Married to Technology

By: Chaunte McClure

Despite having a never-ending to-do list, I always seem to, unfortunately, make time for social media. Why is this thing so darn addictive? I attended a marketing conference in February and in a social media session, the presenter stated teens check social media 100 times per day. A hundred! One zero zero. I shared that number with a colleague, who is a baby boomer, and his response was “No way!” Yes way. I’m far from being a teenager, but using myself for comparison, I knew that was realistic.

There are days when I’m constantly grabbing my phone, not because someone’s calling me, but I’m somehow drawn to accessing a social media app or two, or three. I can be in the middle of reading or writing then my mind, and my hand following will gravitate to my phone. Thankfully, sometimes I realize what I’ve done and I immediately place the phone back down and force myself to focus on my current task.

I wish I had a counter on my phone that tracked the number of times I access my phone. Is there an app for that? Maybe cell phones should come with this on a warning labels: This device is habit forming. But is it the phone or the apps? You can’t have one without the other, unless of course you have a tablet. This perfection union between mobile devices and apps has countless humans married to technology and the level of commitment is astounding.

How can you translate the commitment to your smartphone to your marriage? To God? To your family? To self-improvement? Or any other area in your life that’s receiving less attention because more of your attention is devoted to technology?

Expect separation anxiety, similar to what you experience when you misplace, leave, or damage your device. However, the greater rewards of stronger relationships and a better you are priceless.

How much time do you spend on social media? What will you do with that amount of time?

If You’re Happy and You Know It

By: Chaunte McClure

As soon as you read the title, I’m sure you had a flashback to your childhood. Or, if you’re a mom, you might have thought about the times you sang the familiar song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” to your little ones. Regardless of which thought you had, one thing’s for sure: Now the song is on repeat in your mind. Go ahead and admit that you paused between the first two sentences to sing it out loud. It’s okay! If you’re happy and you know it sing the song! Now your face is really showing it because there is something about that song that makes you happy.

There’s a similar effect when I hear Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” My head begins bobbing, my right foot starts tapping, and if I’m driving, my right hand leaves the steering wheel and lands on my left thigh to repeatedly move to the beat of the sound. Why? Because no matter what mood I was in prior to the song coming on, at that moment, I’m happy. Or am I?

social media competitionI used to ask that to myself in regards to others. Are they really as happy as they portray on social media? I don’t even ask anymore because it really isn’t my business, but I think I can easily discern that people can put a lot of time and energy into pretending to be happy.

I’m all for sharing positive stories and I believe we need more of it. But when our “positive” stories are lies, they can have a negative effect on the reader and the writer. It has to be draining to live a lie, and just like it drains pretenders to report false emotions and exaggerated stories, it’s equally draining to read them.

At some point, everyone has issues. Let me use myself as an example. It might seem crazy what I’m about to say: Yes, I have issues. No, I most likely won’t share my issues on social media, but I will share inspirational posts and, every now and then, what I think is a good photo.

Here’s where you or someone you know comes in … (I have no knowledge of this ever happening to me, by the way.) Because you see my positive posts or my photos that show me having fun or maybe just looking good, now you have to make your life seem a little better than mine by posting what you think is better than how you see my life online.

Social media façades! There are so many people with great jobs, great families, great social lives, great businesses, great opportunities, and great success – well at least that’s their life in the virtual world.

Be yourself, stop competing with others who might be pretending too, and if you have issues, deal with them and heal from them instead of acting like you’re so happy. It’s okay to just scroll. You don’t have to post what’s (not) going on in your life. Fake happiness is the worst sadness.

P.S. One of my Facebook friends, who always shares messages that uplift, educate and empower, inspired this post. Earlier this week she shared this quote: “Fake happiness is the worst sadness.” And thus my two cents that you just read. My opinions. My observations.

Our New Rule

By: Brady Evans 

There’s a new rule in our household: no cell phones and computers after 8 p.m. I’m a month and a half back into the workforce now and our afternoons are a mad rush between daycare pick up, evening nap, dinner prep, nighttime routine, and miscellaneous Social mediachores. By 8 p.m. I’d collapse with my phone in my hand or my computer on my lap to decompress a bit before my own bed time. I’d scroll through Facebook, look at pictures on Instagram, check out a few blogs, finish up loose ends from work….and when 9 p.m. rolled around I’d wander to bed myself. Meanwhile, my husband was doing the same.

We were both “in the zone” and out of touch with each other. We found our days had become focused on work, then enjoying the baby for the few hours he’s awake after we got home, then chores, then the world (social media). Only with a deliberate conversation did we realize we were leaving the most important aspect out of focus: each other.

The time after 8 p.m. is now dedicated to each other. It is a time to elaborate on our days at work in a way we lacked in the past. It is a time to discuss current events with each other instead of with Facebook. Do I really know how my spouse feels about gun laws? The upcoming elections? The conflict in Syria?

Who knows how long our rule will last? Maybe until we feel sufficiently connected to one another. Or maybe until one person slips and the other follows suit. But for now, it is a healthy change and I suggest you analyze your social media usage, too. I’ll admit that I am very connected and I guess very addicted to my contacts out there in cyberspace. But shouldn’t I be primarily connected and addicted to my contact (my husband) sitting right next to me on the couch?

Unplug Every Day

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I’m a fan of social media, but one day recently, I became quite annoyed at Facebook. After only about ten minutes, I witnessed hostility amongst local business competitors, insincerity in the form of a birthday wish and negativity from the “Debbie Downer” friend we all seem to have. It was a Friday afternoon, and I pledged to stay off Facebook for the rest of the weekend.

UnplugI was wandering through a new shop at Trenholm Plaza the next day and found a great book: Unplug Every Day, 365 Ways to Log Off and Live Better. Finding it was truly kismet, and I quickly grabbed a copy and made a beeline for the checkout.

This inspiring and cheerful journal lists 365 fun and easy ways to unplug from electronics, appreciate your surroundings and connect with those around you. With a year’s worth of prompts, I’m hoping it encourages me to take small steps to refocus my attention on life’s simple joys.

My first step? Unsubscribe from excess emails. This step is more than a “done in a day” step, but I’m loving it. Today, I unsubscribed from Shutterfly’s emails. I love Shutterfly, but when I need their services, I know where to go. I don’t need what seem like daily email reminders to use them. It felt GREAT to take an extra 30 seconds to simply unsubscribe.

I’ll be sure to report back on my efforts to unplug more, but in the meantime, how do YOU unplug? Do you have any family rules about using electronics? Any personal goals to limit social media? Please share your tips!

#Falsies

By: Lara Winburn

Have you ever stumbled onto your computer on a Friday night and realized that you were not having a girls’ night, date night or even a family movie night, but your 7,533 Facebook friends were? I have, and sometimes it can sting or at least give you pause about whether you are having enough fun and making enough plans.

I really do like social media-I love a silly survey, a funny post on Facebook, and I can’t resist a cute pic and a clever hashtag on Instagram. Occasionally, I will even tweet – though I often need more than 140 characters to express myself (as you can see). That said, it seems like in this “status-update” world when I feel that sting, all I need is a little dose of reality – not reality trash TV or a housewife from Fakeville (though I am not opposed to that, either).

FalsiesHere’s the little dose of reality that I think is worth remembering when the 13-year-old girl inside of me, and maybe even you, feels that “getting-left-out” sting:

There is a picture of me on Facebook, all lip gloss smiles and even a little eye make-up, too. I’m at a dinner party with a glass of wine in a real wine glass with a stem and everything. But here is what is behind that picture: The host of the dinner party burned a good portion of dinner (#theregoeshergoodmood); one couple had to leave early when the babysitter called with a sick child (#partysover); and it was an altogether underwhelming time (#exceptfortheeyemakeup).

I’m not saying that most life events shared on social media are not wonderful memories being made; they are. They are just are not ALL wonderful memories. Sometimes they are just a good camera angle and the Valencia setting on Instagram.

The truth is: we don’t put our frozen-pizza, park-in-front-of-the-tv, skip-the-bath nights out there for the world to see. You don’t want to see my 700 loads of laundry; you’ve probably got your own. (#whereareallthesocksgoing?!) And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We all have our own not-so-Facebook-worthy Friday nights. Or, better yet, we are having one of life’s actual precious moments and haven’t picked up the smart phone to share.

Maybe you have no idea about this false world that social media portrays and you have no idea what I am talking about and never felt the sting. If that’s the case, don’t mind me, just go back to your Pinterest-worthy parties and post some more really lovely selfies.

But we all know… most people crop out the not-so-pretty parts.

The Unfriendly World of Facebook

By: Roshanda Pratt

Let’s face the facts; it can be a cruel and rather lonely in the world of social media.  In 421 characters or less you can get on your soapbox, becoming a “preacher” of sorts to an online congregation. People type in that little status box, hit the share button without even thinking twice. After all, it is our opinion, right? Well, I have heard it said best, “Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one.” Most recently, a friend of mine left the “happy” world of Facebook. Her reason: it was toxic. How can that be? It’s not like your status update is not being shared with people you know, these folks are your friends, right?  Well, not really.  Especially if you are going against the dominating thought of the person who posted or commented in that little blue box.

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard the stories of people being “unfriended” by relatives or longtime friends because of a difference in belly buttons, I mean opinions.  Most recently, a friend of a friend called me “a fool and ignorant” because of a comment I made about a politically charged situation.  Even as I write this, I have thought about saying farewell to my list of one thousand “friends” due to the negativity and downright silliness of it all. Then I thought, wait, I knew how these people were before I accepted their friend request. It should come as no surprise to their lack of dissection, character and so on. I allowed them to enter into my world. I have experienced people break-up, make-up, fall-out, and air-out (their dirty laundry) all in the sake of a “status update.” I can tell you now most of those people were “unfriended.”

However, not everything is bad out here in Facebook land. For example, on my wall I solicited prayer requests.  Emails from friend flooded my inbox.  Ah, yes, this was a good day as the Lord gave me the opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ.  Facebook has also given me the chance to stay connected with my family in the West Indies without picking up the phone. Yes, I think we can all name at least one good which has come out of being on social media.

Another one of those things are boundaries. I have found it pertinent in this social media realm to set “rules” of sort to deal with people who really try to “test” my Jesus. Here are my rules:

  1. Pick your battles: Before posting, I ask myself the following: Do I need to respond to this post? Often times you have to consider the source, the person who posted. Are they attention seeking, trouble makers or ignorant.
  2. Hide and Seek: There is a cool option Facebook offers where you can hide a person’s post. If you are passionate about certain issues and to see a certain person’s comments cause you angst, right-click and “Hide” the comment.
  3. Avoid, Avoid and Avoid: I have decided when a political debate, celebrity death or any other big news story is happening, I avoid Facebook. NO matter how tempting, I do.not.log.on!
  4. Consider the Friendship: I take full responsibility for the people I call my “friends.”  I hit the “confirm” button so I must take total responsibility.  Earlier this year, I had to “unfriend” a relative after some rather vulgar posts. I decided I could not just hide her post, she had to go altogether. I don’t use profanity, tell dirty jokes, and the alike and I will not tolerate it in my news feed.

Ultimately, we must have a belief system and never compromise it.  Since implementing I have been less stressed. Now, there are some things I rather do without, however, when someone breaks the rules, I am not afraid to stand up and speak.  After all, this is my space and I have a right to protect it.

Let’s hear from you. Do you have any recommendations on how to handle the various personalities of Facebook?   Please share.

Roshanda