Tag Archives: Facebook

In Real Life

Riding the Camel057Several years ago, I lived in Sonoma, California and worked in a small business. I hired a marketing assistant who became a friend. I was single and Trish was married but we connected. She made plans to travel to Tunisia to visit her husband’s family and she invited me to accompany them. It was a unique offer. I had never actually considered a vacation to Tunisia. It turned out that we would need to fly through Paris, so that was going to be a few days’ visit. I decided to do it. It was an interesting trip. I had not thought through the language challenges. Her husband was tri-lingual and I had assumed his family might also be but they were not. So while he spoke English, no one else did. He sometimes would translate into French for Trish (she was bi-lingual) and she could turn around and let me know in English what was happening. Sometimes I could not follow. Perhaps the funniest episode was we were driving and I got excited as we spotted a man walking with a camel. A camel! Live, in person, just walking along the road. I wanted to take a picture, so we stopped the car. Then, Trish’s husband approached the man and said something to him in Arabic, so he stopped to pose for me. It got better! He invited me to jump on the camel. OK—I reacted without hesitation! Perhaps I should have paused to consider it more. As I sat on the camel and it stood, I was almost pitched off its back. You don’t think about it but how a camel is built, with long legs and neck, means it is a bit awkward in its movement. As it stood, it rocked forward and I did not expect to go in that direction. So I squeezed with my legs with all my might because I immediately thought of flying to the ground and having to go to a hospital where no one spoke English and then calling my mother to tell her I was hurt and thousands of miles away. This could not happen. It did not.
Well, Trish ended up quitting, then getting divorced, and she moved to Chicago. Then she returned home to Tennessee. Years passed and I moved to Chicago. I got married and had a son. She became an artist and produced theatre work. We have sent each other Christmas cards and Facebook came into existence, so we have watched as we posted random notes or photos. We have visited each other twice since I moved to the Midwest.
A week ago, I had a business trip to Nashville and she came to get me. We realized very quickly that it had been TEN YEARS since we actually had seen each other in person. TEN YEARS! I’m not sure how that much time had passed. She’s never met my son. I never met her second husband. We ate lunch, we drove to the airport, and we chatted non-stop. It was so much fun and it reminded me that I need to get to Nashville more often. I cherish the friendships I’ve developed over the years and I rely on social networks to keep in touch. For the most part, it feels like it works. After all, we can’t jump on planes and travel all over the country every year. But seeing someone live, in person, really is so much better. That short visit covered so much territory.
I have other friends, who live in California, who I’ve seen more than once in ten years. Like my friend since junior high, Susy, who was in my wedding and has come out to Chicago multiple times. Or, Aileen, who I have known for more than two decades. I saw her son as a newborn and her second son just had his Bar Mitzvah. Their kids have grown up mostly in pictures, so it is nice when you can see them in real life. Status updates or tweets only provide a limited amount of information. It is good to be reminded how to connect the old fashioned way.

Do you know a guru?

Someone’s comment on Twitter got my attention and made me laugh: “If you use the word “Jedi” in your bio & don’t carry a lightsaber, please punch yourself in the head for me.”  I have the same visceral reaction with the term “Guru.”  Social media has spawned so many people who offer their services (giving themselves those titles) and when you dig into their backgrounds it sometimes is not very impressive.  When is someone legitimately qualified to say he/she is an expert?

The term “social media expert” popped up the other day (in a job post) and I wondered how it was defined?  I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2004 and Facebook since 2009.  I’m active on Twitter, Foursquare, and Blip.  I’ve just started trying SCVNGR and Quora.  Is blogging applicable?  Does this make me an expert or advanced?

I actually got into Facebook because of my job.  I have specifically not talked about my job and the day-to-day trials, because I did not want to get into the politics or issues associated with what is my intellectual property vs. work product.  Now I am a free agent and I can certainly draw upon all my experiences as I begin to write more on PR and social media.  I was struck by one co-worker who liked to call meetings and try to motivate others in the area of social media.  But, in terms of what her influence might have been, it was questionable. A Twitter profile that showed fewer than 100 tweets, with fewer than 100 followers, what sort of engagement was that?

I have spent several years investigating social media and have used it at work as much as it pertained to my functions.  I have a clear understanding of some of the limitations these tools have.  But there is so much more to explore!  Please, just don’t ever call me a Jedi.

Raising the bar

I was struggling with my first post for the New Year and then a shooter struck in Tucson, Arizona.  I watched the story unfold in the news, saw friends commenting on Facebook and I began Tweeting.  The last time a national event captured my attention in this manner was the Chilean mine disaster.  It occurred to me that these two were opposites in terms of humanity: they displayed both the best and the worst in mankind.

As a PR professional, I am struck by how news gets reported now and how social media advances stories.  Facts got confused and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ condition was mistakenly announced as deceased.  It became apparent that people need to be more careful spreading information.

Then, the Internet provided journalists the ability to go back in time and analyze the political rhetoric in recent months.  One reporter, Matt Bai from the NY Times, included reference to Sarah Palin’s map of the U.S. which put cross hairs on areas where key races were being contested.  There was a quote from Michael Steele about sending Nancy Pelosi to “the firing line.”   I don’t need to re-create the list of offenses here but the point was made that politicians from both sides have digressed in terms of language and characterization of their opponents.  Both sides.

Another writer suggested that we’ve grown desensitized to the harshness of the accusations that politicians make about one another.  The media tends to give more coverage to the most outrageous statements, which is why Palin continues to be in the headlines even though she is no longer in elected office.  Now, Palin is offended that she is being pulled into this story.  She welcomed the spotlight and media attention for the past year but it is a double-edged sword.  Public figures need to be held to a higher standard because their sphere of influence is greater than the average citizen.  This tragedy is sufficient warning of how some (albeit mentally ill) might react in unexpected ways.  Politicians should be more mindful of their language choices going forward and the media needs to stop creating celebrities out of people who are good at sound bites.

So, as a mother, I am struck by a nine-year old being killed.  My son is 4-1/2 years old.  The thought of a young life being cut short is heartbreaking.  Then I hear that a church is planning on staging a protest outside her funeral.  These people claim to be Christians and that they somehow have a deeper understanding of God’s love (or hate, in this case, of Catholics).  I am guessing they will claim the First Amendment as protection to go forward with their demonstration.  How dare they?!  I wrote earlier this year about Freedom of Speech and it simply does not apply.  What about basic civility?  A girl was murdered and her family is going to mourn.  No one should be allowed to interfere with that.   I would challenge ministers to step forward and question the validity of this church, its pastor, and their activities.  I think most people would agree they are extremists so why do ministers not say something about it?

On the positive side, an intern has been heralded as a hero for staying by the side of Giffords after she was shot, providing first aid, and supporting the efforts of others tending to victims.  Other people tackled the shooter and held him until police came.  There is a peaceful protest planned by “angels” to create a wall of protection around the funeral.  All these acts of kindness should be given more attention.  Can we hear more about the goodness in our fellow man rather than see the face of the deranged killer one more time?  I’d like to be able to watch news shows and not have to worry about their impact on my son.

Finally, maybe adults can all start taking responsibility for our own actions and language.  As a society we need to set higher standards for ourselves.  It is not an issue of religious affiliation, political parties, or race but simple humanity.

I’m a Fangirl

When I attended Stanford, I landed a job in the football office.  It was kind of a dream come true.  I had qualified for a University job (I don’t recall if it was called “work-study” but the point was that a student could then apply for positions in departments all over campus) and I decided to wander into the athletic department and see what might be available.  I was told there were two jobs: one in accounting and the other in the football office, working for the recruiting director.  That was a no-brainer.  I opted for the football office.  A couple of interviews and the job was mine.  I did data entry for him.

I would sit and enter names and statistics of high school athletes across the country to be considered for scholarships.  Sometimes they had made inquiries, other times it was coaches making us aware of their players.  I began to learn about the traits of different positions and the other factors being considered.  I was invited to participate in recruiting events when we had families visiting our campus.  I started inviting my friends to help and we’d tour the prep visitors around and answer their questions—they seemed to like to hear from students who were not necessarily athletes.  It was fun and nerve-wracking to watch the process each season (I went through three recruiting classes) and then see who ended up joining our team.

Over the years, I was able to hear about guys I encountered who went on to become professional athletes.  Most did not and I never knew what paths they chose after graduation.  Last year, I found out that Cory Booker was a mayor.  I think I caught a mention via facebook and then did a Google search.  I read a profile of him in Time magazine and was floored at how his life had developed.  He was one of those young men I had met so many years ago.  Now, I was reading that he had gone onto become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and then he pursued his law degree at Yale. He was active in public service even as a student athlete at Stanford and now was embarking on an effort to revitalize a city with a terrible crime rate.  The article described how he drove around with police patrols in the early morning hours.  His attack on crime paid off when this year Newark went one month without a homicide.  On April 1, 2010, it was the first time in 44 years that no murders had been reported for 30 days.

My interest grew and I found that Booker was on twitter (@corybooker) and facebook, so I decided to follow him and became a “fan.”  That’s when my husband started calling me “fan girl.”  Booker’s status updates on facebook are about 80% inspirational thoughts or quotes.  I often repeat them in my updates and I consistently get positive feedback on them.  I figure spreading his ideas is a good thing and he responded to one of my comments.  And, in the process, I get to introduce him to an entire audience that would otherwise not have met him.  On twitter, I don’t seem to catch his tweets too often but when I check, they tend to mimic much of what he does on facebook.  The other 20% of his updates relate to specific events or programs in Newark.

He has been re-elected to serve a second term.  He won with 60% of the votes and while this would be celebrated for the most part, it was not as big of a margin as his first win.  In any event, he can continue with his initiatives and we’ll see where his career is headed.  Do you have any fun stories of people you’ve been able to rediscover with the help of social media?

Worlds Colliding

When I think of Facebook and my collection of friends there, one phrase comes to mind: “Worlds Colliding.”  Over the course of my life, I have moved multiple times.  So there is the simple issue of geography keeping groups separated in my real life.  Jobs came and went and now I am able to reconnect with former co-workers.  But there are deeper divides that exist.

I attended a private, Christian school during grades 5 through 12.  If you can remember the setting for the movie “Footloose,” you have a close approximation of that environment.  There were no school dances.  There was a strict dress code (read: dresses for girls) and demerits were given out in an effort to manage our conduct.  In science courses we were taught how evolution was wrong.  Bible was a required course and there was a weekly chapel service.  Now, I should mention I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Who would expect such a conservative group mere miles from Berkeley?

When I went away to college, just across the bay, I lived in a co-ed dorm.  My next door neighbor that freshman year was an atheist.  Imagine the culture shock!  So then there was an entirely different set of friendships cultivated during those four years.  Another dorm experience: the emergence of gay students.  I obviously had been exposed to that lifestyle by virtue of my proximity to SF but now I was meeting and living with guys and had a more personal knowledge.  Learning about the religious differences was also really interesting to me.  I started to develop friendships with Jewish students, too.

I have lived in Los Angeles, New York and returned to the Bay Area, but now I live in Chicago.  My friends have dispersed across the country and are scattered across the U.S.  When I look at my news stream on Facebook, I read updates by Democrats and Republicans, parents and singles, issues of faith, the desire for gay marriage or protection of Christian values, all mixing in a way that does not seem like it should be part of one person’s life but this is the quilt of friends and family that I have collected over the years.  It gives me pause when I think of how some friends might not accept others.  I wonder who might be offended by another.  But I also believe that some would have a sense of humor and laugh off the rest.  It makes me wonder where I fit in the mix.

One newer group is the virtual friends I am making in social networks.  On Twitter, in particular, there are people who I follow and who I engage in conversations with but I may never meet them in real life.  I managed to attend a social media conference recently and I did meet a handful of people there who I ‘knew’ online.  It was rather surreal.  You realize how limited your perspective is when you only know what they say in 140-character messages.  Of course, most of these people also post to blogs, etc., so there is more to learn.

Worlds colliding: I am connected to pals from grade school and then I correspond with these new friends online.  It makes life much more interesting.  So, do you keep your various ‘lives’ separate or let them mingle?  How’s that working for you?

That’s me in the picture with my childhood friend who I have reconnected with on Facebook decades later.