it’s not going anywhere.

2. Carrie networked ALL the time. And I mean all the time. Scoping out a new art gallery, wine bar or restaurant is so much more than hanging out with your friends — it’s an opportunity. You never know who you could meet in line for the valet. If you really think about it, the only difference between a night out and networking is a business card.

3. She loved fashion because she truly, unashamedly loved it, not because it was trendy. Fashion was Carrie’s passion: more than writing, more than food (but never more than her friends). She veered towards vintage styles, visited second-hand shops, and rocked questionable styles — because fashion was her life. The designer clothes, shoes, and accessories she purchased were as much of an extension of her as any other part of her body. And sure, she may have cringed at any past fashion sense, but she never regretted it. That type of authenticity and energy doesn’t go without notice.

4. Carrie wrote authentically, introspectively and with curiosity. From one night stands to challenging sexuality (not her best moment), to dealing with fetishes and cheating (also not her best moment), Carrie wrote with a vulnerability that made her come off as a real person. She remained true to herself, even if that meant she was unlikable.

So where would Carrie Bradshaw find her greatest reach if she was on social media today?

While YouTube seems to be the go-to platform, I personally think Instagram would garner the biggest interest, at least at first. All she would need would be the camera on a smartphone and literally the designer clothes on her back. Carrie barely used email, so why not go the way of least investment? #shoppingismycardio

The next step would probably be a blog, and perhaps contributing her views of love and sex to e-zines such as xoJane, Ravishly, The Gloss and others, so as to boost interest and traffic flow back to her online portfolio. Of course this would mean she would need to dip her toes into the SEO pool, which, for someone who was afraid of using email or a cell phone, would not be an easy task. It’s not enough to write what you’re passionate about (although it really helps) — and that’s where learning SEO would really help. And then there’s always the slightly formidable but necessary process of personal branding, (and so on and so forth)….

Strategy, research, and planning, with trial and error being part of the fun. Just like print media when you think about it, only at a quicker publishing speed. I can’t help but wonder if Carrie would make it after all?