Monday, January 30, 2012

The benefits of social media

My friend Arleen asked me and some of her other friends the following questions. I wanted to share my answers to see if you also have the same benefits from social media and smart phones as I do.
Arleen quit Facebook two years ago.


1. What am I missing? (In other words, what are the pros of using sites like Facebook and Twitter, of owning smart phones and of using them to text? What can you do with social media and smart phones that you simply cannot do without them?)
Just as a preface, the goal of my life is to do things that matter with people I enjoy being around. Social media facilitates this purpose. I'll go through each and explain.

Twitter: I get my news by following my favorite authors and commentators on Twitter. Their opinions are very challenging to me. I also found out about Steve Job's death on Twitter. I am able to drive traffic to my blog through twitter where I post my new posts regularly. I find it very useful for promoting my events and finding out "what’s going on." Especially on SOPA and PIPA. Its just such a great way of sensing the buzz.

Facebook: FB as I like to refer to it has helped me in so many ways. Let's start with professionally. I am now a professional Improv actor. I have shows weekly. I can post that I am having a show and my 600+ friends will know and maybe consider coming. When my improv troupe has a show in another city, I can search my friends by city to let those specific ones know I'll be in town with the group so they can come out and watch. I can also find out about improv shows that my friends are putting on and classes occurring in the area. When someone comes to a show, they can quickly join the FB group to follow our improv group and get updates on what we are up to.

I am the division governor in Toastmasters. We use FB to promote events and share pictures from recent events. Post videos of speech winners. Share news and tips.
FB has also improved my personal life, as I can see pictures from my little brothers and sisters in Key West and keep up with their many activities. I can also IM with them easily if we are both on at the same time. This has allowed me to stay in their lives even though I can rarely get the time to call them. We also post our poems for our poetry contests which are such a good time.

For my swing dancing, I can keep up on bands playing and parties. I can also advertise parties I am having quickly and easily. I also make so many new contacts from swing dancing who I can quickly look up and then find out what other interests we have in common. Often they are in some other one of my interest groups and then our paths might cross in other areas. For example, just last night I met someone who might become the illustrator for a comic book that I came up with last year. Its sort of a Count of Monte Cristo idea and I've been looking for an illustrator who can help me make it happen. We met on the dance floor got to talking about what he does and decided to do it right there. Now I can find him quickly on FB instead of having to trade a lot of contact information.

My Smart Phone (iPhone): Why do I LOVE my iPhone? Let me count the ways:
1. Last year I finished 55 books, most of them I listened to on my iPhone. app allowed me to do that. I listen to books whenever I am driving, showering, cooking, walking, doing house work, shopping, ect. I have an membership which gives me a discount and one free book a month. Its so convenient because its with me, I have a iphone amplifier in my bathroom, a jack in my car, and headphones for other times.
2. The economist app allows me to listen to the economist word for word.
3. Email - I can quickly reply to emails without having to sit down at my computer. This allows me to be free but make sure I don't miss anything important in my improv troupe, Toastmasters, or any of my other activities.
4. MAPS!! I used to get lost all the time. Now I have my google maps on my iphone and trust me. It’s saved me so many times but especially when I am travelling.
5. Kindle app allows me to read a book from my huge kindle library especially the Bible when I am in Church.
6. Pandora app allows me to listen to almost any kind of music by letting me select an artist or song I really like and it then creates a radio station based on that preference. I am still just getting into this, but its 3.99 a month and so worth it! My favorite stations are Whitetown and Wade in the Water. You can book mark artists and songs so that you can find more by them on iTunes and buy the song if you want.
7. Chess app allows my husband and I to play each other any where. We really love this.
8. Calendar allows me to add events as people invite me during a conversation and make sure I don't double book which is so embarrassing!

There are of course a couple of down sides:
1. I often don’t look up the exact directions to somewhere till I am in my car ready to go, or even at a stop light which has caused me some problems with ending up at the wrong place because I typed the address in incorrectly. I now force myself to get the directions programmed in before I leave my house.
2. Sometimes during a dinner with my wonderful husband I get tempted to check my email or texts. I just have to force myself to not worry about it.

2. What would be (or is) the worst part(s) about trying to communicate and/or maintain any kind of relationship with someone who doesn't text or use social media?
Well who knows how much you’re missing. My life is enriched everyday by my social media and smart phone.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I just finished the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I have not seen the movie yet.
What a fun yet deeply gripping book. There are several reasons why I recommend this book.

First reason you must read this book right now is the extremely unique characters. The story brings us into the mind of the narrator a 10 year old boy, Oscar, who "feels too much." His view point of life would be fun to watch no no matter what he did during the book. We also get to see the world through his grandmother and grandfather though their letters. Both grandparents survived the firebombing in Dresden and their lives have been marred in unusual ways. The Grandfather can not speak. We meet a whole host of folks with the last name Black also during the story who are all very interesting too.

The second reason to read this book right now is what we learn about learn about the impacts that war has on people. We watch Grandma and Grandpa's remarkable relationship unfold and we explore their sorrow and loneliness after they lost all their family in the Firebombing in WW2. Contrast that with the impacts on Oscar of 911 and losing his father. Oscar starts on a mission to find out what happened to his dad by interviewing everyone with the last name Black in the 5 Borrows in NYC to ask them about a key his dad had. We watch Oscar deal with many regular everyday things that remind him of the fragility of life. He suffers alone, even as he makes lots of connections with people during his missions.

The third reason to read this book right now is the language of the book. Oscar feels too much and it comes through in his words, which are streams of consciousness. Everything is extreme. The title explains exactly what Oscar feels about the world.

Even though the book deals with the most serious topics of life, I still laughed and enjoyed every minute. I really hope you go out and read it and leave me a comment on your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's Eating You

My coworkers got a  promotion and a raise and I didn't. My brother said something so hurtful. My best friend forgot to call me back.

These kind of things happen constantly to all of us. When we think about them and focus on them they eat us from the inside. We become more and more angry.  Its easy for me to burn with envy. The hard thing for me is to let them go. What makes you sick isn't what you are eating, but what's eating you.

Dancing makes you smarter

Quick, give me a really hard question! I just got back from a three day swing dance weekend. Swing Dance is a partner dance which requires a leader and a follower. A study just came out recently which shows that partner dancing makes you smarter.

The study says that the split second decisions that the leaders and followers have to make in a dance create new pathways in your brain which will make you smarter now and prevent Alzheimer’s.
They compared several activities and how each reduced risk of dementia. They were looking at folks who performed these activities four or more times a week. The earlier you started the better.

Here are their findings:
            Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

            Bicycling and swimming - 0%

            Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

            Playing golf - 0%

            Dancing frequently - 76%.

Another great benefit from dancing is it makes you happy. I got back from the weekend dance on Monday evening and I still feel the happy. Being happy reduces stress and makes you healthier overall.

The benefits only occur in specific conditions:
  1. Partner dancing meaning not booty dancing but ballroom, swing, latin etc...
  2. For follows, dance with lots of different leads. If you only dance with one person you’ll get used to them and stop building pathways.
  3. For leads, dance with lots of different follows, try out new things, and avoid ruts

I'd like to add martial arts to this list up there with Dancing because sparing with someone must require the same split second decision making, but it’s probably difficult to get folks over 65 to take martial arts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Don't need a Hero

Recently I met a young man from China. We discussed US comic books. He said, "All your comics books are full of super heros. Its boring!"

He triggered some lines of thought about hero worship in our culture. Heros save the day. When things have deteriorated to the point of world disasters, then we call in our hero to save us. When a patient nears death, we call in our hero in the form of a medical genius. When the project at work is so off schedule, we have to call in a super hero project manager to save it. When a child is so rebellious, we need to call in a hero super nanny to fix them. I personally enjoy the heros from movies and comic books, but where can we get rid of hero mentality is in our daily lives and projects at work. We need to take preventative measures to prevent the need for a hero.

As a new years resolution, lets VOW not to let projects at work, our health, our neighborhoods, our houses, and our children get so off track to need a hero. Don't need a hero. Plan a head. Watch for issues. Take preventative steps to ameliorate become the issue escalates.

If we all did our part, we wouldn't need anymore heros. Then we could just enjoy them in our entertainment.